Excerpt from a book review on The Alternative: Towards a Progressive New Politics

The Alternative: Towards a New Progressive Politics. The title echoes the name of the mould-breaking new political party in Denmark of the same name, The Alternative, set up in 2013 to be a fresh, collaborative and progressive voice and change the divisive tone of domestic politics. Writing in the book, Uffe Elbæk, its party leader, compares the emergence of The Alternative to Syriza and Podemos as a reaction to a failure of the political system so serious that it leaves democracy itself under threat. But, far from strident, their response is to advocate for new, shared values that are the inverse of the emergent chest-beating and fearful nationalism threatening international cooperation on everything including climate change. They speak instead of political mobilisation based on humility, empathy, courage, generosity and even humour.

The scope and ambition of contributors to the UK initiative addresses the appetite and mechanics for cooperation; a foreign policy for progressives to convey that there is ‘no such place as ‘abroad’; the reinvention of public services and how we will live in the future in terms of housing and transport; and how even to talk about this new politics in such a way that people will listen.

In a chapter on re-imagining Britain’s approach to the environment, I argue that from government to anti-austerity groups in opposition, there is a kind of denial about the full economic implications of preventing irreversible climatic upheaval. The clamour for a return to growth whether on the right or among progressives on the left inevitably results in a kind of business as usual consumerism.  A real alternative is a green, circular and genuinely share economy of ‘better not more.’ In this, re-skilled and reconnected, rather than passive, disposable consumerism, we take back more control of our lives making, mending, re-using and sharing more of the things we need. Not only does this bring greater independence, well-being, cost and resource savings, but it draws on long-standing working class traditions of self and mutual help that let people and communities flourish in tough economic times. The cultivation of new skills and craft also counter the alienation of much modern work. A new more plural, progressive politics, capable of supporting the changes needed to prevent climate disaster, itself needs a new economic model, judged not by how quickly it grows, but by how well it allows us all to thrive within planetary environmental boundaries.
This is an excerpt of an article that first appeared at www.theguardian.com