Green Party


Green Party
   The party was originally founded in 1973 under the name ‘People’, to offer radical solutions to environmental problems. In 1975 it became the Ecology Party, and in 1985 the Green Party, in line with its Continental equivalents. From 1979, the party contested more seats in elections and gained increased publicity as a consequence. Nevertheless, the Greens in the 1990s continued to complain of a virtual media blackout, which further hampered electoral prospects already disadvantaged by the ‘first past the post’ voting system. In the 1989 European elections, the Green Party attracted its peak support of 2.25 million votes, yet failed to win a seat. By 1997 it still had no elected representation in Westminster or Brussels, though it had achieved limited success at local level. The Green Party has attempted to stay in the public eye, along with the rest of the environmental movement, through high-profile campaigns. Pro-tests in 1995–6 against the Newbury bypass and against the construction of a new runway at Manchester Airport in 1997 were widely reported. However, adverse press portrayal of the protesters depicted Green activists as hopelessly idealistic New Age Travellers and hippies, a stereotype reinforced by their hostility to the Criminal Justice Act of 1994. The party has also suffered through its reluctance to act like conventional parties, as in its unwillingness to choose a single leader. The Greens encouraged this alternative image in their 1997 General Election manifesto, which differentiates between ‘grey’ politicians and the Green Party. The cornerstone of policy has always been the adoption of measures to preserve and protect the environment, but from the early 1980s efforts to expand the policy base became evident. The Greens favour interventionist economics and provisions to ensure universal rights to food, housing, warmth, education and recreation. They advocate extending civil liberties and reforming the British constitution along the lines of Charter 88. The Green Party’s left-wing tendencies are revealed in its support for unilateral nuclear disarmament, withdrawal from NATO and the European Union, public ownership, union participation, solidarity action and picketing, and improved rights for women and minority groups. Other policies include substantial tax reform, involving the abolition of National Insurance and new taxes on land, energy and raw materials, opposition to the market-based reforms of the NHS, and the decentralization of power to local communities.
   Further reading
    Kemp, P. and Wall, D. (1990) A Green Manifesto for the 1990s, London: Penguin.
   COLIN WILLIAMS

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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