Sunday, 6 November 2016

Amidst widespread disquiet Green Left calls for review of Green Party decision not to stand in Richmond Park by-election

Caroline Lucas's tweet last night

Green Left, the eco-socialist current within the Green Party, of which I am chair, issued the following statement this afternoon:
Green Left calls for a review of the decision not to stand in Richmond Park leaving voters a choice of candidates from parties with a record of supporting austerity and not seriously aiming to tackle climate change by opposing all airport expansion.

Green Left supports a full meeting of all members in the Richmond Park Constituency  with all members invited, to reconsider  the decision not to stand  a Green candidate  in the forthcoming by-election given issues relating to party democracy.
The statement follows debate within Green Left discussion lists and on many Green Party facebook pages. It is important to note that the disquiet is not limited to Green Left and has been expressed by a broad spectrum of members.

Mike Shaugnessy has published a full  account on the London Green Left blog HERE so I will make a few brief points:

ISSUES RELATING TO PARTY DEMOCRACY

1. Local parties are autonomous in the Green Party and it is up to them to make decisions on standing in elections or by-elections. It is not a decision of the national leadership. In this case two local parties cover the constituency and after a meeting of the Richmond Party the existing Green candidate after discussion decided to stand down in order to promote the Liberal Democrat candidate who has more chance of defeating UKIP-backed Zac Goldsmith. Her statement can be read HERE.  However in this case Jonathan Bartley co-leader, was present, by prior invitation, at the Richmond Party meeting that discussed the by-election and Caroline Lucas the other co-leader was at the Kingston meeting. There are allegations that voices were raised at the Kingston meeting which was less amenable to standing down, although a majority reluctantly went along with it following the Richmond decision.  It is further alleged that the Green Party Executive Election Co-ordinator, a former co-ordinator of the Richmond and Twickenham Green Party (she has since moved elsewhere), also made her views known to her former party. The Green Left call seeks to address these issues which may have put the local parties under unjustified pressure.

This is the notice put out for a meeting on Tuesday November 8th in Richmond Park (Details)
2. A wider discussion has taken place about the changing nature of the Green Party leadership. Our  leadership is constitutionally different to other parties. In the Green Party policy decisions are made by the members after thorough discussion on web forums, workshops at conference and finally debate and voting on the conference floor. The Progressive Alliance policy, passionately pursued by Lucas-Bartley, has not had as thorough debate as it merited. Some members fear that in their dedication to the Progressive Alliance cause, reinforced by participation in the think-tank Compass,the leadership are dragging the membership along in their wake.  In between conferences the leaders have the party's philosophical basis as a guide as well as our (probably too many) detailed policies. There is a political committee that advises in between conferences that is consulted on current issues - however 'things move fast; cannot justify wide-reaching fundamental policy changes however well meant.

ISSUES RELATING TO STANDING IN THE BY-ELECTION

3. The case for standing down is that this is a chance to reduce the Conservative majority in the House of Commons by electing the Liberal Democrat. This would be an example of the Progressive Alliance in practice which would help a more anti-Tory alliance at the General Election in 2020. The argument against is that the Liberal Democrats helped create the austerity strategy that we are still fighting and which has done so much damage to to society. The Liberal Democrat candidate herself has few progressive credentials and has supported Nick Clegg's praise for the Lib Dem role in the Coalition Government.  More widely many Greens do not accept that Lib Dems are 'left' - they may share some more libertarian stances on social issues with the Green Party but on the economy they are still wedded to neoliberalism.

4. No other party is opposed to ALL airport expansions on the grounds of air pollution and air travel's contribution to climate change. This by-election with an electorate sympathetic to environmental issues, one of which has dogged them for decades, is a fantastic opportunity to put Green Party policies on the environment, especially on the overwhelming issues of climate change, as well as those on social justice issues, centre stage.  An opportunity that will be thrown away if Greens do not stand.

5. The idea of not standing, but to continue campaigning on these issues, will make little sense to the electorate. The elector, on the doorstep, patiently listening to an earnest Green party campaigner, explaining why they are not standing, is likely to be perplexed if not apoplectic.

THE DIRECTION OF THE GREEN PARTY

6. I am an eco-socialist because I believe that climate change is the greatest issue facing us and furthermore one that cannot be solved within the present economic system which is powered by consumerism. In turn consumerism necessitates increased production and thus more emissions of harmful green gases and the plundering of the planet's finite resources. For the survival of the planet. and human, animal and plant species we need an entirely different economic and social structure.

7. We are not going to solve those problems merely by electoral means, surrendering all that urgency and campaigning, to machinations to get proportional representation introduced in 2002. Yet the Green Party has moved to electoralism as its main focus to the detriment of campaigning. In fact the campaigns (non election) has been cut to zero so you will look in vain for new Green Party placards on marches such as yesterday's on libraries.   As someone remarked in discussions over the weekend we will end up knocking on doors without any 'in-between elections' activity to talk about except campaigning for electoral alliances.  Of course a political party seeks power but it is also a campaigning organisation. Interestingly this reflects some of the current debate within the Labour Party.

IS CORBYN THE ANSWER?

8. I think this is addressed by 6 above. Even under Corbyn, Labour is still fixated on economic growth which has all the drawbacks I have mentioned.  On issues such as proportional representation and climate change John McDonnell may be ahead of Corbyn but the growth issue remains.  There may be areas in which there can be future co-operation such as socially useful production replacing weapons manufacture on the Lucas model but that seems far away at present.  Labour's nomination of Christian Wolmar to fight the Richmond Park by-election is a clever move with some arguing that he is 'as green as a Labour Party member can be without being a member of the Green Party' - but that is attached to an individual rather than to Labour Party policy.

9. None of this means that a progressive alliance, preferably a progressive socialist alliance,  could not be formed and make a significant impact on the General Election. On day to day issues, especially those such as housing, workers' rights, welfare reform, the NHS,  support for the public sector, we have much in common with Corbyn's Labour but still need to keep our unique identity and policies without getting submerged.

GREEN LEFT POLICY ON ELECTORAL ALLIANCE

Green Left welcomes the move to discuss campaigning and electoral alliances leading up to the next General Election.

Green Left has always promoted the idea of working together with the left, where we share values, and that, as much as possible the Green Party should be included in this, lending support to and endorsing Eco-socialists who are members of other parties. We did this by supporting Salma Yaqoob in parliamentary elections.

This needs further discussion with members and we welcome consultations, about it, taking place.

Green Left members with our positive standing amongst others on the Left are able to positively engage people outside the GPEW who share our values and therefore should take the initiative locally in promoting discussions with individuals, progressive groups and other left parties, such as the Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Party.

Any left alliance must be committed to introducing PR for all future elections and the 'Best Placed Left Candidate’ should be a consideration in marginal seats.






5 comments:


  1. “Green Left welcomes the move to discuss campaigning and electoral alliances leading up to the next General Election.

    Green Left has always promoted the idea of working together with the left, where we share values, and that, as much as possible the Green Party should be included in this, lending support to and endorsing Eco-socialists who are members of other parties. We did this by supporting Salma Yaqoob in parliamentary elections.

    This needs further discussion with members and we welcome consultations, about it, taking place.

    Green Left members with our positive standing amongst others on the Left are able to positively engage people outside the GPEW who share our values and therefore should take the initiative locally in promoting discussions with individuals, progressive groups and other left parties, such as the Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Party.

    Any left alliance must be committed to introducing PR for all future elections and the’ Best Placed Left Candidate’ should be a consideration in marginal seats.”

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for this reminder. Now posted on main article.

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  2. RICHMOND PARK LABOUR VOTER
    This is my response sent today to my local Labour party's request for me to help campaigning for Labour in the byelection.
    'Good candidate, but every vote for Labour lessens the chances of reducing the (small) majority of a right-wing , pro-Brexit government. The logic of that fact makes any campaigning or voting for Labour an act of unintended Tory support. Labour needs to show some imagination and wake up to what the local anti-Tory electorate (and its own supporters) recognise and want.

    No one knows how close the by-election will be but neither I nor my Labour supporting wife and two daughters want to wake up the day after it thinking that our four votes have helped a pro-Brexit Tory 'Independent' remain in parliament.'

    The Green vote is much smaller and so would have less impact on the final outcome. So, as it doesn't matter much, why not stick to principles and put up a Green candidate? On the other hand, a lot of kudos can be gained among non-Green voters by demonstrating that, in a specific situation where a lot is at stake, the Greens have enough nous (unlike Labour) to do the intelligent thing.
    The latter, for what it's worth, is certainly what I would take from Richmond Greens' decision.

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  3. Charles Gate sent this message to Green Left:

    I've resigned from the Green Party.

    I wish the Green Left well with trying to get Richmond GP to change its stance on the by-election but I suspect it won't happen.

    Unfortunately I think the Progressive Alliance will have to play itself out over the next two years of the Lucas/Bartley leadership and I've just got better things to do than watch a distinctive GP turn into the grey blur that anyone will hardly notice. If Caroline Lucas can be said to have moulded and grown the GP over the last 20 years then I suppose she has the right to destroy that entity.

    Should the miracle of miracles happen and Labour join in with the Progressive Alliance, I will eat humble pie and return to the Greens, but an alliance that means we support the Lib Dems is too much for my stomach. I won't be joining any other party.

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  4. How did the Green Party vote go in that constituency in the 2015 General Election? Andree Frieze (Green Party) got 6.6% of the vote. (In the 'three wise men' GE of 2010 where the first tri-partite 'Leaders Debate' galvanised traditional non-voters into voting for one of just three 'TV-advertised brands', James Richard Page (Green Party) got less than 1% of the vote.)

    Admittedly, Heathrow expansion was not the key issue in Green Party of England & Wales electoral leaflets in that election, yet by-elections at parliamentary and even council level are extremely labour-intensive and capital-intensive. How many GL members who are lobbying for Green Party representation in this by-election would give time to campaigning in this By-Election, and how much could or would they put in? How would they get the message out in such a way that mass media would not sit on? Or would mass media be sidelined by social media?

    Now that the matter has become much more 'full-blown' I have observed how much it has consumed members' attention to the exclusion of what this Government is doing in, say, the Work, Health & Disability Green Paper. This Government is getting away with corporate manslaughter if not mass murder, and I believe the Richmond by-election discussion is 'splitting hairs' over a by-election to the exclusion of GL members getting back to me over my concerns on a 'green light for psycho-coercion' Green Paper. I find that very draining and frightening, especially as I was a very long-term unsuccessful disabled jobseeker before I eventually got help to win the 'more generous' Employment & Support Allowance through tribunal.

    The so-called 'Work, Health & Disability Green Paper' goes further than any of its predecessors in what the Nazis called 'Arbeit macht frei' — translation: work makes you free. And that is after many sanctions-and-bogus-disability-assessment-related deaths of sick and disabled people.

    I believe it better to think strategically and do what we can to bring down this awful Government in ways that can boost Green Party finances before a 2020 'shifting the boundaries' General Election and certainly before any of its even greater attacks on vulnerable people can be enacted.

    Alan Wheatley
    London Green Left member, aka 'Dude Swheatie of Kwug' when blogging for Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group

    ReplyDelete