Four years is a long time in politics: the Green Party of England & Wales has changed a lot since 2015. The party that used to be respected for flying the flag of environmentalism in British politics has lost its niche and is undergoing an identity crisis.
Caroline Lucas MP’s latest attempt at headline grabbing has underlined her party’s aimlessness of recent years. In an article for The Guardian framed as a letter to a number of fellow MPs, Lucas proposed an emergency all-female cabinet to block no-deal Brexit by bringing “a different perspective”.
Social media immediately noticed that Lucas’ proposed cabinet members were exclusively white. She claimed they merely reflected the leadership of parties and parliamentary groupings across Westminster, but the absence of socialist, black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) leaders like Diane Abbot was striking.
Lucas is naive to reduce the UK’s historic constitutional crisis manifesting around Brexit to the gender composition of the cabinet. Though the Greens are committed to constitutional reform in principle, it is telling that Lucas’ intervention seeks to only tinker with who’s in the room, rather than changing the rules of the game.
At the time when climate breakdown is a more salient issue than it has ever been in British politics, the Greens are nowhere to be seen. Their messaging relies on their reputation as environmentalists rather than new ideas or a compelling vision for the future.
Proposals for a Green New Deal have articulated a climate future based on prosperity and abundance. Labour has proposed a Green Industrial Revolution to speed-up the clean energy transition and revitalise post-industrial communities. The Greens have only been able to rehash tired climate-austerity politics which has alienated the general public from environmentalism for a generation.
You might expect the Greens at this time to incubate the most radical climate policies and act as a platform for climate activism. Instead, Labour is facing up to the scale and urgency of the climate crisis by fulfilling both of these roles. Labour is proposing measures likenationalising the National Grid and making technology produced in the UK available for free or cheap to the Global South. Grassroots campaign groups like Labour for a Green New Deal are driving the party even further in ambition.
The Greens don’t know what they are any more. Lucas’ bizarre call for an all-white woman’s cabinet is just the latest example. Its only a matter of time that the supporters the Greens cling onto wake up and realise that the substance of a once principled party is quickly fading away, exactly when you’d expect it to thrive.