Why Rachel Collinson is sticking with the Greens – and you should too!
The election of Jeremy Corbyn is another happy milestone in the journey of British politics out of the right wing hinterland and into the sunny dales of People-over-Profit. The news that he got over 50% of the vote in a 4-way contest was glorious. A poke in the eye for the establishment.
Not only that, it means the Overton Window (if you don’t know about that, it’s worth reading up on) is shifting rapidly back to centre ground. This bodes well for us as a nation.
But, I have a warning for you, my lovely leftie friends. Don’t think that the Labour leopard is about to change its spots, just because one turned out to be a benign mole.
“OUCH! That’s a bit harsh,” I hear you say. “Bitter, much?”
Alright, I know what it looks like. But hear me out, like the open-minded sage I know you are.
Just like you, at one point I was prepared to bet the farm on Labour. I even signed up to volunteer for them at a high level. But what I saw was an organisation unwilling to listen to its members, preferring to trust in its old (failed) guard. An organisation unprepared for a society with a culture and technology that have changed beyond recognition since the 1980s.
Fast-forward 2 years and alas, that’s still the reality. Like the decades-long moribund Battersea Power Station, the only hope for Labour is that Momentum is able to transform the old structures.
I’m sorry, but I don’t hold out much hope for that. Why? There are too many hints that the foundations are sandy. Here’s a few:
A reluctance to collaborate
As the resurgent Left grapples with our new political landscape, Labour have shown a disappointing lack of interest in collaborative politics. I applaud Caroline Lucas’ stance, offering an open hand to other parties who share the will to implement policies where they overlap.
I also applaud the stance of councillors here in East London who are open to working together on problems that affect us all. However, there are precious few hints that Labour MPs are open to joint projects, whether that’s an alliance, a pact or sharing of resources. There’s no understanding that this kind of politics can benefit all parties.
In the meantime, Caroline Lucas continues to do Corbyn’s job (for example, relaunching the Railways Bill) while Labour continues its public squabble over Old vs New.
All mouth and no green trousers
Support for polluting industries that benefit the rich more than the poor – such as air travel – is still a Labour priority over sustainable development. East Ham Labour MP Stephen Timms supports expansion of City Airport, despite the fact that 1 in 3 children who live around the airport are sick from the pollution.
Never mind the dire signs of global warming all around us.
Not only is this environmental folly, it doesn’t make economic sense.
The Green Party’s proposal for replacing City Airport, is partly based on a 2014 report from the New Economics Foundation, which found that using the land for housing, small businesses, schools and hospitals, it would create 15,000 more jobs and serve everybody.
A poll in the Newham Recorder shows that residents agree with us.
Forgetting how to win elections
Since 1997, Labour have bought into the Tory idea that winning elections is all about winning over the media. Ed Miliband’s over-coached speech-making, the stone of doom, and romancing Russell Brand were all cringey symptoms of this problem.
Corbyn’s ability to listen and rally the ranks of ordinary people is masterful. But his ground troops haven’t yet caught up. Labour’s canvassing strategy is, frankly, broken. Those doing it well were told by HQ that they were misbehaving and should follow orders from on high.
Having seen the Green Party’s plans to re-engage people in politics from the ground up, I can tell you that they surpass anything Labour has yet devised. The astonishing swing to the Green Party in Bristol West – one of the biggest in English election history – is testament to this.
A lack of commitment to democratic reform
Labour let us down badly in 1997, when they had the chance to reform the House of Lords and change our voting system. However, no lessons have been learned from this. The Old Labour souls seem to pine for the old times (in reality, all ten minutes of them) when First Past the Post served this country well.
If Labour were the party this country really deserved, they’d be all over the opportunity to reform our voting system and end the hereditary principle once and for all. We’d be seeing murmurs of land reform and an end to Royal interference in politics. Sadly, no dice. Not even loaded ones!
There are many more policies and qualities I could list where the Green Party has a huge edge over Labour in solving the UK’s (and the world’s) deepest problems. Such as Land Value Tax, devolution of power as far as possible, Community Land Trusts, Citizens’ income, net neutrality, investment of 1% of GDP in research, restorative justice, Positive Money, Piketty’s wealth tax… the list is extensive.
Yes, I love Corbyn. I especially love the hope that he’s inspired in hundreds of thousands of people. But as far as I can see, he’s more the establishment’s no-tie naughty boy. Not the Messiah.
Will the red shoots of growth around him become fruitful plants?
I hope I am wrong about this. But if I’m judging by the ground these seedlings are growing in, we’ll be waiting a long time for that to happen.
And that, in summary, is why I’m sticking with the Green Party. I am prouder of my membership now than I’ve ever been.
Rachel Collinson is Newham Green Party’s Chair, and is currently running as a candidate for City and East London in the London Assembly elections in May.