Table of Contents
- March 19: PEOPLE formed as first Green Party in UK
- February 24-25: New Zealand Values Party Holds National Conference
- March 4: French Ecologists Test Electoral Waters for First Time - Ecologie et Survie formed
- Oct: First Green Elected
In the West Midlands city of Coventry, the Green Party in the United Kingdom was founded, as more than 50 people met in the office of local real estate agent Mike Benfield, approved an initial program and choose PEOPLE as the party's first name.
The Blueprint for Survival, (published by The Ecologist magazine), The Limits to Growth Report (by the Club of Rome) and the writings of Paul Ehrlich, Benfield had been meeting since the summer of 1972 to discuss the ecological crisis with his assistant Freda Saunders, solicitors Tony and Leslie Whittaker, former fighter pilot Walter Longcraft-Neal, Keith Hudson (publisher of the journal Towards Survival), Derek Wall (who would become the Green Party's Male Principle Speaker in November 2006) and others.Inspired by
Calling themselves the "Club of Thirteen", they ultimately split over whether to focus on education or action, with Hudson and the remaining six members opposing the formation of a new political party. Benfield, Saunders and the Whittakers contacted the existing political parties, but received uncomprehending replies. Finding to their surprise, there were no legal requirements necessary to establish a Party (this has changed since) they simply placed an advertisement in the Coventry Evening Standard on January 31st 1973, proclaiming the existence of PEOPLE and asking for members willing to stand as candidates.
On March 19th, the founding meeting was held. Filled with excitement over the creating a new vehicle for change, PEOPLE founders based their program on the four principles that the Blueprint for Society offered as the ‘principal conditions for a stable society’:
1) minimum disruption of ecological processes
2) maximum conservation of materials and energy
3) a population in which recruitment equals loss
4) a social system in which individuals can enjoy, rather than feel restricted by the first three conditions.
Ron Long of Lanchester Polytechnic in Coventry designed a logo with Green values in mind, and from it, PEOPLE took the colors of coral and turquoise. According to Lesley Whittaker, the controversial nude stage play “Hair" was very popular and the Age of Aquarius was on everybody’s lips. The logo was a globe with lines of longitude and latitude. Across it was a wave, the symbol of the zodiac indicating Aquarius. "Our colours were Aquarian turquoise for the sea and coral, which was supposed to be a gentle colour that would initiate action in people."
Since many PEOPLE founders had first read Ehrlich in an August 1970 Playboy interview, when the founding meeting concluded, Benfield phoned the Playboy headquarters in Chicago to tell them the good news and ask if they would fund the first Green Party in the Northern hemisphere. They politely declined.
However, support came as Edward Goldsmith, founder, editor and publisher of The Ecologist, was an early member of PEOPLE and contributed the mailing list of the Movement for Survival.
In 1973 PEOPLE attempted to bring an ecological perspective to economics, employment, defence, energy (fuel) supplies, land tenure, pollution and social security.
Because of the ‘communist overtones’ the press persisted in giving the party by calling it the ‘peoples party', and because coral and turqouise often came out as red and blue on low cost printing processes, a change of name and color was made in 1974.
After debating between ‘ecology’ and ‘values’ (after the Values Party in New Zealand), ecology was adopted and the color green chosen. The name of the party newsletter, edited by Benfield, was also changed from PEOPLE to Alliance.
Having been founded only eleven months earlier, and having already contested their first election, the Values Party now turned its attention to discuss ‘organisation, constitution, future directions, local government elections, proposals for a party newspaper, etc.’
A paper written by Guy Salmon of the Youth Action Centre Wellington argued for the latter and such arguments were consistent with the anarchist strain running through most of the‘ new politics’ groupings of the time.They were acceptable to Tony Brunt and Geoff Neill, who endorsed Salmon’s proposal to do away with leaders and devolve all policymaking, decision-making and publicity to the regions, leaving only an administrative secretariat in Wellington. This secretariat was not to have a spokesperson role and was not to be able to lead or bind the party on policy or organisational matters.
The debate on party structure recorded in the minutes of the conference shows that on the one hand there was a strong will to believe in and endorse participatory, community-based structures, which place a heavy emphasis on trust, power-sharing spontaneity, personal integrity and enthusiasm. On the other hand there was also a significant concern expressed that a stronger organisational and democratic framework, with elected rather than self-appointed leaders, was necessary to avoid destructive anarchy and to get the Values message across effectively.
The ‘anarchist’ tendency won the day, and the party entered what was to be a seventeen-month experiment in radical devolution.
Ecologie et Survie was a group founded in the Alsace home of Solange Fernex, who would eventually be a co-founder of the French Green Party Les Verts and would serve in the European Parliament. A committed anti-nuclear activist, Fernex was also a member of the Association Féderative Régional pour la Protection de la Nature.
Along with some colleagues, Fernex felt the time had come to establish a political organization parallel to the existing environmental groups. Also present at this meeting and was Antoine Waechter, then a young biologist, who eventually became the presidential candidate of Les Verts in 1988, when he received 3.78%
The theme for Ecologie et Survie was 'halte a l'expansion'. Their candidate Henri Jenn , 32, received 3.7% in a district of Mulhouse, a city and commune in eastern France, close to the Swiss and German borders and the second largest in Alsace after Strasbourg.
Helen Smith of the New Zealand Values Party became the first Green elected in the world, when she was won a seat on the Porirua City Council in a by-election.
Porirua is a picturesque city located 20 km north of the city of Wellington, set upon the lower South Pacific Ocean around two beautiful harbours in New Zealand's lower North Island and known for its native forest, water ways and ocean views.
Coming from Porirua's seaside village of Titahi Bay, Smith (1927-2007) remained in office for almost 30 years til her narrow defeat in 2001. In the 1972, 1975 and 1978 elections she gained the highest number of votes of any Values candidate in the country. In 1977, she finished runner-up for Mayor of Porirua.