Britain's Greens Stay the Course, Despite Slip in Polls

BRITAIN'S Green Party, encouraged by the 15 percent vote it registered in June elections for the European Parliament, has been charting its future. After four days of conferring, it decided that it would ignore the rules of orthodox politics and deny itself a leader. In most other countries of the EC, where proportional representation is the rule, the Greens' showing in June would have won it parliamentary seats. But under Britain's first-past-the-post electoral system, it gained no seats at all. If it wants places in Parliament, it must build its strength to at least 20 percent and offer a serious challenge to the larger Conservative and Labour parties.

At their annual conference in Wolverhampton from Sept. 20-24, however, the Greens decided they did not need to choose a leader or to modify their policies to gain broader appeal. They also decided not to cooperate with the established political parties to bring about electoral reform.

They thus denied themselves support in working to abolish first-past-the-post voting.

The Greens have at least two strong personalities who could offer credible leadership - Sara Parkin, an articulate specialist on environmental matters, and David Icke, a television journalist. Instead, the party will continue with a collective leadership.

The Greens are not short of policies. Their Manifesto for a Sustainable Society calls for abolition of nuclear weapons, conservation of energy resources, and emphasis on small-scale industry. They favor abandoning gross national product as an indicator of economic performance and adoption of a system to ``measure human well-being'' in the broadest sense.

Some observers have argued that the Greens need to refine policies and sort out leadership questions. They are a young party, but time may be against them.

There will be a general election within two years, and to remain a credible force the party will have to at least match its June performance.

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