THIS is a true confession: I once voted Green. It was out of a
mixture of frustration with the two big parties, anxiety about the
environment, and youthful idealism; a real longing for a better way
of living. This was nearly 40 years ago.
The reasons for taking the min- ority parties seriously have
never been stronger than they are today. Their current function is
to channel the mix of public anxiety, frustration, and idealism
which keeps mainstream politicians on their toes. Occasionally they
also come up with some really good ideas.
I would not vote Green now, though I still find something
attractive about their earnestness, and their faith in their
message. They are relatively uncorrupted by spin and political
salesmanship. This makes them gaffe-prone, and a bit amateurish,
but, for some people, this is a positive plus. I am half-drawn,
half-repelled by the enticing mix of paganism and puritanism which
the Greens seem to offer. They challenge me to be more reflective
about my relationship with the material world; to see the chore of
recycling as a spiritual discipline; to question the assumption
that economic growth is necessary, desirable, or even possible. And
yet. . .
There is a balance to be found in scripture between idealism and
pragmatism. The wisdom literature is full of the praise of God for
the beauty and order of creation, but it also extols the practical
wisdom of those who have sound judgement, discretion, and patience.
If the Greens were to play a part in government, they would have to
find compromises, do deals, and decide what they are really for
(rather than the multiplicity of things they are against). Like the
Lib Dems in the recently ended coalition government, they would
have to lose their political virginity and muck in with those who
have some experience of trying to balance the books, solve the
problems of the NHS, raise appropriate taxes, minimise low pay, and
get more people into work.
If they had a part in government they would gain experience, but
at the expense of the innocence that makes them attractive.
Politics is a messy business, and it exposes those of us who
secretly want to believe that there could ever be a perfect form of
government; or that there are solutions to our more intractable
social problems, which can simply be imposed on us all. Before
polling day, we should all examine our consciences as we
contemplate how to vote. And, when we vote, we should have in mind
not only our aspirations for social justice and order, but the fact
that, as R. A.Butler once nearly said, politics is only the art of
The Revd Angela Tilby is Diocesan Canon of Christ Church,
Oxford, and Continuing Ministerial Development Adviser for the
diocese of Oxford.