Tuesday 17 January 2012

Thinking of leaving Labour? Go Green

A timely article by Peter Cranie who has moved from the Greens to Labour and is now back with the Green Party  LINK to his blog:

So the disappointment has begun. Ed Balls and Ed Miliband, both in this together. We've been here before, or more specifically I have.

I was a member of the Greens from 1989 to 1991, but didn't renew my membership. Back then there was a lack of organisation or actual politics in what appeared to be a friendly, but slightly disorganised social club. It was my natural political home in terms of the global issues that faced us, but in the 1992 election, I reverted to the party I had been brought up to support, Labour.

In Scotland, supporting Celtic and Labour was seen as a constant. They were your team. Celtic represented your heritage, Irish Catholic. Labour represented you, as a member of the working class. Ignoring the fact that my mother was in fact, English and Protestant, I was pretty much expected to follow this tradition, and my membership of the Greens was a "youthful error".

Like most people, I went to bed on the 9th April 1992 expecting to wake up with a Labour government, the party I'd voted for. Like many others, I was stunned by the result. When John Smith became leader, I joined Labour. While my uncle disagreed profoundly with John Smith's politics, he essentially said he was a decent man. After the death of someone I believe would have made a good Labour leader, I didn't vote for Blair, but I stayed in the party.

As a young activist, working in a marginal constituency in London in the run up to the 1997 election, I met Blair and Brown. I listened as they explained how it would be different this time. While they pledged that they would match Tory spending plans in opposition, I convinced myself that when Labour did win the 1997 election they would look at the needs of everyday folk around the country and realise that we needed to transform our society. Once elected, with an overwhelming mandate, the timidity and the fear of change quickly left me disillusioned. I didn't renew my membership and I'm glad that I was not still in the Labour Party when a Labour leader decided to side with the most right wing American president in history to invade Iraq.

2010 was the closest election since 1992 and for me there are similarities. Many people who had left Labour in the previous 13 years, for a variety of reasons, were angry and frustrated by the return of a Conservative to 10 Downing Street. Some rejoined Labour, quickly forgeting the mistakes and the anguish of seeing what was once the party for working people. Just like in 1997, those good people are trying hard to ignore that the Labour Party increasingly takes for granted the very many good Labour activists, supporters and voters who still try to hold true to Labour's roots.

I rejoined the Greens in 1999 after returning from a year of travelling and seeing Greens elected in Scotland and to the European Parliament. It is the best decision I ever made. I became an activist after George Bush became US President. Since then I've put whatever I could into the party, in terms of my personal efforts in Liverpool, the North West and our national party, and I am proud of the progress we've made across the country.

While I recognise my party is far from perfect (nor am I), there is not a week that passes by that I don't look at the work done by our local Green councillors in Liverpool, the North West Green Party, our leader and first MP Caroline Lucas and by the very many Greens doing great things around the country.

The Greens are a party that is making progress. We stand for something different. We are the last party standing against the cuts and the last party that advocates radical redistribution of wealth in a country that grew increasingly unequal during 13 years of Labour government.

A few ex-Labour people are joining us. For now it is just a trickle, but there will be many more to come in the next decade. Leaving Labour is not an easy thing to do for people. There are feelings that you betraying your side or your corner, but for many people in Labour, it the party leadership that has left them as a residue from a previous era, taken for granted but no longer respected.

Leaving Labour is also hard because people who you have worked alongside and socialised with stop being your friends. If your whole life and your whole social network is tied to a political party, that makes it very hard. But it can be done and in fact, life after Labour can be even better. The Greens are the redistributionist social democratic party Labour used to be. We still have a way to go in finance and campaigning capability, but each additional activist makes our work easier.

Thinking of Leaving Labour? Then think about Going Green.

No comments: