Soapbox challenge

Recognising that with increased publicity comes increasing scrutiny, Green World called on six prominent party members to provide snappy, effective responses to challenges that we're likely to hear repeated ahead of the general election

Green World

'The Green Party is a single-issue party.'

Jenny Jones, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb AM

I find it odd that people think the environment is a single issue. It's what maintains life on earth and enables?us to exist - what's bigger than that? Luckily, we have a comprehensive set of policies, guided by the single?aim of transforming society to address the three crises of the 21st century: social, political and environmental.

The Green Party - originally People Party and then the Ecology Party - has an ecological perspective, which?means our policies are about everything, and all the interconnections. We're the party of joined-up thinking, and we don't put issues in boxes, but have fully-costed and well-thought-out policies where we see the overlaps. For example, we recognise that transport relates to social inclusion, climate change, health, businesses and so on. We plan to?avoid mess ups downstream by assessing the impact of measures beyond the short term. These connected policies will create an economy that operates within environmental limits, while renewing our democracy, and improving everyday lives by ensuring everyone is fairly paid and healthy. And, yes, they will help save the planet. And us.

'The Green policy on education is regressive and delaying the start to schooling would harm the poorest children who are not taught to read at home.'

Samantha Pancheri, Green Party Spokesperson for Schools and Candidate for Milton Keynes South

There is a wealth of evidence from other countries that delaying the start of formal academic learning to age seven results in much improved educational outcomes for children. We recognise that the early years stage?is unique and requires a child-centred approach, encouraging learning through play and social interaction. This policy works in conjunction with our efforts to improve the quality of childcare available to all children, staffed by professionals appropriately trained in child development and pedagogy. This also builds on our social welfare policies, which strive to eliminate poverty and lift families out of situations that disadvantage them.

The current model of rigorous assessment of very young children has not improved their learning experience, but instead subjects them to unnecessary stress. We will build towards an education environment that focuses on the needs of children at all ages, rather than merely forcing them through this production-line system of relentless assessment and competition. Our policy is bold, progressive and, above all, for the common good.

'The Greens will never be able to pay for their policies.'

Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for South West England and Green Party Spokesperson for Finance

The Green Party will produce a costed manifesto before the election, as we did for the last election. Much of our spending can be balanced against money we would not waste on such things as Trident and investment in new road building or vanity projects like HS2. We would also increase taxes on scarce resources and energy, and especially on aviation fuel, which would generate ?9 billion per year.

Greens believe a key reason the state has been starved of cash is the failure to ensure the wealthy pay their fair share and to prevent corporations avoiding tax. The European Commission has estimated that ??1 trillion (?725.5 billion) is lost in tax across the EU, and our Green MEPs are working hard to change the rules to prevent this.

Greens also challenge the way money is created initially, through the private banking system (and with the parallel creation of debt).

In terms of funding the Citizen's Income proposal, we have decided to open that discussion up to public scrutiny in this election campaign. With so many people now receiving benefits, pensions, all tax credits, the net cost of providing a weekly dependable income is actually quite marginal, and could be covered through changing other tax reliefs such as that for higher rate National Insurance.

'Voting Green will let the Tories in.'

Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party

There's a challenge that, as a Green Party member, whether you're campaigning on doorsteps or simply chatting to friends, you'll often encounter: "But won't voting Green let the Tories in?"?

What I say in response to that is that we have the kind of politics we have now because over generations Britons have voted tactically (pushed by our electoral system), often voting for a party or person they don't agree?with, to stop the people they disagree with more strongly getting in.

That's given us the kind of politics we have now: with Labour and the Tories in particular tailoring their policies,?their messages, their rhetoric, to swing voters in swing seats, with the expectation that their 'core' voters in 'safe' seats will stick with them come what may.

If we want a different kind of politics, it is in the voters' hands: by voting for the person or party who most closely reflects their views, with the policies they support, they can change politics forever.

It's always worth pointing voters to the Vote for Policies website, on which we poll extremely strongly, also pointing out that in November, YouGov asked voters: "If you think they could win, who would you vote for?"? We received 26 per cent of the vote.

The message is simple: voters could deliver a peaceful political revolution on 7 May, simply by voting for what they believe in.

'The Greens will be soft on terrorism and leave the country vulnerable to attack by cutting the military.'

Tony Clarke, Green Party Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Parliamentary Candidate for Northampton North

Nothing could be further from the truth - Greens simply want the UK to find solutions to international conflict and not become part of the problem.

We condemn terrorism in all its forms, and those accused or found guilty of committing, planning or aiding terrorist acts should be dealt with fully within law. Successive governments have responded to singular acts of terrorism in a knee-jerk fashion by creating ever more complex laws that have made prosecutions more political, and not helped secure justice. We want to stop the courts tying themselves in knots and stop governments from creating confusing, unnecessary crimes that shroud perpetrators' criminal intentions.

Likewise, we recognise the need for a strong homeland defence. All governments should provide real, sustainable security at home. Successive Labour and Conservative governments have reduced our home defence force whilst increasing spending on nuclear weapons. A Green government would protect our homeland with a conventional armed force, but would be far less aggressive. Whilst contributing to international peacekeeping and actions against genocide, we would not support aggressive military actions designed to effect regime change or control resources. Recent conflicts have shown that unjustifiable military action only exacerbates the problems of the world.


'The Greens are anti-science.'

James Abbott, Green Party Science and Technology Spokesperson and Parliamentary Candidate for Witham

This is an accusation that we sometimes encounter, often deriving from our policies of opposing nuclear power, GMOs or medical experiments on animals.

Greens take the evidenced-based disciplines of science as crucial to informing policies; we are pro-science, but within an ethical framework. Just because science delivers a technology, does not mean we have to use it?(e.g. nuclear weapons).

Greens also fundamentally believe in sustainable development - where progress is measured in terms of economic,?social and environmental measures. So, we look at issues in several ways before deciding our policies. Also, as new discoveries are made, we may review policies.

A good example of where Green policies derive strongly from scientific evidence and flow strongly towards sustainable development is climate change. The Green Party accepts the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is happening and needs to be tackled through urgent measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by both improving efficiency and developing renewables. We will need scientific and technological advances to deliver innovation in green energy and renewables at scale. Improving efficiency will include major programmes to insulate, homes which will deliver social progress and improved health. In turn, these will bring jobs and economic benefits.