Saturday, June 24, 2017

Time for the Green Party to affiliate to the Labour Party

Now that I am no longer a UNISON representative I think I should turn my talent for writing controversial blog posts which may upset people to the sphere of my Labour Party activity. As regular readers will know, everything I say here is only my own personal opinion and so what I say here I say as an individual Labour Party member and not as Chair of my Constituency Labour Party (CLP).

One of the pleasures of the recent General Election campaign was meeting my old history teacher (and centenarian) Len Goldman. Len, who has given a lifetime to the struggle for socialism, wrote recently to the Grauniad to express the view that; “In the ‘30s we built a united front against fascism. Today’s inheritors of the fascist mantle need to be fought in the same non-sectarian way. Away with party shibboleths, which often hide real intentions. The Labour MPs who helped the Tories by denigrating their democratically elected leader are a prime example. Labour should at least unite with the Greens and welcome others who are prepared to defend the victims of the Tory onslaught and build a fairer, more democratic society. Caroline Lucas is certainly nearer to the intentions of the originators of the Labour party than those MPs I have mentioned.”

Len’s views are clearly shared by many on the left, including many within the Labour Party both nationally and locally. Unfortunately, however, this has been translated into support for a so-called “progressive alliance” which appears to entail one party (or more than one party) standing down in favour of other “progressive” parties. The fact that protagonists of this approach appear to include the Liberal Democrats (late of Coalition fame) within the definition of “progressive” does more damage to an inherently flawed concept.

It is one thing to vote tactically for a Party you like less than your first choice in order to defeat an even worse enemy – but quite another to deny your supporters the chance to vote for their first choice because you want to dragoon them into such tactical voting whether they want it or not. Those who thought that Labour should have stood aside for the incumbent Green MP in Brighton Pavilion have to face the reality that, whilst she increased her vote, share and majority, Labour came second and held a vote from 15,000 local people (many of whom might not have voted Green had we accepted the argument to step aside).

As we face the possibility of an early General Election, it is worth looking at the relationship between the Green Party and Labour nationally as well as locally in order to consider what we should be doing to avoid unnecessary division between those who want to see Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. A Corbyn led Government will not only face every obstacle beforehand but also sabotage from the deep state, the media barons, the wealthy and their fifth column in our movement after the election. It is worth looking at every opportunity to unite those who will support such a Government both before and after its election.

The Green Party, outside Brighton Pavilion Constituency face an almost existential threat from the willingness of their former supporters to switch to Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn – in the General Election the party with the most lost deposits was the Greens, they only saved their deposit in 11 of the 466 constituencies they contested. Given that you only need 5% of the vote to save a deposit this indicates that the Greens have been marginalised nationally.

In the Isle of Wight, where Caroline Lucas had argued that Labour should step aside for the Greens they got 17.3% of the vote, more than 4,000 votes behind the second placed Labour candidate in a safe Tory seat. Nationally the Green vote fell by more than half. There were fewer Green Party voters in the 2017 General Election than there are Labour Party members (and that means individual members and takes no account of three million affiliated trade unionists).

There is no prospect whatsoever of the Greens winning any more Members of Parliament without a change in the electoral system unless Labour abandons its current socialist policies. The electoral base of the Greens, to the extent that it exists in a few localities was built largely at Labour’s expense in areas where radical voters saw an effective means to express dissatisfaction with New Labour’s obsessions with privatisation and imperialism. Now that Labour has a socialist Leader and a social democratic programme for Government that electoral base is melting like snow in spring.

Of course the situation within Brighton Pavilion is unique. Caroline Lucas is proven to be a popular local MP, twice re-elected with an increased majority and (whilst some of us in the Labour Party might think some of the Green’s electoral campaigning tactics mirror the worst of the Liberal Democrats) plainly impregnable in the immediate future on the basis of the current constituency boundaries. Many Labour supporters in Brighton Pavilion (mistakenly in the view of your blogger, but not in their view) believe that they can support Jeremy Corbyn by voting for Caroline Lucas (and not only because some of them may have believed the lie that there was a risk of a Tory MP in Pavilion).

In these circumstances, and taking account of the seismic change in both the Labour Party and national politics through which we are living, the answer to the question posed (and answered so unconvincingly) by protagonists of the “Progressive Alliance” is that the Green Party should affiliate to the Labour Party in the same way the Co-operative Party does. The Co-op Party has 38 MPs, all of whom also sit as Labour MPs. If the Green Party came to the same electoral agreement with Labour as the Co-op Party they would put themselves on a fast track to increasing their Parliamentary representation compared to their current strategy of electoral isolation whilst waving the mangy carrot of the “Progressive Alliance” at an uninterested Labour Party.

Perhaps if we had some system of proportional representation there would be room for more than one progressive political party, between which alliances might be formed, but in 2017 that is not an option. The ball is in the court of the Green Party and its lone MP, but if that ball is served to the Labour Party we should be prepared to return it in a very positive way. 

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