Green Party Manifesto 2010 - 3. Citizens and government
Consumers and citizens, public and private
Most people living now are much richer than people living in 1950. But we haven’t got any happier.Why not? Partly because evidence shows that, once we have a certain minimum income, what mainly concerns us is our position relative to everyone else. So if society is more equal we are happier; if it is unequal we want to live the lives of rich celebrities.
And we are unhappy if we don’t achieve our aims. So a growing material economy with increasing inequality, as we have had for the past thirty years, not only ruins the planet but also undermines well-being.
Of course money is vital, and too many people in Britain today don’t have enough of it. That is why Green taxation and economics are aimed at making a more equal, as well as a more sustainable, society. But other things improve well-being too. Also important are family relationships, the quality of work, friends, the natural world, health and freedom.
All these things require space and time – space and time that are increasingly unavailable in a society dedicated to getting and spending.
A society less dedicated to material growth will not only avoid ecological collapse but also make us more content.
As citizens we think of the good of everyone and of the future, and not just what we think is good for ourselves, now. Creating a fair and sustainable society is a job for government at all levels – but it is also a job for us as citizens.
The Green Party will work towards sustainable consumption through the creation of a citizen culture as well as the more efficient use of resources.
A particular concern for the Green Party is to respect the right of future generations of citizens not to be disadvantaged by damage that this generation does to the environment.
We must also support solidarity between existing generations, between young and old.
Public and private
We would spearhead a revival in public spaces – libraries, parks, playgrounds. Fairness and sustainability require a public effort. Millions of unco-ordinated actions aimed at maximising individuals’ private interest will not bring about the society we want and deserve. Only citizens, aided by a Green Government, can do that.
We would initiate a revolution in trust.
We’ve got the location and balance of regulation wrong: banks are underregulated and citizens are over-regulated.
Citizens and workers are infantilised by health and safety, ground down by audit. The paraphernalia of surveillance costs a fortune and assumes we will behave badly unless we are threatened into behaving well.
We believe this dog–whistle relationship with citizens is counterproductive. The Green Party will trust citizens and workers, not overregulate them.
Policies for citizenship
Oppose ID cards. They will not reduce or prevent crime.We also have grave concerns over the development of a national dataset, including detailed biometric data, which has potential for the infringement of civil liberties.
Free up information – allow us to see the data they have on us.We believe that citizens should be entitled to access to information held by Government except where specifically restricted. Restrictions should protect the privacy of individual citizens and national security. Information on policy formulation, the conduct of public affairs, the environment and health and safety should be freely available.
Reform the system of parliamentary expenses so that politics becomes a respected vocation, not mired in sleaze and scandal.
Promoting equality, celebrating diversity
The Green Party aims to treat everyone equally and fairly.We will work to ensure respect for everyone whatever their ethnicity, gender, age, religious belief or non-belief, sexual orientation, class, size, disability or other status.
Here we use the example of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) issues to illustrate this general policy in more detail. Other areas of discrimination are equally important and will have their own emphases.
- Amend the Equalities Bill/Act to provide explicit protection against harassment of LGBTI people.
- Require all police forces to have equality and diversity liaison officers whose remit is to tackle, and take preventive action on, crimes against LGBTI people, people from ethnic minorities (including refugees and asylum seekers) and disabled people.
- Legally target incitement of hatred on the grounds of gender identity and amend the Equality Bill/Act to provide explicit protection against harassment of LGBTI people.
- Open up civil marriages and civil partnerships, without discrimination, to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
- End the blanket, lifetime ban on gay and bisexual blood donors.
- Campaign for homophobic, transphobic and racist crimes, and crimes against disabled people, including people with learning difficulties, to be dealt with effectively and on a par with racist crimes.
- Ensure legal parity for parents and those wishing to become parents regardless of sexual orientation, and equality of provision of maternity services; lobby for widely available, affordable state-funded creches.
- Push for the rewriting of the Mental Health Act to remove trans people from the Psychiatric Disorder Register.
- Campaign against any reduction in the AIDS/HIV budget and target health promotion work to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
- Ensure safe haven and refugee status for LGBTI people fleeing persecution in line with other social groups according to the Geneva Convention.
- Refuse visas and work permits to ‘murder music’ singers and others who incite homophobic and transphobic violence.
- Oppose all opt-outs from equality and antidiscrimination laws by religious organisations and remove special treatment allowing faith schools to promote homophobia on the grounds of religion.
- Provide comprehensive training for teachers and educational staff on all diversity and inclusion issues; schools to promote equal opportunities in their anti-bullying procedures; equality issues to be monitored in teaching recruitment.
- Support the human rights struggles of LGBTI movements in oppressive states such as Jamaica, Iran, Uganda, Malawi, Iraq, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Russia.
Other areas of discrimination
Among our key policies in other areas of discrimination, we would:
- Implement a UK-wide strategy to tackle violence against women, including domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse and trafficking.
- Ensure that effective action is taken to prevent discrimination against disabled people.
- Work towards ending stigma against people with mental health problems, including discrimination in employment.
- Enforce penalties against employers who continue to implement unequal pay.
- Work vigorously towards ensuring that all levels of Government are representative of the diversity of the populations for whom they work.
Keeping information public
We would promote broadcasting to high standards by:
- Maintaining the BBC as the primary public service broadcaster, free of Government interference.
- Tightening rules on cross-media ownership.
- Ensuring that all have digital access; give BT an obligation to provide affordable high-speed broadband-capable infrastructure to every household.
- Strengthening controls on advertising directed at children.
Government: it’s ours
Government is vital, but it’s got a bad name, and the expenses scandal was the last straw.
Untainted by the ‘Westminster bubble’, and with a great track record in local, Scottish and
European politics, the Green Party will restore faith and trust in Government.
Government is important because it can do things that other parts of the system can’t do.
We rely too much on the private and voluntary sectors for the provision of public goods and services. The private sector is dynamic but tends towards short-term stakeholder interests.
The voluntary sector is a tremendous source of good, but it sometimes lacks resources and influence. So while we back the private and voluntary sectors, they will not achieve a fair and sustainable society on their own.
Only the Government can make laws that bind us all. It sets the framework for the private and voluntary sectors, and it sets its sights on the long-term public good. It is our guarantor against sectional interests and the Green Party will revive its good name.
The Government is ours but right now it feels remote and out of touch. It spends our money but we have no say in what it spends it on. That is why the Green Party would initiate a revolution in participation and legitimacy, starting with the immediate introduction of proportional representation for all elections.
Bringing government to the people
- Bring in proportional representation (PR) using the Additional Member System for Parliamentary elections and introduce fixed term Parliaments. Only the 200,000 votes in marginal seats really counted in the last election – that’s less than 0.5% of those eligible to vote. Make everyone’s vote count.
- Introduce the right to vote at 16.
- Reform the House of Lords to become a fully elected body chosen by proportional representation. But to promote its independence, members should only be elected for one fixed term of ten years, with half the house being elected every five years.
- Manage MPs’ expenses through an independent body.
- End the corrupting effects of big private and Trade Union donations to political parties, and bring in a fair system of state funding.
- Ensure that all lobbying, and in particular corporate lobbying, is registered and fully disclosed.
- Revive local government, with the introduction of proportional representation and with grassroots democracy spreading through the use of smaller community and district councils. Such authorities should have enhanced powers, and in due course new tax-raising powers.
- Referenda on local government decisions if called for by 20% of the local electorate.
- Recall referenda on MPs, and other representatives if 40% of electors request it.
- Move towards a written constitution with a Bill of Rights.