|Samuel Mercer is a young political journalist and commentator who has picked up on a longstanding theme of mine in an article for the Backbench blog: http://www.bbench.co.uk/108/post/2013/07/green-is-the-new-red-leftist-disenfranchisement-in-british-politics.html
Samuel has come to his conclusion, that Labour Party supporters should turn to the Green Party as the best leftist alternative on offer, in the light of the ‘Falkirk crisis’ that has precipitated the likely shattering of the historic link between Labour and the Unions. He says:
“There is a lot of evidence to support how a turn towards the Green Party may in fact take place. A lot of this evidence resides in the Green parties of Europe. For example, in the European Parliament of 766 MEPs, 58 of those seats are held by members from Green parties. This may seem a small number, but compared with only 1 MP for the Green Party in the UK out of 650 MPs, European Green influence is considerably higher.
But what is keeping the UK Green Party from sharing this success? Firstly, there is an opinion that the Green Party is a single-issue party, much like many thought (and still think) UKIP to be regarding Europe. Research shows that European Green parties have successfully moved away from being single-issue parties and have therefore become much more prosperous.”
And so it is at the onset of a EU election campaign, that voters in this country have an opportunity, in a reasonably proportionate party list election system, to pass judgement on the new political realities in this country and start to reshape the political landscape.
The research that Mercer refers to finds that European Green parties have identified themselves firmly on the Left of politics, and thus they share the same scepticism of the capitalist system that underpins socialist thought. More radically however, they have been seen to reject the Social Democratic answer to this- corporatism. This radicalism is what attracts many of the Leftist voters in Europe, as they now have a powerful outlet that can represent socialism, more effectively than the socialist-by-name parties.
Mercer recognises that the UK Green Party is similarly moving more convincingly in that direction however. He spoke with the party, and an un-named spokesman said that:
The Green Party is standing up for making the minimum wage a living wage, for bringing the railways back into public ownership, for making multinational companies and rich individuals pay their taxes, all positions that you would expect the Labour Party to be espousing, but they aren’t.
Mercer reports that:
“They furthered this by reassuring a commitment to a publicly owned and operated NHS, as well as educational commitments such as opposition to tuition fees and a replacement of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). This socialist policy set that Labour is accused of not delivering is accompanied by an increasingly important sustainability and environmental responsibility agenda one that can no longer be ignored.”
For Mercer, the only real obstacle to the Green Party usurping Labour is the historical need for the left to have the support of the Unions. With the break of formal ties between the Unions and Labour, Mercer points out that this should mean that:
“If an alternative Leftist party exists that promotes socialist values more explicitly, as well as prioritising an issue of growing international importance, union members now have the freedom to support it. The Green Party looks like that party.”
The Green Party does, of course, already work with the unions closely on many issues, and not just through the GPTU group and Green Left. It has been heartening to see and hear many unionists recognising the reality of the Labour Party and Green Party’s relative positions through the People’s Assembly initiatives. The time is ripe for a seismic shift in the political landscape of this country.
I will finish with Mercer’s closing words:
“Now that union members have the freedom to shift their support, they may do so in order to re-ignite the Socialist flame in Britain a flame that has dimmed under Labours keeping.”