by Katja Hoyer
Thursday, 27
May 2021
Explainer
16:30

The UK Greens are no match for their German cousins

One is polling in the single digits, while the other could soon win power
by Katja Hoyer

The promotion of arms sales to conflict zones is not something one would immediately associate with a Green party manifesto. Yet, the co-leader of the German Greens, Robert Habeck, demanded this week that Berlin should allow the sale of ‘defensive’ weapons to Ukraine.

Habeck had met the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, in Kiev before visiting the front lines of the conflict with Russia in the East of the country. The security threat there made a strong impression on him. He told German radio afterwards that Ukraine ‘feels and is isolated in terms of security policy […] one cannot deny Ukraine weapons for self-defence.’

Habeck’s words caused such furore in Germany that he had to row them back. After criticism from all sides, including his own party, he has now clarified that he had only referred to ‘night vision devices’ and other technology to help with reconnaissance and logistics.

Habeck may not speak for all German Greens, as the strong response to his statement shows, but it is undeniable that his party has shifted further towards the political centre, perhaps even into conservative waters in recent months. After all, it was Angela Merkel’s conservative government that decided not to sell military-grade material to Ukraine.

While in Germany Green party leaders are rebuked by conservative politicians for being too interventionist on the foreign policy stage, the UK Greens have not even developed a formal policy platform that addresses the issue. In a world where security threats from states such as Russia, China and Iran look increasingly menacing, the UK Greens resort to empty platitudes such as ‘wish[ing] to promote Green principles across the world’.

The Green Party’s only MP, Caroline Lucas, said after the local elections at the beginning of May that her party was ‘winning all around the country’. It is true that they performed well at a local level, but polls at national level tell a different story: support remains in the single digits in a General Election setting.

Meanwhile, the pragmatism and realism of the German Greens has made them a major player in the political landscape. With less than five months to go until the federal election, they could emerge as a serious contender for government, polling at around 25% — and only a few points behind the conservatives.

The UK Greens often complain that the FPTP voting system doesn’t give them a fair shot, which is certainly true. But with Labour and the Liberal Democrats in disarray, there is political room for them to be the preeminent Left-of-centre party. To advance, the party needs to develop a serious and credible policy platform across all the big issues. Only then can they follow in the footsteps of their German counterparts.

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  • What do the German Greens have to say about their country’s energy fiasco? Do they admit to any guilt, any at all?

  • Thanks. Some good and somewhat hilarious facts there. They are, indeed, a joke. (I write as one who walks or cycles everywhere, who has never bought a car, who almost always buys second-hand consumer goods, and who recycles assiduously while maintaining a somewhat diverse and wild garden that is, I hope, conducive to the existence of small creatures).

  • I’m with you on that although I did buy my first car when I turned 40.
    I lived in Brighton for many years and can confirm that everything Patrick Taylor said is true. I would also like to add that everyone I knew at the time loved the Greens and was passionate about the environment. Amazingly though, almost all these people had traveled the world. They would wax lyrical about their trips to India, East Asia, South America and the like. They all owned smart phones, smoked anything they could get their hands on and loved going to festivals. At the same time, anyone who ate meat or drove a powerful car was considered evil beyond redemption.
    As with most people in Brighton, everything was for show and completely superficial. They traipsed about the lanes in their hippie uniforms living completely self-indulgent lifestyles whilst judging everyone else and seeing themselves as the moral saviors of the universe.
    The sad thing is these people live in such a bubble that no one can ever really challenge their views. They carry on with the delusion that different opinions are a disease that they can cure people of. Meanwhile, the rest of the country ignores them and votes for Boris.

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