The Green Party, the left and next steps
Corbyn’s win should be a celebration for the Greens. It gives us an opportunity be even more radical — especially on democracy and migration.
I’m writing this in the hope of kicking off a useful discussion about what the Greens should be doing after an election where we knew we were going to be hugely squeezed.
I’m trying to think about a) what our best strategy is to re-group in the new context and b) how we best serve the wider movement to kick the Tories out, without which there isn’t a chance of achieving the world we spend our free time fighting for.
As a former Councillor who stepped down a month ago, and has been very heavily involved with the party, to someone who just spent the general election deliberately working on a non-party outfit to beat the Tories in marginal seats, I feel like I’ve got an interesting perspective on this.
Let’s start by stating one thing really clearly — the Greens aren’t and can’t be here just as a narrow, self-interested party that seeks to build it’s own base regardless of the wider consequences. I’m thinking about the Lib Dems mostly here, but other parties have been guilty of this too. We exist to stop climate change, improve everyone’s lives by tackling the grotesque wealth concentration here and all over the world, and generally build a people-centred world that respects environmental limits. We’re here because the other parties weren’t interested in this, or weren’t capable of doing it.
That said, I know our results really hurt. I’m devastated that Molly Scott Cato, isn’t going to be in Parliament ripping the Tories a new one on austerity.
Everything that follows is based on this — unlike some others we’re not just here to win seats, we’re trying to do that in order to change the world.
Greens have hugely helped this left turn
We should be very proud of our contribution to UK politics in recent years. We gladly took on austerity economics when no one else would. We’ve been talking about a universal basic income, about a living wage, about rent controls and scapping tuition fees. Things that a rotting husk of New Labour didn’t think it possible to win an election with. We proved in 2014 and 2015 how popular they were, and it lay the foundations for the transformation of the Labour leadership.
Me and most of my generation of Greens cut their teeth by pushing the Green Party to talk more about these central social and economic issues, based on the basic analysis that a lot people in poverty don’t have the resources to worry about or deal with the environmental crisis.
The problem for the last two years has been what we do when our most popular offers get taken on by the UK’s main opposition party.
If we’re honest, many Greens have been having discussions to the effect of “can we do more than sit round and ensure the party doesn’t swing back towards liberal environmentalism until/if the Corbyn project implodes?”. Our best minds haven’t been able to come up with a distinct offer to the coalition we’d spent years building.
The 2017 campaign
What I’m about to say isn’t meant to be a criticism of any of the people who worked hard on the Green campaign. It’s more that we’ve got a top-line strategic vacuum we haven’t been able to fill.
I’m not going to get into whether the focus on the progressive alliance was good main focus. The reason it was on the forefront of the leadership’s mind was simply being terrified of what perpetual Tory rule means for the climate struggle, in the now very short timeline we have to make a difference. But it was perhaps the time spent on making the case for it in public which stopped the party from developing a real story to take to the 2017 ballot.
I’ll admit, having taken the active step of putting some personal distance between me and the party for this election, I haven’t been following the campaign nearly as closely as normal. But what stuck me was basically a series of ‘more radical than Labour’ policy offers that we hadn’t spent any time priming people for. Case in point is the 4 day week, which lacking any context meant it sounded like economic fantasy, unlike the clinical deconstruction of austerity economics the party did in 2010 and 2015. I couldnt’t make out a story.
I’m proud of Greens not being afraid to defend free movement, and that was a critical role for us in an election where Labour couldn’t if they were going to hold together the coalition they were building.
But, all the conversations and all the strategy developed assumed that Corbyn couldn’t win. We’re now talking about a totally different situation. Labour might actually have a majority in a few months time.
As I’ve already said, Greens have played a big part in turning around the Tories’ toxic economic narrative in the past 7 years. We need to carry on demolishing their rhetoric which has been so bruised by the result.
We need to carry on shifting the ‘overton window’ in our direction, and we need to think about what our role will be under a Labour majority government. I just about remember campaigning for the Greens under a new Labour government. That’s not going to be the same. This will be from a position of strength for the left we haven’t seen for decades. It will be about attacking the roots of the establishment’s control and power in every community.
This is going to be a case of ‘yes, and’.
How do we that?
Let’s get ready to talk about radical democracy, about empowering people to protect their local environment, to generate their own clean energy.
Let’s get ready to challenge the awful Labour councils we have all over the country to make these transformative changes and leave behind the bland managerialism of new Labour. If they don’t want to that, we can replace them.
This is just a few thoughts to get started. But the most important thing is that we don’t look like we’re ‘bitter’ of Labour ‘stealing our clothes’. I’m ecstatic about the shock turnaround we’ve just seen in the UK. But the Green Party needs to think hard about how we defend this progress, move society further in our direction and where and how we can win to push our agenda.