Green Party Conference - No Lessons Learned for Wales

David Elston's picture

Pippa started with giving props, as I suppose all leaders do by saying they had an incredible year in Wales. Most of the successes she talks of are of course true but she doesn't acknowledge any failures, areas of growth or what the Greens in Wales need to do in order to become more electable. There was no mention of needing to find candidates to fill all areas and stop standing paper candidates that ride in on Green Party popularity. Perhaps most concerning, the Greens were the party that lost the most deposits in GE2015 and wasted a drastic amount of money. Rather than taking the Lib Dem's approach of fielding candidates with strong local support and punching through in a swing seat, they just carpet bombed the entire UK.


She states very clearly that they “are on track” to take three seats in the Senedd, which is important to remember throughout her speech. While three members is a lot better than no members and can certainly band with opposition and influence the debate and language, there isn't an awful lot they can deliver on their own. There will be no policy or achievement that is purely Green. The Greens, if they want to make good on any of their promises, will have to learn to work with others in Wales, as their counterparts do in the rest of the UK.


There was also no clarification over who will be the leading candidate, if any, in Wales. The Welsh Green Leader Pippa and the entire Party's Deputy Leader Amelia Womack are both running for the Senedd.


I did sigh a little when the Welsh Green Leader started grand standing about the increase in sea water levels. I have no real idea if any of the metrics and data she pulled up is in any way accurate – but given that the Greens have constantly said “in the next 10 years the ice caps will be gone” and they're still there, albeit reduced, the Greens really must start trusting the public with the truth, rather than jumping up and down, hyperventilating that the world will end tomorrow. I am a million miles away from being a climate denier but inflating the issue beyond reality helps no-one.


She says their targets is for 100% renewable by 2040 which seems an exceptionally low target. The Welsh and UK Governments, and governments across the EU already have set targets for very low 'nearly zero' energy buildings by 2020. The Greens want a further twenty years to switch to renewables? That doesn't seem very ambitious for their frontier policy.


Pippa was also claiming we have “Carbon Positive” homes in Wales now, sourcing SOLCER House, near Bridgend. I live in Bridgend and the house was finished near by birthday. Even the creators of SOLCER House do not claim it is carbon positive – the certainly say carbon zero and carbon neutral... or exceptionally low carbon but they never once mentioned carbon positive.
Additionally this is frontier technology. It needs time to be tested, bugs worked out, improvements made. This is a prototype and an expensive one at that – it was part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Wales European Funding Office. If it was such a hugely viable option, the private sector would have gobbled it up with a vat array of patents ready for production by now... and we'd be saying why those patents are bad!


Of course housing standards need improving, both in terms of new builds and retrofitting old ones but this has been attempted with the introduction of EPCs. This shoddy-at-best attempt at regulating housing standards is still going on but Pipppa didn't mention how the Greens would do it differently or how they would improve the current system and seems to display no knowledge of the existing systems.


She promises only the Greens will make “heat or eat a thing of the past”. This is where you should remember they were on to get three Senedd members. If only the Greens can deliver this, it will not get delivered in the next Welsh Government with only three Greens elected. The Greens must stop using the same old rhetoric of “only the Greens will do X” when they cannot do it alone and they are far from the only party with an alternative.


I was also rather surprised that she called the Greens consistent. The Greens have been far from consistent. Since the collapse of the Lib Dems, the Greens moved to occupy a space the Lib Dems vacated, just prior to their collapse. Green Party membership comprises of 50% ex-Lib Dems. The Green surge was actually, Yellow. Additionally, the Greens came crying out in huge support of Jeremy Corbyn.


Many of the Greens are socialists first and environmentalists second. This is why the Greens have had to entwine so much “social justice” and a variety of other policies on-par with their environmental ones.


There were some glimmers of hope however. Pippa did understand the importance of maintaining EU trade, specifically for Wales and naturally they wanted to leave coal in the ground. I was happy to hear Pippa thought offering free Welsh lessons was necessary for the language to flourish, though I was concerned that she thought it should be offered free to “newcomers” rather than Welsh Nationals – it will be difficult to convince newcomers to learn a language that 4/5 native people do not speak. The long standing position of leaving coal in the ground is something I never disagreed with either. I do however wonder how the Greens plan to dissolve all our coal fire plants in just 4 years.


I am glad that Pippa has held and reiterated the stance, that I share, that our transport infrastructure in Wales is a joke. Pippa actually received a lot of bad press for being the Welsh Green Leader but driving a 2.0 Jag, which she has recently traded in for a Nissan Leaf. Personally, I think given that the only real way to get around Wales is by car, you can hardly penalise someone for having a large engine if they are travelling large miles. In the conference she brought up our poor transport system and condemned the motorway expansions which will destroy Scientific sites of interest.


I was surprised to hear Pippa talk about bringing manufacturing back home. I happen to completely agree, that seeing as we outsourced huge amounts of our sectors abroad, it makes very little room for us to create jobs or generally be an independent country. We are exceptionally dependent on much of the world. There was no hint towards a timescale for this or even if it was policy but I would indeed welcome Wales gaining back control of this aspect.


Placing a tax on non-organic farming was rather unsurprising. The Greens will never win over the farmer's vote, especially with their vegan army and a lot of Welsh hill-side farmers can only have pasture land here, so putting a tax on voters you'll never win over is to be expected. I do however wonder in a time when people are using food banks, how they will justify placing a tax on a product that can so easily be passed on to the consumer. Pippa did mention about local produce and community farming, which is a lovely idea. Unfortunately this lacks any real practicality for those living in a city and when we are already using land to try and solve the housing crisis. Pippa has mentioned in the past she would restore high-rise flats in order to build enough houses. One can assume this is because the carrots will be on the nice plot next door instead of a few houses.

In summary, much of what Pippa announced was completely undermined by the "we are the only party that ____" soundbites, which were wholly untrue and their dedication to the cause, and challenging things like fracking has become questionable since the standing of paper candidates, which was an exercise in increasing their popularity.