Ed Balls was not the easiest of individuals to like when he was a politician. As a dancer and TV star he seemed a lot more at home in his own skin. Much the same was true of Michael Portillo. When he was the nastiest member of the nasty party during one of its nastiest periods in office he didn't exactly endear himself to the nation. I remember staying up with friends to cheer his election defeat. At that glorious moment of time, when he got the kicking he so richly deserved, I would never have expected to find myself happily watching his gentle and relaxing TV travel shows and for him to end up with opinions massively more enlightened than most of the rest of the Conservative Party. Clearly losing really is good for the soul!
By contrast on that night when Portillo got his come-uppance Tony Blair looked fresh faced and enthusiastic and held the hopes of a nation. I remember saying that if he actually did in office 75% of the things he was promising then I'd join the Labour Party. I was never in any risk of doing so. Indeed his record in office was one of the prime reasons I ended up in the Greens. Power revealed him to be greasy, untrustworthy, wonderful at faking sincerity and dangerously convinced of his own wisdom. Problems that were bad enough after his first victory but when he won again he became convinced that he was truly a very great statesman. The people of Iraq paid the price. They are doing so to this day. So are the people of Syria as the problems spilled over. So did all too many British soldiers who got killed and injured in a conflict that was avoidable, wasn't sanctioned by the UN, and never made anyone in the UK safer or more secure.
So waking up on a morning after losing an election I ought really to have consoled myself with the thought that at least it won't do me personally any harm to be reminded that the majority of the people of Skipton and Ripon preferred to be represented by someone who comes down from London every now and then and gives a very good impression of not really seeming that bothered.
Yet, if I am strictly honest, I am not remotely OK about losing. Nor am I remotely happy about recording the 5th highest Green vote in the entire country with only 3,734 votes. It worries me greatly that we are in the middle of a huge environmental crisis that threatens the welfare of every species living on the planet. Yet the environment barely featured in the campaign. We are on the cusp of a change in technology which is going to create magnificent opportunities for the countries and the businesses that invest in the future. Yet people voted for a party whose industrial strategy was fracking and road building.
I was therefore very pleased indeed that Corbyn's campaigning skills resulted in his party winning enough seats to foil May's plan to rule us without opposition for 5 years during which she could impose the hardest of Brexits. I was less pleased to find quite so many people switching from the Greens to Labour in a safe Conservative seat under the impression that it would somehow help to defeat the Tories. If the Greens had recorded a strong vote in constituencies like mine then I think Theresa May might have thought twice about appointing Michael Gove as Environment Minster. As it was a drop of half a million votes for the Greens left May feeling confident that she could get away with putting a man who tried to take climate change off the geography national curriculum in charge of tackling ..... er... climate change!
The country needs a strong voice for environmental politics. Firstly because the only responsible way to act is to recognise the seriousness and the urgency of the environmental crisis we face. Secondly, and for the UK probably more importantly, because the country needs to recognise the direction in which technology is changing and to equip ourselves to lead that change. When you are putting at risk your biggest export market you need to compete across the globe. You can't do that by adopting fossilised technologies and ignoring the rapid move of the world economy towards green technologies that was encapsulated in the Paris agreement.
I therefore believe that if the Green Party didn't exist it would now be necessary to invent it. Labour are resurgent and have inspired a lot of young people. But too many of their industrial policies still sound like they are rooted in the economics of an earlier era of trade unions and heavy industry. There are many fantastic people in the Labour party and Corbyn has a lot of ideas that I agree with. But it seems to me that when an environmental issue clashes with the short term interests of a significant number of trade union members he tends to side with the latter. Nor does he, or his team, sound entirely comfortable in a world of small flexible businesses innovating at a great pace. At times Labour came across as being a party that thinks that if we nationalise the commanding heights of the economy we will solve our problems. We need a party that understands what went wrong in the 2008 financial crisis and how to fix it not one that sounds all too often like it is still struggling to understand why the industrial strategies from the 1970s failed to work.
Above all we need to get stability and sustainability into the economic system. One of the best Green policies was to tax financial transactions in order to restore stability to the banking sector. I also liked the idea of transforming one of the state owned banks into a cheap and effective banking service and credit union in every community. These policies showed some understanding of the scale of the change that is needed. They would have put us on the road to stamping out very real day to day problems like loan sharks at the same time making the system more stable and helping to avoid another crash.
We badly need the Green Party to be out there articulating the scale of the changes we are going to have to make. I didn't hear any national politician from any other party mention at any point in the campaign the need to move away from plastic technology and stop covering the entire globe in a layer of permanent filth. Nor did I hear anyone from any other party mention the need to change agricultural production techniques to cope with declining effectiveness of traditional pesticides and the destruction of wildlife. Above all no one seemed to be explaining to people the speed and the intensity of the technological shift that is going to have to be made to stop us burning fossils that have taken millions of years to create in order to drive almost every aspect of our civilisation.
What I did hear was endless lectures from commentators on the need for fiscal responsibility. As it happens I think they are right. I fully accept the need for financial responsibility. Which is why I hated seeing £400 billion wasted on quantitative easing. In fact I go a lot further than them. I fully accept the need for all forms of responsible politics. In particular I believe we are taking an utterly irresponsible attitude towards the environment and hoping that our profligate policies are going to somehow all turn out OK. They won't. We are operating an unsustainable economy and the longer it takes us to face up to our responsibilities the worse it will be.
Which is why we need a strong Green Party and we need to keep using elections to put our arguments forward regardless of the results. Losing may be good for the ego but it is very bad indeed for the future of the planet.