Thursday, May 24, 2007

Response to Cllr Gary Hopkins criticism

Criticism of me from Cllr Gary Hopkins (below, with my reply underneath) in the Bristol Evening Post's letters page. It seems he feels that the Greens - an independent political party - should not contest Lib Dem seats because he (not us!) feels there has been environmental progress in Bristol due to them! Actually we dont agree (...Lib Dems support the South Bristol Ring Road and Airport Expansion plans as well as agreeing with Labour and the Tories on building many thousands of houses on open, green spaces...). Even if we felt that there had been environmental progress, there are other reasons to oppose Lib Dems, not least on social policy including the lack of social justice in Home Care privatisation (Gary, it seems, does not yet understand that there is much more to being green than environmentalism)

THE GREENS REALLY HAVE TO FACE REALITY - Councillor Gary Hopkins, Liberal Democrats, Knowle Ward

It is very understandable that the Green party candidate, Glenn Vowles, complains about the electoral system ("How voting system itself affects result", Open Lines, May 12). It distorts not only the result, but also the nature and style of politics, and we, the Liberal Democrats, have campaigned against it for years. It is, though, the reality imposed by the New Labour and Tory parties successively from Westminster, and it is noticeable that nationally, Labour got a sizeable parliamentary majority with 35 per cent of those who made the effort to vote.
If the Greens had faced up to political reality - and the system - better, they would have deployed a little more precious resources into making sure they removed another environmentally-damaging Labour councillor, instead of futile attempts to unseat Lib Dems, who have actually made real environmental progress in Bristol. In other words, do something practical, don't just dream about it.


Dear Open Lines

Its touching that Lib Dem Councillor Gary Hopkins is so concerned that the Green Party should get its electoral strategy right ('The Greens have to face reality', Open Lines, May 23). However, given that his party have just lost two seats to Labour and has been replaced as the party running Bristol, I'm not inclined to trust his political judgement! He would be better off turning his attention to the strategy of his own party, not least on the issue of Home Care privatisation.

Greens, being as keen on social as ecological justice, have completely opposed Home Care privatisation from the start and, given the verdict of voters, feel that there is a democratic case for the end of the Lib Dem running of Bristol (Labour gained the largest share of the vote, with 29%, as well as gaining seats).

Lets not forget that Councillor Hopkins has obviously not been present at our meetings and so knows nothing of Green Party local election plans, intentions and resource availability. He is thus not in a good position to make judgements about our deployment of resources, though nevertheless he gives an - uninformed - opinion!

Just like the Lib Dems in general elections Greens have the dilemma of needing to target seats whilst at the same time wanting to give as many people as possible the option of voting for us and generally raising our share of the vote with a view to future election performance. Greens have no rich private backers or powerful union support. Given the small size of the party and its resources the fact that we came within 6 votes of winning in Southville, forcing Labour to pull out all the stops (including sending Environment Secretary David Milliband out canvassing!), and 110 votes of winning in Ashley,as well as raising our average share of the vote significantly, is a remarkable performance. Its a clear indication of the ongoing rise in popularity of Green ideas.


  1. he does have a point though - as in you failed to win the second seat in Southville.

    Must admit I voted Lib Dem because they have increased recycling, oppose the Bristol South Ring Road Plan and oppose airport expansion. In fact they seemed more green than my green candidate.
    Bob, Whithcurch

  2. We failed to gain Southville by 6 votes only the face of a Labour campaign that wheeled out a cabinet minister to go canvassing and a very vigorous Transport and general Workers Union campaign that misrepresented the Green position on Home Care (and dont forget that there was also a fifth candidate this time - an independent).

    If he is taking all this into account and has knowledge of the Greens resouces he has a small point.

    You are wrong about the Lib Dems. As a party they are certainly not unified in opposition to the ring road and airport expansion plans. The best they can say at present is that individual candidates are against the plans. Also note that the Lib Dem group on the council agrees with the Labour and Conservative groups about the need to build thousands of houses on open, green space.

    Recycling levels nearing 40% are a start but we need to go much further to approach best practice in some other European cities, let alone achieve sustainable levels of waste.

  3. So on the one issue of home-care you think the Green Party is closer to Labour. Yet on all the issues of environmental concern, like nuclear power, recycling, public transport, the Green Party is clearly much closer to the Liberals than Labour. Arent you supposed to be an environmental party? The whole point of voting Green is that it is a vote for a party that puts the environment first, not arguments about unions and outsourcing. Or is the Green Party just a socialist party now?

    I am horrified that the Green Party has sided with the Conservatives to put the Labour Party back in power in Bristol. I think you have just been rattled by Labour and the T&G union over the Southville result. I think Charlie Bolton was worried about defending his seat that's all.

  4. This is a Lib Dem comment if ever I've seen one! It doesn't show a real understanding of what it means to be truly Green.

    I'm afraid the attempt by anon to categorize the Greens relative to the Lib Dems and Labour is simplistic and flawed. The Greens have a unique and well rounded philosophy and politics which is all their own! We are not in the business of defining ourselves relative to other parties.

    The point of voting Green is not as stated by anon I'm afraid. Everything is interconnected...Greens feel people are a part of the environment and thus to separate off social from environmental justice is an artificial process which we are against. The point of voting Green is that we want sustainability, where the approach taken to problem solving integrates the environmental with social and economic factors.

    Anon's final point is incorrect since we dont have a different policy position on Home Care now than we had before the local elections. Dont forget that Charlie Bolton does not defend his seat until 2010 - some time away yet!


Genuine, open, reasonable debate is most welcome. Comments that meet this test will always be published.