|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.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.
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.
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)|
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.