Corbyn’s “not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”

Why Rachel Collinson is sticking with the Greens – and you should too!

Angela Eagle MP looks up at Jeremy Corbyn during PMQsThe 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.
Poll showing twice as many yes as no votes to the question "London City Airport. Do you agree with the Green Party’s proposal?"
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.
Monty Python gif:

 

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.

Leader Knows Best

R-CollinsonSmlNewham Green Party Chair, Rachel Collinson, reports back from Newham Council’s August meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to follow up on concerns around recent council budget decisions.

“I know how this vote is going to go. If the motion was ‘the earth is flat’ councillors Rokhsana, Seyi, Kay and Susan would vote 4-2 for it,” thunders Lester Hudson, as he eyes the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting.
 
I’m so offended and shocked by this that I can’t help snorting, despite being in the public gallery.

Hudson continues as though nothing has happened. “If the motion was ‘Geoffrey Boycott is useless at cricket’ they would vote 4-2 for it.” Nobody’s laughing this time. His tirade continues: “I sincerely hope this time, common sense will prevail, but I doubt it.”

There is general uproar, and the female councillors who have been the subject of these personal attacks are rightly livid. (Later on I realise that John Gray – also a member of the rebellion against the Robin Wales regime – is spared the vitriol. Could it be that the Y chromosome is a safeguard?)NewhamLogo

A chap to my left passes me a sheet of lined A4 notepaper, with “Attendance Sheet” scrawled at the top. There is a name and one signature on it so far. I pass it on without signing.

A few minutes later, an unnamed lady shouts “Has everybody signed the attendance sheet?”

“I’ve never been asked this before as a member of the public in a council meeting,” I say, annoyed. “It doesn’t say on it how the data will be used, so I didn’t.”

“I just need to know who is here,” she replies.

Well, that much is obvious.

This meeting has been called because Newham Council’s Cabinet have seemingly approved a dubious investment proposal without oversight of the Investment and Accounts Committee. Councillors heard about it in passing and were horrified. They have decided to ask the Mayor to reconsider spending £500,000 without due process.

Council Officers will not let members of the public (or even certain councillors) see more details of what’s proposed. All we know so far is that the Cabinet are attempting to reduce payments to the council’s pension fund – which already has a £238 million deficit – using a ‘Special Purpose Vehicle’. We understand that the council is using some of their buildings as security on a risky investment. How do we know it’s risky? Because their financial advisors are warning them against it.

It seems common sense to me that if the proposal were common sense, then the Cabinet would not resort to bending the rules to avoid scrutiny.

What I am seeing in action here is the Labour belief that Leader Knows Best, and democracy is merely a frustrating blot on the master plan. The belief that the people ought to shut up and take their medicine. The belief that is shown up at its worst in the Executive Mayoral system.

This is further confirmed when a member of the public stands up and questions whether the chair should be asking loaded questions of his own committee. The offender, Anthony McAlmont, says that members of the public are not allowed to speak, despite having allowed an earlier question. For some reason this breach of meeting protocol goes unnoticed by the Legal advisor present.

Newham Town Hall in East HamI hear the words ‘p&%$-up’ and ‘brewery’ emanate loudly from elsewhere in the public gallery.

With dogged persistence, the female Councillors draft a resolution that no more money should be spent until the investment and accounts committee has had a chance to review the proposal in more detail. In the end, the meeting vote is 5-1 for this motion.

Hudson warns this is a waste of time. What does he know that we don’t?

During this fiasco, I am reminded of the botched Labour leadership elections. You can vote for anything, as long as it’s the right choice.

As if to reinforce this, the Mayor rejects the motion day after.

It would be easy to despair right now. But I’m seeing a new movement emerging amongst the people of Newham. I see it in the snowballing, hopeful tweets about Jeremy Corbyn. I see it in the growing bravery of left-wing councillors against their bullying leaders. I see it in the swelling numbers of Newham Green Party.

And it’s almost reassuring to observe some councillors in utter denial of this growing trend. It means we will win, and soon.

If you’re interested in helping the Green Party challenge Labour’s one party state in Newham, do sign up here. (NB: We have a No Purge Promise™)

 

This post originally appeared as a guest post on ForestGate.net on August 27th 2015.