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Martin Bamford: What advisers can learn from the Green Party’s economic policies

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Now that I am in my mid-30s, the general election is pretty much the only night of the year I am tempted to pull an all-nighter. And what a night this one is shaping up to be.

There is a feeling in the country that politics is somehow changing. We still have out-of-touch MPs, scandalous expenses and the politics of envy. But for many voters it is no longer a clear choice between the two largest parties.

Smaller parties like UKIP, barmy as its supporters tend to be, are quickly gaining ground. The regions want greater control over their governance, even if Scotland does not quite want it badly enough to vote for full independence. One minor celebrity and reformed drug addict even wants to replace the current political system with anarchy, which I cannot imagine would be much fun for anyone involved.

Before we start hoarding food supplies and arming ourselves to the teeth in preparation for the coming revolution, it is worth thinking about the economic impact of this national political shift.

My future mother-in-law is a big supporter of the Green Party. Where she lives on the Isle of the Wight, the Green Party is becoming a serious political contender, in line with national polls placing it neck and neck with the Liberal Democrats at around 7 per cent of the national vote share. The Green Party now has more members than UKIP and its leader has secured a place in the television debates. As UKIP looks set to draw Tory voters away on the right, the Green Party could do the same with left-leaning Labour voters.

Earlier this week a client of mine called to say she has become the Green Party parliamentary candidate for a London borough this May. Another client meeting in the past week, with a lobbyist who studied the hallowed PPE at Oxford and is far more politically astute than many, prompted me to take a closer look at its economic policies.  

According to my client, everything right now is pointing towards another coalition government following the election in May. Unlike the coalition we have “enjoyed” for the past five years, this new coalition is likely to be formed of smaller parties. Understanding their economic policies, which could eventually influence government policy, becomes important.

A big part of the Green Party economic plan is a focus on the local economy. It wants to bring decision making to the most appropriate local level, as well as promote self-reliance within communities.

Despite having no natural inclination to vote towards the left, this policy really appeals to me on a personal level. There are strong arguments for local focus, especially from IFAs who often spread themselves across a wider region as clients refer geographically distant friends, relatives and colleagues.  

The Green Party may or may not form part of the new coalition come May. Regardless, thinking about how your business might operate within its economic plans would be a worthwhile exercise.

Martin Bamford is managing director at Informed Choice 

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Comments

There are 33 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Martin,

    Interesting analysis. I’m all for devolving decision making down and out to the people as much as possible. The fact remains however, that the Green Party (amongst others) actively support negative economic growth. That may even be reasonable in theory, the former GDR experienced it for years replacing tractors and trabants with microwaves and VW’s but the their policies, as reasonable and middle class they might sound will hurt the most vulnerable first.

  2. Another coalition government with a first past the post system starts to become undemocratic. The decision to form a coalition government is not made by the voting public it is made by behind closed doors negotiations and results in a cobbled together agenda very different from any parties manifesto.
    If we increasingly have coalition governments then calls for PR will increase even from those (including me) who weren’t in favour of it before now. (and I have voted Green at times)

  3. Phil: Nation state democracy is never truly representative, that is not the point of it. Behind closed doors is where MPs are selected by party committees, where party whips are instructed, where backroom deals are cooked up. Everything that doesn’t take place behind closed doors is a charade.

    The Greens have been given actual power once, in Brighton, and it was an unmitigated disaster beyond the dreams of satirists. They have no economic policy, just a load of wouldn’t-it-be-nice. Ironically the one thing resembling a good economic policy – the minimum income – was jettisoned after media scrutiny, and rather than stand up for it, they showed themselves to be just like the rest of them by caving in.

  4. @Phil Castle

    Coalition governments are already the norm across Europe and appear to be here to stay in the UK. It could be argued that a coalition is a fairer approach to running the economy than left or right parties driving the agenda, but I agree it requires us to reconsider the first past the post electoral system. Paradoxically, it’s the first past the post system (combined with changing voter behaviour) which makes coalitions more likely to be the norm. Will Labour and the Tories ever regain their majority vote shares? I can’t see the electorate making a complete voting behaviour u-turn for at least a generation.

  5. @Sascha Klauß

    That’s an interesting point, Sascha. All politicians, regardless of their original intentions, appear to revert to type once they become part of ‘the establishment’. I suspect even the minor celebrity I mention in my article above would do so, should be ever become an MP (which of course would require hypocrisy on a scale even he isn’t capable of).

  6. “The decision to form a coalition government is not made by the voting public it is made by behind closed doors negotiations and results in a cobbled together agenda very different from any parties manifesto.”

    Not quite true Phil. Forming a coalition could be seen as an attempt to reflect the voting of the electorate where no one party can form a government; and in those circumstances bits from each manifesto are incorporated-that is what the negotiations are about. If the electorate’s verdict is inconclusive then what else can we expect? There has to be someone in charge.

    For what it is worth I think speculation on how our industry will be affected by the possible outcomes is a perfectly valid subject for comment; but (and not aimed at Phil’s posting) it is a narrow path between such comment on the one hand and expressing one’s own personal political views on the other. I recently posted a comment on the possibility of a labour/SNP coalition and rather wish I had not. Not that anyone has hurled abuse in my direction but on reflection who would be interested in my political views on a financial website? I’m not interested in anyone else’s.

  7. @Blair – My point about the deal behind closed doors is that last GE if the LibDems had decided to, it would have been a LibLab coalition and it looks likely as you said in your post re SNP, the coalition could be built around the decisions of a minor party and not the one with the largest vote in the country concerned, hence my point that first past the post may well have had its day, but so has the coalition methods of old for the UK (I knew that a lot of Europe is coalition govts Martin, but thanks for reminding me).
    One of the advantages of a House of Lords as it stands is the slowness with which change can be effected (for the worse), stability is maintained by slow change where slow change is appropriate although it can have disadvantages in the reverse of course.

  8. God help us (which ever one you kneel before) !!

    The general election is the ONE night I wouldn’t pull an all nighter !!

    Big fat cigar and half a bottle of scotch (the bottom half !) then and early night and hopefully not awake till 10 !
    But I do hope the greens don’t get in otherwise I will be wiping my backside with doc leaves !!

  9. E L Wisty (an only twin) 16th February 2015 at 3:39 pm

    As the one party that is avowedly republican, if any of the Green Party’s candidates are successful, they may fall foul of the Oath of Allegiance to the Queen, which all MPs must make before they can take their seats. Alternatively, they may elect to do what many Labour MPs do, and keep their fingers crossed when taking the Oath.

    It would be a big step towards democracy if our elected representatives weren’t bound by such feudal subjugation.

  10. A bit of a sweeping statement Martin to suggest that UKIP supporters are all Barmy! As someone else has already pointed out the Green’s have been an unmitigated disaster in Brighton but despite that I would never suggest that Green Party supporters are all Barmy. In the main I am sure that most are genuine, well meaning people who just happen to have a different political view than mine.

  11. @James Marchant

    I think barmy is a reasonable description of a party with members who have suggested British Muslims should sign a special code of conduct, posed with golliwog dolls, feel uncomfortable when hearing foreign languages on public transport and described countries which receive aid as “Bongo Bongo Land”, to name only a few examples. I could go on. And on.

  12. @E L Wisty (an only twin)

    Something Caroline Lucus reportedly did after becoming an MP was to swear an oath of allegiance to her constituents and the country. Perhaps we would all be better off if every MP were to do this, instead of or in addition to swearing allegiance to the Queen.

  13. I think Terry Practchet had the right idea with swearing oaths of allegiance to become a member of the watch.
    I swore my oath and 16 years later in 2000 felt I could no longer abide by it so resigned. A hear later the Uk got embroiled in Afghanistan (perhaps justifiable as a failed state) and then invaded Iraq (just a state who didn’t see things the same way as the West) and now look at the mess that triggered. Egypt now attacking in to Libya, Syria in civil war, more Syrians in Lebanon than Lebanese…… and Tony BLiar a peace envoy…… what a mess.

  14. I am going to havr tyo go meet our prospective Labour and Conservative candidates to find out what they are like as individuals as the incumbent MP is stepping down (I met her before she was elected) and her predecessor from the other side who was the previous MP has left politics and her predecessor from before then was Jonathan Aitken and I would never of voted for him as I never trusted him further than I could throw him.
    The other major candidate standing with a significance chance of getting elected I probably know more about than the Labour & Con candidates as a result of him appearing on TV so much, but then that is never quite the same as seeing the whites of their eyes. Many members of his party may well be Barmy as Martin describes them, but I have got to decide which potential MP I vote for, not which party on this occasion.
    During the cold war, decisions were much more straightforward (I was pro Nuclear during the cold war and am anti Nuclear under the current world political conditions as the world changes, but politicians seem to fail to move with world conditions when it comes to trying to woo the electorate)
    I bet the Ukrainians wish they’d never given up their Nuclear weapons as part of the Salt negotiations thinking Russia would protect them!

  15. @MartinBamford and you don’t think that oddballs as you describe sit amongst the ranks of all the other political parties?

    It’s like everything in life, there are good financial planners and there are bad ones or oddballs, there are good cops and there are bad cops. I could go on but you get the point. I would have thought that Labour’s disgraceful failings in Rotherham to be far more worthy of attention than a few oddballs that clearly do exist in the ranks of UKIP.

  16. E L Wisty (an only twin) 17th February 2015 at 10:46 am

    @ Martin Bamford

    The Oath (or affirmation, for the non-religious) to an MP’s constituents and country would be an excellent idea; although Caroline Lucas would have been required to first make the statutory Oath (or affirmation) of Allegiance.

    At present, after election, an MP is legally required to swear an Oath (or affirmation) of Allegiance before taking his or her seat. While holding a copy of the New Testament (or, in the case of a Jew or Muslim, the Old Testament or the Koran) a Member swears: “I…swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.”

    The text of the affirmation is: – “I…do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors according to law”.

    We will not be able to claim that we live in a true democracy, or have unfettered freedom of speech, until this feudal nonsense is abolished.

  17. I am in favour of any and all arcane feudal rituals that have even the slightest chance of bringing MPs back down to earth, and reminding them that they aren’t the centre of the universe and are supposed to be servants of the realm, not masters. (Even if the practical reality is different.)

    The monarchy is essential for the simple reason that if we didn’t have the Queen, a polit would be Head of State instead. Their grotesque misshapen heads are swollen enough as it is. At the moment the highest thing a polit can aspire to is still nominally to be a servant of the Crown and not ruler of the realm. This may be symbolic but it is not meaningless.

    If that means we don’t live in a true democracy, brilliant. It is not about the demos, it is about kratos – power.

  18. E L Wisty (an only twin) 17th February 2015 at 12:07 pm

    @ Sascha Klaus

    It may be that our current system is about ‘kratos’ or power; rather than ‘demos’ – the people. If so, this needs to change, as the good of the people must be the primary objective of any government.

    Sadly, your justification of an unelected monarch (who solely holds their authority through accident of birth) having immense privilege and power over the elected Parliament is both illogical and without evidence of effectiveness.

    At least when it comes to politicians, we can vote them out.

  19. @Wisty – It’s a bit like what Winston Churchill said about Democracy “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (from a House of Commons speech on Nov. 11, 1947) I therefore agree with Sascha and will restate it as “A constitutional democracy with a Sovereign as head of state is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
    The American system was supposed to be a party less state and instead they have a two party state which is little better than a one party state (IMHO) and they also have a head of state who is pretty much untouchable while our Monarchy knows they get their heads chopped off if they overstep the line too far 🙂

  20. E L Wisty: The monarch has no power and is not even particularly privileged. Compared to the likes of Blair who continue to swan around the world at our expense stashing god knows how many millions in offshore accounts, our monarchy is downright frugal.

  21. E L Wisty (an only twin) 17th February 2015 at 1:18 pm

    @ Sascha and Phil Castle

    Sadly, you are both defending the indefensible.

    To say “The monarch has no power and is not even particularly privileged” demonstrates either a staggering ignorance, and a refusal to consider reality. Have you not heard of Charles’ notorious ‘black spider’ letters to ministers, or how the Freedom of Information Act was changed in order to keep them secret? As for privilege, you are presumably unaware of their palaces and state funding?

    As for cost, the principle of monarchy would still be wrong, even if they were self-funding – which they most certainly are not. Furthermore, Charles’ tax affairs make HSBC look transparent and above board!

    In order to consider whether we live in any form of democracy, ask these questions of those in power – including the ‘royal’ family:

    1. what power do you have?
    2. where did you get it?
    3. in whose interests do you exercise it?
    4. to whom are you accountable? and
    5. how can we get rid of you?

    If the last two questions cannot be satisfactorily answered, then we don’t live in a democratic system.

  22. @wisty – “A constitutional democracy with a Sovereign as head of state is the worst form of government” but it remains my preferred method until I see one I prefer and I continue to prefer living in England (for all it’s faults) than anywhere else in the world I have visited.
    If you think that is deluded, then please do try some other jurisdiction with a different system. Robert Mugabe was elected (at least the first time round) as was Hitler (the first time round)

    For all my criticism of the F-pack, it doesn’t mean I think anything better exists, just that regulation COULD be so much better as could any Monarchy. As to the Queen, she has done a sterling job walking a fine, slow and dignified line through a period of great transition.

  23. E L Wisty (an only twin) 17th February 2015 at 2:23 pm

    @: Phil Castle

    You are, of course, entitled to your reactionary opinions. However, just because someone disagrees, it doesn’t mean that they should leave the country!

    Clearly, as you have not even attempted to respond to the objective points raised in my last post, even talking about the concept of democracy is anathema to you.

  24. What on earth is this nonsense doing here?

    This publication is supposed to be about financial services and financial advisers – not whatever subject takes the fancy of individual financial advisers, with only a tenuous link thrown in for good measure. I mean, will MM be publishing an article on why I favour Schnauzers as a breed of dog? – with perhaps me then adding “I think financial advisers should be more like Schnauzers: friendly to their own and loud and aggressive to trespassers? There, that’s made it relevant.”.

    What is particularly galling about this article is that it allows the author to make extreme and baseless comments e.g. about UKIP being barmy, even though one assumes MM knows that much of its readership will be small-c conservative where UKIP probably has a following.

    The point that this article omits when discussing the Greens however is their unique positioning amongst all political parties to destroy the basis of client portfolios and the wealth of middle England (if not the idea of England itself, but now I’m doing a Martin). We can all say “Well Milipede’s sandwich-eating policies might be bad for the economy because…” or “Mr Cameron’s further public spending cuts will impact economic activity thus…” or “Leaving the EU will be an economic nightmare” or “Messrs Cable and Alexander have done little for the economy compared with Boy George/A Passer-by” [None of these statements are true IMHO].

    But all of these other parties have economic growth and prosperity amongst their core objectives. By contrast, the Green’s are unique in (1) wanting to bin economic growth, (2) avoid the use of machines in the economy (yes, really), and (3) close down the financial system. And yet Martin is allowed to present it here as simply a form of localism, a bit like Mr Pickles wanting bins collected every week?

    On a lighter note, please all join me in visiting the Offices of Martin’s company with a view to “democratising” it in line with Green policies.

  25. E L Wisty (an only twin) 17th February 2015 at 3:06 pm

    @ MiB

    Nothing wrong in taking the scenic route every now and then. And Golden Labradors get my vote every time.

    So when are we descending on Martin’s office then?

  26. @Wisty – yes we are both entitled to our opinions. My children have different opinions to one another, let alone me, doesn’t mean I don’t love them because of it, in fact I love them more for having their own opinions.

    I didn’t tell you to leave the country (and stay there) I said “do try some other jurisdiction with a different system”.

    As the sayings go “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it” and “the grass is not always greener”,

    I have simply concluded the grass remains greener here than abroad, but I still love holidaying abroad although there are some jurisdictions that (disappointingly for my wife) I will not visit, not because I am scared of THEM.

  27. EL Wisty: If the most dangerous thing about the monarchy is Prince Charles’ not-so-secret letters about things that really are appalling then you are reinforcing my point. Better an eccentric monarch interfering with crap architecture than a British Sarkozy or Juncker slithering around, trading favours and bleeding the country.

    Aitcharraitch does not have power, not in the political sense. He cannot seize a man’s property, he cannot throw a man in jail, he cannot pass laws to restrict their liberty. Sending letters to Ministers is not power, any of us can do that. They may be more likely to read his but that is their choice – if they choose not to read them, he can do nothing. Your questions are category errors.

  28. @Man in Black & E L Wisty (an only twin)

    Let me know a time and date so I can get some decent biscuits and nice coffee in.

  29. Here’s what advisers can actually learn from the Green Party’s economic policies.

    http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/02/17/green-party-the-first-hundred-days/

  30. @Martin

    You shatter my illusions 🙁 I’d assumed you always had nice coffee and biscuits in your office.

  31. @Man in Black

    We always have nice coffee, from Coffee Real (http://www.coffeereal.co.uk/) who are local speciality coffee roasters. Nice biscuits are more of a moving feast, depending on whether Nick has discovered the client biscuit stash or not.

  32. We always have a good selection of nice coffee, standard and fruit teas. Can’t guarantee the quality of the tea as it depends on who takes the teabag out, but the Nespresso machine means ALWAYS consistent good coffee.

  33. I’ve just built a model of stone henge out of Bourbon biscuits , I’m going to call it bourbon henge ,, I’m going to do the hanging gardens of garibaldi next week.

    If any one else has any other famous land marks I could build let me know.

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