Wednesday, 30 September 2015

How should Greens ride the Corbyn 'elephant in the room'?

From the Elephant and the Bad Baby
Bright Greens LINK reviewing the Green Party Conference refers to the election of Corbyn as being the (rather over-worked) elephant in the room. I certainly had lots of informal conversations about the leftward move of Labour during the four days and its repercussions for the Green Party. It is clear that some of those who moved to us from Labour as part of the Green surge are now moving back as Corbyn pushes for some policies (railway nationalisation, bringing academies and free schools under local authority oversight etc) long advocated by our party.

Caroline Lucas in her Conference speech talked about the need for alliances:

The future we want for our children is not going to be created through the politics of the past. When everything has changed so much, and the threats we face as a society and a planet are so deep and complex, we need a new kind of political life.

From Obama’s first election, to the Arab Spring, from Spain to Greece, from Scotland to the Green surge, and now Corbynism – politics is increasingly defined by waves of energy that swell up – seemingly from nowhere – and coalesce around people, parties and decisions.

These waves are not, sadly, the monopoly of those who believe in a better world. The future can also be more brutish and authoritarian, if we let it. 

But by being open to doing politics differently, we can ensure the future is about change made by and for people, in places and ways that make sense for them.

Of course, we need an effective state to intervene on many issues such as the regulation of global financial markets. But more than anything, the politics of the future must be about the creation of platforms, spaces and spheres in which people can collectively change the world – from workplace democracy and self-management, to civic engagement and generating our own community renewable energy. 

But these efforts will be fatally undermined if the neoliberal deregulating zeal of the Tories remains the dominant force in British politics.

Slashing public services; stamping out trade union rights; and environmental vandalism on an epic scale – ripping up energy efficiency measures, privatising the Green Investment Bank, and taking a wrecking ball to what was once our thriving solar industry.

Conference, we say enough. We are working for something better.

And Conference, being in a position to actually deliver that vision of something better is what, I believe, makes it so imperative that we see a realignment of progressive votes to maximise electoral impact.

Finding and cooperating with others with whom we share a belief in a much more equal, democratic and sustainable world.

Of course we will have differences. But we also know that no one individual, no one party, has a monopoly on wisdom. Cancelling out each other's votes is bad enough, but fighting in essentially the same terrain for the same issues and fundamentally the same belief set is madness, when it simply lets the Tories in. 

We share a commitment to a much more equal, democratic and sustainable world.  It is beholden on us to find a way to make the desirable feasible. In a world as complex and rich as ours, we need an equally complex and rich political response. To create a different mood, culture and sentiment to our national politics – one where we see that our differences can become a source, not of division, but of strength.

Conference, the truth is, we need a progressive Labour Party – if that's what Jeremy Corbyn transforms it to be – to do well. Because, like you and me, it’s part of the movement for change.

Progressives are spread about the political battlefield – often more intent on fighting each other – and not the real enemy. But things are changing fast. Old tribal loyalties, that are blind to the good in others, are dying away. We can – we must – respond to that change.
Members of Green Left put forward an Emergency Motion that provided a practical framework for progressing some of the ideas. Unfortunately Conference ran out of time before it could be debated:

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party has struck a blow at the prevailing neo-liberal orthodoxy. Whilst welcoming this we call for a fundamental change in the political system through a Constitutional Convention and instruct GPEX to take a lead in encouraging other progressive parties to achieve this.



1.     Congratulates Jeremy Corbyn on his election as leader of the Labour Party.
2.     Welcomes the support this represents for many of the progressive policies of the Green Party.
3.     Looks for a more constructive relationship with the Labour Party in future.
4.     Calls on GPEX to approach other progressive parties to agree on a Constitutional Convention, which will examine and agree proposals for change at local, regional and national levels of government involving all sectors of society.

During the Conference weekend Red Pepper took an initiative to try and set up a network wider than the Labour Party to support the changers underway. Unfortunately it used Corbyn's name rather than something describing the wider movement but it was something I felt able to support while remaining, as an eco-socialist, a member of the Green Party. 

This is their statement now signed by many actvists:
As campaigners, grassroots activists, trade unionists and members of social movements, we believe the overwhelming election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader presents a great opportunity. Jeremy has campaigned tirelessly over decades for social justice, and we share his vision for rebuilding democracy, respect and community. This election means we can start building a better country and a better world.

Some of us are members of the Labour Party and others not. Jeremy’s victory was made possible by people inside and outside the Labour Party who share a common hope in the future. There is an alternative. Things can get better.

But there is a steep road ahead, during which the government and its allies will attempt to spread fear and division. Parts of the media will attack him because they do not like his agenda of hope and participation. Many MPs will try to limit and constrain the process of giving power back to the people. This will be resisted.

As Jeremy himself has said, rebuilding this country cannot depend on one person. It demands that all of us take our share of responsibility. We commit ourselves to supporting this attempt to rebuild democracy in Britain.

We call on like-minded people to join us, creating a democratic and diverse network through action across the country - we will support each other’s campaigns at a local level as well as support the development of progressive changes at a parliamentary and legislative level.

Jeremy Corbyn provides space to once more allow people to make their voices heard. We must take it.
The full statement and signatories can be seen here:LINK

Signatories include Amrit Wilson, Selma James, Zita Holbourne, Sujata Aurora, Shakira Martin,  George Moonbiot, Nick Dearden, Lee Jasper, Jeremy Hardy and Michael Rosen 

Clearly we are only at the beginning of what could be a major shake-up of the left but Greens need a strategy to guide them as the future unfolds.

An exhilerating ride ahead?


Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group said...

Regarding Corbyn and McDonald's favour of 'economic growth' while we are faced with global warming, I observed from televised bits of Labour Party conference that unions were understandably exercised by the announcement of closure for the largest steel manufacturing plant in the UK, and I wondered about potential trade off between the trade off between impact of emissions produced in manufacture and those involved in freighting of raw materials and components around the globe?

Wembley Matters has addressed the matter of UK land ownership by overseas land grabbing property speculators, but what of overseas ownership of UK-based manufacturing sites? The Guardian reports of the steel plant closure:
"The plant’s owner, Thai-owned SSI, said that after reviewing the business it had no choice but to mothball the operations. SSI had put production on hold ten days ago ahead of a final decision on its future. Coke ovens and a power station at the site would continue to function, it said."

Of course, coke ovens and power stations produce pollution and the job losses mean that there will be reduced benefits to the local community in Stockton while they are experiencing that pollution.

Also, of course, what of the distances involved in the processing of waste for recycling?

So apart from electoral positioning and alliance-making, it strikes me that our political parties need to re-emphasise the proximity principle as a priority while highligting the damage done by global corporations' 'global division of labour'.

Meanwhile Corbyn emphasises the importance of individual responsibility: I would never use nuclear weapons if I were PM, and neo-liberal 'welfare reformist' measures such as conditionality and benefit sanctions produce cultures of 'only following orders'.

Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Anonymous said...

Unless a dictator a leader does not make a party as we can see by the Labour group in Brent. Perhaps a microcosm of the national party

In the paper today we have seen attacks on civil liberties via PSPOs supported without any irony by Cllr J Deneslow the cabinet member for 'stronger communities'. Local Government is meant to be the first line of defence against poverty not penalise people because of it.

Last week in the Evening Standard It was reported that Brent has has had one of the highest increase in flytipping in the country. Its clear to all & sundry that the environmental policy is failing, Veolia contract needs reviewing & garden tax abolishing yet Cllr Stopp is running another 'consultation' resulting in talk but no tangible strategy.

Next to Asda opposite the old Civic Centre a crossing has been highlighted as a severe risk to children attending the new French School. Yet Cllr Southwood, the member for the environment is passing the buck to external organisations and meandering.

Then there's the institutional racism & cronyism where the leader of the council Cllr Butt supported a dreadful attack on a campaigner for transparency within a full council meeting.

Meanwhile Brent Council has been repremanded by the court for unlawfully splitting up a family yet merely apologise for an 'error' like what they did was a 'typo'. If Cllr Hirani, lead member for adults health and social care was behind that statement as he was the dreadful comments about Robert Clark (who is potentially being forced out of his home) he might like to take advice.

If this is 'progressive' or 'moderate' or 'left' or (insert any other political jargon here which is meaningless to ordinary people here) then we are still awaiting to see if any Corbyn effect will trickle down to the local levels.


Scott Bartle.

Alison Hopkins said...

Those comments about Robbie Clark by Hirani were indeed dreadful. They were also out and out lies, which is what's really appalling. Hirani has never met the family, and is relying on what officers tell him, without choosing to ask any questions. He seems to find it quite uneccessary to actually establish the truth of any situation.

I don't get why Stopp is running the "consultation" rather than the cabinet member. I also don't get why Southwood doesn't simply talk to Sandor Fazekas - who is excellent - rather than faffing about.

My overwehelming impression, formed by watching many of the new intake of Labour councillors in action, is that they simply have no idea how the council works and choose not to challenge officers in any way. It isn't rocket science, it's knowing who to talk to and what the processes are, rather than passing the casework buck to political officers.

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group said...

Scott Bartle wrote:

"In the paper today we have seen attacks on civil liberties via PSPOs supported without any irony by Cllr J Deneslow the cabinet member for 'stronger communities'. Local Government is meant to be the first line of defence against poverty not penalise people because of it. "

Sorry, Scott, but what are PSPOs? Anyhow, re Local Government as a 'first line of defence against poverty', maybe voters should make at least a token gesture of 'taking the law into their own hands' by emailing councillors at election times and warning them that unless the councillor as recidivist candidate account for their previous actions while in office, the constitutent/correspondent/prospective voter will not vote for that candidate?

And between elections, how about constituents communicating their dissatisfaction to the political party branches that select council candidates? These measures may only be regarded as 'token gestures', but the more constituents that do so, the more worried the reprobate candidates will get?

With that in mind, maybe Corbyn's point about electoral registration drives as an antidote to Tory gerrymandering would be a double-edged sword, confronting local Labour Party activists with the fruits of their selections?

Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Anonymous said...

From what I hear, Stopp is going to tear in to the publicity campaign of 2012...

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group said...

Maybe the court action by Tottenham-based Revd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty (TAP) might give Brent Council's critics ideas for ways forward?
Since 2012 TAP has fought Haringey hitting benefit claimants with council tax caps & cuts 30 min video tells story

Anonymous said...

PSPO's are the equivalent of ASBO's for non specific people occupying a particular area. Whats interesting is that the complaints about these people gathering to seek work were also used by the council to justify the 'Selective Landlord Licensing Scheme'. This demonstrates what I said all along... That Labour sought to apply a cynical tax targetted directly at the poor.

Now Labour are penalising people seeking to work their way out of poverty - for nearly 50 years workers have congregated at Chichele Road. First the Irish, now eastern Europeans. Once Brent introduced a 'crime reduction initiative' more people moved to Honeypot Lane. This has been as effective as efforts from time immemorial by authorities to tackle drugs, prostitution or gambling.

If the problem is people congregating for work: how about provision of somewhere safe to do so?

If the problem is littering (which os classified as anti-social behaviour in the 'crime' figures) then is it not the councils responsibility to provide bins?

If its true that people are 'defecating' or 'urinating' outside, how about Cllr's remembering that the provision of public toilets is vital public service.

Brent is similar to other Councils across the country who do not see toilets as a priority. Brent has a total of 12 public toilets listed that do not include Library's leisure centres or the civic centre. Yet its not just these workers who are affected, its older people and those with disabilties. Its a political choice & the council has to stop blaming the very people they are paid, via our taxes to support for situations that other councils manage more effectively.

Scott Bartle.

For further info on PSPOs I have copy / pasted from Liberty below.

Councils should be helping the vulnerable - not slapping them with criminal records and unpayable fines

Several local councils across the country have recently introduced – or consulted on – unfair and overbroad Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) which would criminalise the most vulnerable in our society.

The power to impose PSPOs was created last year, under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act. At Liberty we opposed their introduction – because they are too widely drawn, with vague definitions of what can be criminalised and disproportionately punitive sanctions.

We warned that such Orders would likely fast-track vulnerable people into the criminal justice system – rather than divert them away from it.

Our fears were borne out when Oxford City Council proposed a PSPO which would have criminalised homeless people by banning sleeping in public toilets and “persistent begging” – defined by the Council as begging “on more than one occasion”.

The proposals would also have given the Council the power to issue on-the-spot fines of up to £100 – and, if those in breach were unable to pay, they would face prosecution and a £1,000 penalty.

If somebody is forced to beg or spend the night in a public toilet, that’s not a lifestyle choice or anti-social behaviour – it’s extreme poverty. Local authorities should focus on finding ways to help the most vulnerable – not criminalise them and slap them with fines they can’t possibly pay.

Thankfully, after our lawyers secured a legal opinion warning that the planned PSPO was unlawful on human rights and Common Law grounds, Oxford City Council has paused for thought.

(nb: not that Labour care about civil liberties, their candidate for Mayor of London was a former chair of Liberty. Yet once elected as a MP he voted the opposite of the Liberty policy he previously advocated, including voting to restrict the right to protest)

Anonymous said...


Alison Hopkins said...

Chichele Road as a hiring place goes back way beyond a mere 50 years. It's at least 150 years, and probably longer.

As to landlord licensing, it's a nonsense. It does nothing to address the issues around dilapidation of property - and that includes some owned by BHP and housing associations! There are many run down rentted out houses in Dollis Hill, yet we don't have the "benefit" of the licensing scheme. If you report the houses to Brent, they do nothing, so the tenants and neighvours go on suffering. In the meantime, people like McGowans get two thousand quid a month in rental.

Anonymous said...

Wow 150 years shows its even less likely that these authoritarian attempts to restrict fundamental freedoms will make any difference. The need to fulfil basic needs achievable through work will win out every time. They need to consider facilitative approaches.

You're right on the housing associations, there appears to be no desire to effectively tackle the issues faced by tenants within these properties. Which I think demonstrates the true motivations of any action by Brent Labour is income generation.

Scott B.

Alison Hopkins said...

There's also stunning mismanagement by said HAs and BHP alike. Allowing properties to fall into such disrepair that millions then need to be spent. And, not reporting snagging within a six onth warranty period so that BHP end up having to pay for said snagging to be done. For example.

Income generation indeed. The licensing does nothing.