Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Hackney North Hustings

Well, the only public hustings of the campaign in Hackney North took place on Tuesday evening, organised by Hackney and Tower Hamlets Friends of the Earth - and, as this report in the Hackney Citizen confirms, it seemed to go alright for me.

Yes, I know, 'Green Party candidate does well at Friends of the Earth hustings' is probably not the headline of the century - but I was glad to have had the opportunity to debate with the other candidates, particularly as the discussion ranged much more widely than simple, 'green issues'.

Probably the most interesting debate arose from a question that was about sustainability, however - and it was around the definition of the word 'reality'. The questioner raised the point that economic commentators are always going on about the need to face fiscal reality as regards the deficit - and yet there is a thundering silence about the reality of environmental limits, and the fact that our economy is exceeding them more and more every year.

What was particularly eye-opening was the response of the other candidates. They just didn't get it. Not in a deliberately evasive way - they just didn't grasp the scope of the question. At all.

Darren, the Conservative candidate, answered as you might expect - the issue is the over regulation of business and the ingenuity of the free market will solve the problem, so no need to worry. Well, that's not an answer I agree with, but at least he answered. Diane and Keith, on the other hand, simply talked about their various programmes of green investment. Fair enough, I certainly agree that we need a short-term stimulus to start building the low-carbon infrastructure we need to transition to a sustainable economy (and, of course, the mainstream party packages on this are pitifully inadequate) - but neither of them seemed even to realise that at some point they would have to address the current driver of the economic model...economic growth.

As the excellent report from the SDC, Redefining Prosperity, accurately points out, continued economic growth in developed economies is totally unsustainable. And as Tim Jackson, the report's author, comments: "The purpose of the economy is not to grow, but to bring prosperity...the conditions in which we can flourish as human beings." The great challenge of the 21st century is going to be crafting societies which are more equal, more sustainable, and do not rely on economic growth for stability. The most eye opening part of Tuesday's hustings was that the three other candidates don't seem even to realise this - let alone have a plan about how to get there.

P.S. It would seem I won't have the opportunity to make this point at another hustings, since I haven't been invited to the one on Sunday. Apparently 23% of the vote borough wide last year isn't good enough to get in on the debate. Needless to say, I am deeply unimpressed.

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