(If you understand that reference, you’re too old!)
Jemima’s little brother is interviewed in the Guardian today.
He’s a funny one. I would imagine that to a number of greenies, Zac’s move into established politics and the Conservatives will be a shock and a blow, but I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised. And indeed, in many respects I think it is a good thing and a recognition that green politics is finally going mainstream.
One of my friends keeps threatening to write an article on why the existence of the Green Party is undermining the ability of mainstream politics to embrace environmental concerns. He has a point. Whenever an environmental story appears in the media, Caroline Lucas is virtually guaranteed a quote, while environmentalists within mainstream politics get shunted to one side. Meanwhile, the green agenda is painted as if it is a single agenda and a political ideology in itself. The result is that people with a deep concern with such issues are encouraged to either stay in the ghetto that is the Green Party or ignore mainstream politics altogether.
Zac Goldsmith is a green, but he is a green conservative. What attracts him is the idea of small government combined with a feudal social hierarchy: the squire protecting the land, tended by happy, smiling serfs. While there is no doubt much that we can agree on, it is essentially backward looking.
I consider myself to be a green liberal. Green liberalism is defined, such as it has been, as being very much concerned with the future. It is Brundtland-plus: protecting freedoms now but only insofar as they do not restrict the freedoms of future generations.
Green liberals (and I’m sure some people may take issue with this), are essentially pro-market, but want to see it reformed so as to better reflect externalities and challenge oligarchies; green conservatives are innately suspicious of any market other than the local farmers’ variety. Green liberals see much of the solution lying in technology; green conservatives see technology as the problem. One of the things that has made the Ecologist unreadable for me is the silly line that Goldsmith has taken over mobile phones and electro-magnetic “pollution”, and I see that you can buy a “Pulse Bioshield” to protect you from mobile phone electromagnetic “smog” in his shop (and presumably a fetching aluminium hat to go with it).
So I look forward to Zac Goldsmith joining the Conservatives and pushing them in a more environmentalist direction. It forces the Lib Dems, who are shockingly complacent about their own green credentials, to raise their game. But in doing so, I hope, it will allow both parties to put some clear green water between them and develop their own distinctive approaches.
UPDATE: Tim Worstall is a little more to the point than me.