Friday, January 26, 2007

Radio Wall

Listening to PM on Radio Four last night I was caught off guard by Derek Wall (introduced as Green Party "co-leader") in hot discussion with some free marketeer. Although I've seen bits and bobs in the press before this was the first time I'd heard him on the radio and I have to say I was pretty impressed.

The debate was about the announcement that you can now pick up a DVD player for a mere £9 and Derek had the interesting and, I think, rather difficult task of opposing this move - which he introduced with the phrase "there is a high price to low prices."

In his introductory remarks he pointed out that this item was a "loss leader" designed to tempt you into the shop, that the free market drive for low prices meant the suppression of wages, trade unions and the quality of life for ordinary people.

Importantly, he pointed out that encouraging the development of "the throw away society" was simply "not sustainable". By producing cheap tat rather than robust products we have got into a cycle quite at odds to a previous generation's ideal of re-use, repair and frugality. Recycling is okay as far as it goes, but it's the attempt to lessen the impact of disposability and is no substitute for quality goods with a long life span.

At this point Eddie Mair bowled in what I thought was a rather difficult question. "So if someone is going out to buy a new DVD and there is one for £9, one for £20 and one for £100 which would you recommend." Derek handled this very well by avoiding moralising to the consumer placing the onus on the vendor.

If everything was clearly marked including the environmental and social impact of the goods then we'd be able to make informed decisions. As it stands right now that just isn't the case. I never doubted him for a moment. Cough.

Incidentally, there is some debate on the subject (which seems to focus on how terrible Derek's free market opponent was) at the PM blog

It's rather nice having a measured and calm anti-capitalist as "co-leader", someone you can rely on to bring in workers rights alongside the environmental impact of the multi-nationals' drive for profit. Someone who isn't going to preach that ordinary people are evil for buying a DVD player, but that the free market encroachment into every aspect of our lives is going to come with a heavy price.


Derek Wall said...

Dear Jim,

thanks for your kind comments. I am lucky to teach economics which gives me a big advantage and have debated with the ultra liberal Morris several times before.

however I am not a 'co-leader', this got stuck on after the pre-record, I would have liked to have said why we don't have leaders....cos we are not into dodgy personality politics, etc



Jim Jay said...

Indeed you aren't co-leader... it just made me smile when they introduced you that way - but these things are always on a tight schedule so you had no opportunity to talk about that.

I notice at the coming Green Party conference there is a motion on the table that would change your office into just that though - what's your opinion on it?

Derek Wall said...

I am against a 'leader' and I am not looking forward to my post being abolished (I think this is the likely outcome), I would rather be beaten by someone else for Principal
speaker than have the post a few short months of Principal speaker fun to go and then you are likely to have a leader and a deputy leader...very sad, I guess it will be the road to some green realo politics and we will be back to Berlin and the rather anodyne 'new green' of people like Cohn Bendict and Fischer!

However even a short opportunity to put some ideas across is better than none!

a very public sociologist said...

From your experiences in the party how likely is it the 'leader' motion will go through, and who are the people supporting it?

Jim Jay said...

It may well go through.

You can read the first (long) conference agenda (with motions) in pdf here

This motion is on page twenty to twenty one. It's definately a modernisers motion - although i get the impression there are people on both the left and the right who will be supporting it.

Matt Sellwood said...

Well, for a start, the motion won't create a leader/deputy leader model. It will allow the entire membership to vote on whether we have a leader/deputy leader model, which seems to me the best way of going about it....

I think the whole issue is a bit of a red herring compared to the hundreds of other things that are more important to get sorted out in the Green Party, but oh well!


Jim Jay said...

My theory is those that shave are trying to drive those with elaborate beards out of the party... but they must win over the partially scruffy block in the middle to do so... could be a tight call

Derek Wall said...

I need to be very clear on this, I do shave but I don't want to force out those of you with beards.

I won against a candidate for principal speaker who took a Gramscite historic compromise to the whole beard issue in the form of the stubbly Keith Taylor (but I am not against beards, Karl Marx, Jesus (although how do we know what he looked like?) Brig Oubridge, etc are fine persons).

Seriously lets keep speakers and reject, leaders, deputy leaders and the whole ladder of political hierarchy.

Must admit I am grumpy about my post being under a death threat...especially when I am enjoying it so much.

AN said...

The thing is _ i don't think there is anything wrong with leadership, if it is empowering rather than controlling. The green party has been afraid to show leadership, hence the prinicpal speaker thing.

Why shouldn't the Green party aspire to providing leadership, if by doing so it is empowering the greass roots activists, rather than saying hey we are a London based committee and know best.

My experience of watching the green Party in action on the sterrng committe of the Stop the War colaition is that actually th party reserves the decentralised model for itself, and doesn't argue for decntalised decision in other campaigns it is involved with.

Matt Sellwood said...


You haven't gotten back to me to substantiate what you are saying about the STWC and the Greens. Still very happy to take it up with people if you can provide examples etc.


Anonymous said...

for almost fifteen years i have been a green party activist. i long for the day when we firstly take ourselves seriously then use all the means available to us too get across our political message, which has never been needed more than at this present time . it does mean having a leadership team preferably called co -leaders, with hopefully gender balance but not a constitutional requirement that it be one man one woman.the sooner we get rid of this principal speaker nonsense the better,we can then concentrate on spreading our message to the widest possible audience rather than the relatively small band of people who seem more interested in keeping the party as some sort of self perpetuating clique who are only happy when sit in splendid isolation from the rest of society wagging their fingers at joe public and saying we told you so. we as a party need to reach out to all sections of society not as seems to be happening just talking to those bizzare and obscure left groupings who are only to quick to jump on the back of an established and respected organisation turn it in on itself and then accuse it of betrayal. lets work to keep the party broad based, welcoming and progressive j.m.

Derek Wall said...

well just go back from news 24, so pretty sad you are going to abolish me...if you find some one better, great but changing to a leader is going to get us less publicity not more.

It is what you say, not what your title is!

Jim Jay said...

You do seem to be doing rather well getting press attention Derek, well done

weggis said...

WHOA! Why didn’t I know about this leader thing. I’m plugged into the email lists, perhaps not the right ones. Comments>>>

Jimjay: how does your comment on beards relate to the female membership? What is the female equivalent of a beard? Beads? Pig tails? What?

Matt: what are the “hundreds of things that are more important to get sorted out in the Green Party”? Top 5 priorities will do. [JJ, can you prompt him?]

Me: there is a whole range of different types of “leadership”. I want to know what type we are proposing before I cast my vote. Any thoughts, info?

More to the point, the key issue for me is the process by which the lead remove the leader when things go pear-shaped. Topical point eh?