Monthly Archives: May 2014

It is time to join the Green Party

BY ADAM RAMSAY

Last week, more than at any time I can remember, politically active friends from across the left – from the feminist, student, anti-austerity, environmental and democracy movements, seem to have turned out in droves to vote for The Green Party. This is an appeal to them – you – to join the party, and to get involved.

Perhaps it seems obvious to you why you might. Maybe you’ve long been looking for a party which wants a democratic transformation of the economy; which supports free education and will defend the NHS; wants to cap rents and bring back council housing; fight to keep oil in the ground and stand up to austerity, the banks, corporate power and the frightening growth in inequality; a party which won’t pander to the scapegoating of migrants or people on benefits, and will point the finger of blame firmly where it belongs: at the powerful; a party which brings together ideas from the feminist, anti-racist, environmental, disabled people’s and working class movements, radical democratic movements, the peace movement, the LGBTIQ movement, and so on.

Maybe you can already see why you’d want to be a member of a party which allows its membership to set its policies democratically; around the core principles of radical democracy, equality, social justice, peace and the environment?

That party exists. It came 4th in the European elections. You can read its most recent manifesto here. If it’s obvious to you why you’d want to join, stop reading and go and do it (or, if you’re in Scotland, here or in Northern Ireland, here).

Parties are about more than elections, but engaging in electoral politics is one key thing they do, and I think more of us need to start doing just that. It’s one tactic among many. It should never come at the exclusion of other political tools, but to avoid using elections is, I think, a big mistake – for a few reasons.

Firstly, elections drive much of the political agenda. Even most modern civil disobedience – think UK Uncut or much of climate camp – aims primarily to shift debate rather than actually disrupt permanently. If this is what you want to do, then why would you ignore such a huge inroad into the national conversation as elections? If you’re a genuine anarchist, I can understand. Otherwise, I don’t.

Secondly, getting prominent spokespeople into council chambers and parliaments is vital. Was it Lenin who said something like “even a pile of horse shit can make a good stage to stand on”? This isn’t just about getting MPs onto Question Time. The main role of a local councillor is being a (minimally) paid organiser. If you want to engage in political action in your community, being given a small salary and a minor platform is hugely helpful. Without infrastructure, movements dwindle rapidly. Councillors are a good way to get it.

Thirdly, elections force you to talk to people. You don’t win (if you’re on the left) unless you knock on doors and chat. It is, of course, entirely possible to do this without elections. But the people I know who actually get round to it frequently out-with the electoral process are few and far between.

Ultimately, by standing in elections, you take votes away from the powerful, which forces them to win those votes back off you, driving politics in a progressive direction – and, ultimately, you might gain some power – which, ideally, you’ll then work to hand to the community you represent as fast as possible.

You can stand in elections without joining a political party, but if you are interested in a broad political project, in grouping together with people with similar ideology to you and getting them elected too, and in developing a programme for how you might change things, then that’s what a political party is and does.

And parties are about more than elections. Politics requires infrastructure. It needs people who will organise rotas for who is going to go and reach out to whom, places that as yet uninvolved people can come to meet and organise with those of similar ideology, spaces for people to get a political education, think about what they believe and together work out what they want to do in the world. It needs us to come together across generations and beyond our groups of friends – with those whose routes were different from ours, and so are coming from slightly different places. Parties do all of these things. In short, our social movements need an electoral expression. If you wish to change the world (and surely we must), I think you should probably join a party – not as the exclusive output for your politics, but as one of them.

Why the Green Party? I’m not going to rehearse the arguments against Labour here. Suffice to say that even in those areas in which they ought to be strongest, they are pathetic: Greens have supported more strikes in the last fortnight than Labour has in its whole history. I hope the next government is Labour rather than Tory, and I think we should all seek to encourage it to do better, but I think more influence is placed on them from outside than inside – if they can get your support without changing their position, that’s what they’ll do. Perhaps most importantly, as anger with the establishment soars, I don’t understand why radicals would side with the establishment.

The case against Lib Dems is obvious. Respect have vanished, and No2EU’s performance showed little hope of the march of a new socialist party of that ilk. In the elections last week, the Green Party showed it was more able to unite the left than Left Unity ever has and National Health Action is a genuine single issue party with no ideological platform, much as it’s a vital issue, much as I hope they do well where they stand.

More importantly, Greens reflect better than any other party what I would see as the shared values of much of what you might call the activist left of my generation. The party is radical in its economics – aiming to socialise financial institutions, nationalise public services and monopolies and defend trade union and workers’ rights – but has learnt the lessons the left needs to learn. It is founded on the principle of decentralist democracy and power to the people, rather than believing that the alienation of markets can be defeated only with the bureaucracy of the state. It supports a citizens’ income, a workers’ right to turn their company into a co-op. It is feminist, anti-racist, and has always stood for LGBTIQ rights.

It does have problems. One is that it is seen solely as being ‘about the environment’. But it is beginning to challenge that perception, and the more people who join it from across radical politics, the more it will articulate a broad vision for society. Of course we must save the planet, but we’ll only do that by changing the system. Another is that it needs better to involve and be led by people of colour. With this, in particular, we need help from new members.

But as I have argued, the election results last week showed something remarkable. Greens came (admittedly distant) second across Manchester and are now the opposition in Liverpool, Solihul, Lewisham, Islington and Norwich. We came first across not just Brighton Pavilion constituency, but also Bristol West and Norwich South and very nearly Glasgow Kelvin. We won a seat in a Belfast City council ward so big that on its own it gives us a good chance of winning a second seat in the Northern Irish Assembly, and one of Northern Ireland’s leading feminists very narrowly missed out on picking up another seat, apparently in the face of opponents (from the Labour affiliated SDLP) telling voters that she wanted to kill babies because of her prominent and vocal campaigning for the right to an abortion in one of the few parts of the EU in which it is still denied.

The party had a vast number of candidates standing in the local elections – we ran in all but one seat in the Wirral, in most seats in Carlisle, St Helens, Southampton, almost every ward I could find results for in London in hours of googling. In fact, though I’m sure they exist, I am yet to find a town or city in England which had local council elections last week and in which Greens didn’t stand in most or many wards. Apart from the more left wing trades unions (you should certainly join one of them too) how many genuinely radical, member-run organisations have anything like that reach on the ground?

Finally, it’s important to understand how much difference you can make by joining and becoming active in the party. Greens got an MEP in the South West of England this week. A significant part of that success comes down to the rise of the Bristol Greens. Whilst they have mobilised significant support, I could list a handful of people who, together, have made that happen. Across the country, other Greens missed out by a few votes. A group of four or five people in a couple more towns, cities or areas of those regions could have persuaded enough people to make the difference. Last week, five friends and I got two city councillors elected in Oxford – two people who will now be political organisers for four years, bringing infrastructure and activity to the communities they represent. As British politics contorts itself in the wake of the UKIP Euro-victory, we’re going to need to organise ourselves into a large, national, sustained and vocal response. There is no need to start from scratch in building this.

If you do join the Green Party, I guarantee you that you will find people you disagree with. I assure you that you that you will find yourself frustrated at times. Because politics is a collective endeavour, and people can be bloody annoying. But ultimately, if we’re going to change the world, then we’re going to have to do it together, including with some people who have slightly different priorities from us.

Likewise, I am sure every member disagrees with some of the party’s positions. But there’s a democratic process for debating and changing policies, and the activities are driven by voluntary members. It’s not because the party is perfect that you should get involved, but to help build it up, to improve it. There has to be a compromise between on the one hand the vast and centralised tent that is the Labour party and splintering like Trotskyites each time we disagree.

Over the last five years, the membership of the Green Party of England and Wales has more than doubled. Largely, that new intake is young, radical, and impressively good at organising. It’s people from the anti-austerity movement, the student movement, the feminist movement. I’ve been a paid up Green half my life. I’ve never known such a thrilling time to be in the party. Conversely, with UKIP on the march, I’ve never known a scarier time in politics. It’s time to join us.

https://my.greenparty.org.uk/civicrm/membership/joining

Analysis of the Euro Election Results in Wales

The raw data for the whole of Wales:

Rarely can ‘no change’ (as in seat allocation) involve quite so much change!!

Before I have a stab at what it all might mean, let me pull out some facts:

  1. Turnout increased by almost 50,000.
  2. Only 8.9% and 8.7% of the Welsh electorate voted for Labour and UKIP respectively.
  3. Only 4.8% and 1.4% of the Welsh electorate voted for Plaid Cymru and the Greens respectively.
  4. Labour beat UKIP by a mere 4350 votes.
  5. Plaid Cymru came within about 7500 votes of losing their seat.
  6. The drop in the Green vote mirrored what happened nationally (-1%) and remained in the mid 30,000s in Wales.
  7. Only Labour and UKIP increased their votes from 2009.
  8. Labour may have increased their vote by over 67,000, but they are still more than 90,000 behind what they polled in 2004.

So what does it all mean?

Personally, I feel vindicated in appealing for Greens to support Jill Evans (Plaid Cymru lead candidate) https://bridgendgreens.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/eu-election-in-wales-too-tight-to-call-use-your-vote-wisely/. It seems unlikely that I swayed more than a few hundred votes, but this could have proven critical. (The downward trend in PC support is something that should concern us, given that it is not coming our way). Furthermore, had Greens got behind the call in more substantial numbers, we could have ensured that it was the Tory in jeopardy, rather than Jill. It also makes Pippa Bartolotti’s blatant misinformation regarding the state of the polls, and her prospects of winning a seat, all the more embarrassing. I suspect, however, she was fooling nobody but herself.

It is clear that only UKIP has anything to crow about. But that has to be kept into context. They have come from polling less than 20,000 votes in 1999 to more than 10 times that in 15 years, but it still represents just 8.7% of the electorate. Of course, we in the Green Party would be ecstatic with such figures, but what does it say about the state of our democracy when a few people jumping onto a bandwagon of jingoistic scapegoaters becomes seen as a game changer?

UKIP gained 114,000 additional votes, but the Tories lost 17,000; the BNP lost 30,000 and No2EU lost 6,000. That little bunch if right-wingers adds up to 53,000 that switched allegiance – 13,000 to the fascists of Britain First, and 40,000 probably to UKIP. Add a big chunk of the 50, 000 that didn’t vote last time and we have probably explained about half the UKIP gains.

It is hard to imagine many Plaid, Greens, or Socialists switching to UKIP. Collectively they lost about 26,000 votes. I know some of all these parties supporters switched to Labour, and this averted the danger of of not just UKIP coming top in Wales, but potentially (as looked quite likely in some polls) that UKIP could take two seats in Wales!

I suspect that a big chunk of the disillusioned 44,000 that abandoned the Lib Dems probably did not bother to vote at all, and who could blame them. It is probably just as well, as if they had all switched to Labour, Jill Evans would have probably lost her PC seat. But to my astonishment, it seems that quite a few did switch to UKIP too (see below). I have anecdotal evidence of this in Bridgend as well. I would have thought their association with Tories would have been toxic enough for them, but it seems that some have developed a rabid right-wing streak!

YouGov research of UKIP voters in 2010 revealed:

This leaves the biggest mess of all in the shape of the Labour vote. They have regained 67,000 votes, which sounds good, but are still 90,000 short of their 2004 vote, which sounds terrible, given the respective fortunes of the governments of the day. Labour have picked up some tactical left wing votes in attempt to block off the UKIP surge, but they will not necessarily hang on to these. And the real worry is the reality of them beginning to haemorrhage the ‘working class’ vote to UKIP. It is difficult not to get a bit condescending about this, but by their own admission UKIP have difficulty appealing to the “educated, cultural and young.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/ukip-blames-london-election-performance-on-difficulty-appealing-to-the-educated-and-cultural-9423200.html
This is tricky, but there is no polite way of saying that voting UKIP is not smart and not in most UKIP voters self-interest. There is research out there that shows that a large proportion of UKIP voters support left-wing ideas. They should, perhaps, be voting Green!!

Why 73% of UKIP supporters should actually vote Green
anotherangryvoice.blogspot.com

 

Another Angry Voice is the blog of an interesting character
from Yorkshire, Thomas G. Clark. His style may not be to everyone’s
taste but he usually makes valid points. See what he makes of the
Euro Election results here (his take on the Greens’ performance is interesting):
http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/12-things-european-election-2014-results.html

So what is it that makes these people vote UKIP? This flowchart below may appear somewhat condescending, again, but it serves to emphasise the appeal of UKIP to some people’s inner bigot. In classic scapegoating tradition, lets blame society’s ills on foreigners and gays rather than take too hard a look at ourselves. The tragedy is that in jumping on the bandwagon, people don’t look at the small print – just look at that last purple box on the flow chart?

How long before we hear the squeals of regret? After all, the BBC didn’t mention any of these points, did they? How were we supposed to know we were signing up for that?!!!

(Click on image to emlarge)

So our response to UKIP has to change. We cannot ignore them. But we can ignore their bigotry. Bigotry appeals to bigots and we have to accept (until we tackle its sources) that bigotry is alive and well in Britain today, despite the implosion of the BNP. One of Thatcher’s legacies is that greed and self-interest have become acceptable attitudes for the majority. So it is self-interest that has to be at the centre of our messages. I am not convinced that an appeal to vote “For the Common Good” will have much traction. But promoting left-wing ideas that serve the needs of the majority could well work.

Even UKIP voters see the sense of renationalising rail and energy, in terms of making them affordable and focussed on their needs rather than serving the business ‘elite’ (like HS2). Add to this protecting the principles of our NHS, enhancing rather than removing maternity/sick/holiday pay, having a living wage instead of a minimum wage, tax rises for the richest rather than the poorest, cuts in defence spending to increase education spending.
Add it all together and we may just get through to them!

Andy Chyba

Hackney result shows what we are up against!

UK democracy at work via the FPTP system:

So the Tories and Lib Dems get 7 seats between them and the Green Party gets NONE despite gaining more votes than both of them put together!!

And just in case you haven’t noticed, Greens poll more than 100 times the votes that UKIP get.

And just for good measure, Labour get less than three times the green vote and get clean up 88% of the seats (with 58% of the votes.

Truly proportionate representation would have yielded;

  • LABOUR 33 seats (and still overall control)
  • GREENS 12 seats
  • TORIES 7 seats
  • LIB DEMS 5 seats

greenleftdiscuss BBC Petition

Begin forwarded message:

From: Josiah Mortimer <josiahmortimer>

Hi all, this petition launched last night against the lack of BBC coverage of the Green Party has now smashed 5,500 signatures.

Please sign, share, and re-post on blogs, websites and with any press contacts you have – https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/bbc-news-stop-this-media-blackout-of-the-green-party

You can complain directly to the BBC here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/complain-online/

I’ve also done a brief blog on it here – feel free to re-blog, copy/modify etc – http://marchthefury.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/young-greens-petition-against-lack-of-bbc-coverage-hits-5000-signatures/

Best wishes

Josiah

Reclaim the Power – We can stop fracking in the UK! – planning gathering at Upton community protection camp May 31-June 1

Pls fwd
Reclaim the Power – We can stop fracking in the UK! – planning gathering at Upton community protection camp May 31-June 1

It’s 1 week to go until the Reclaim the Power gathering at Upton
Community Protection camp in Chester, May 31-June 1
https://www.facebook.com/events/632641993483892/

With 132 local anti-fracking groups all over the country and public
acceptance of fracking falling below 50% last week, it’s clear this
industry has no social license to operate. But the government is
pressing ahead. We can fight back, support local communities, get
skilled up and start creating the world we want to see.

Reclaim the Power have 2 further organising meetings before we hold a
mass action camp bigger than the one we had in Balcombe last
year that shut down Cuadrilla for 6 days.

If you can’t make this weekend, the next gatherings are: June 21-22 and
July 19-20: http://www.nodashforgas.org.uk/uncategorized/dates-for-your-diary/

The mass action camp is AUGUST 15-21 – SAVE THE DATE!

Upton community protection camp is about halfway along Duttons Lane, Upton, a turning
off the A41, and the council seems to have just erected a new street
sign to help you find it. Postcode is CH2 2PE.

There will be a minibus leaving London at 6.30pm Friday 30th from Archway and returning Sunday June 1st by 10.30pm If you want a place emailinfo

See you in the fields!
x

“We Need to Talk About Fracking” Tour

This high profile event hits 5 UK cities:

  • Glasgow – June 9th
  • Nottingham – June 10th
  • Manchester – June 11th
  • Swansea – June 12th
  • London – June 16th

The event website should be up and running from tomorrow morning (Sunday 25th).

http://www.talkfracking.org

I am helping promote the Swansea event, but if you need info on the other events, let me know and I’ll give you contact details.

I have taken delivery of 1000 A5 size leaflets and 100 A2 posters advertising the event (see below). I need help distributing these around South Wales, and especially the Swansea area.

The tour visits Swansea, for one night only, on Thursday 12th June, at the George Hall (attached to Brangwyn Hall)

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Brangwyn+Hall/@51.614088,-3.960212,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x486e8ad39fe9c7a5:0xaac884a90dd892bc

The event is backed by some interesting people, including Russell Brand, prominent US activist Elizabeth Arnold (http://loudfastphilly.com/interviews/elizabeth-arnold), some prominent academics such as Professor Smythe (http://www.davidsmythe.org), Reclaim the Power and ‘Agent Provocateur’, Joe Corre (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Corré), who appears to have supplied all the posters/leaflets.

So this is a call out to anyone who can help get the posters/leaflets out. An appeal from the organisers:

“We need the posters and flyers to hit areas where people are undecided or pro fracking, more than we need to hit the usual suspects. We want to be able to show that we have allocated tickets to create a balanced audience. It’s the women’s institutes, the fire stations, the golf clubs, the posh restaurants, theatres etc that will really help. And the posters look good and the flyers are good quality and the venues are prestigious.”

Contact me to arrange delivery of your posters/leaflets. I will try to deliver to anywhere in South Wales within the next 7 days.
Only ask for numbers you are prepared to commit to distributing.

Email me at: andy.chyba or phone/text me on 078 1066 3241

fracking poster a4 with 3mm bleed.pdf   (CLICK TO SEE POSTER)

EU election in Wales – too tight to call – use your vote wisely!!

The only major regular poll of Welsh voters is the ‘Welsh Political Barometer’ that samples over 1000 Welsh adults every quarter.

Its most recent poll results are just out, from polling done 12th -14th May.

In summary:

Note though that this graph shows figures for those that declared a definite intention to vote. If you look at the full figures for everyone polled, the Tory/Plaid positions are reversed.
Add to this the fact that if Labour polls more than double the votes of whoever comes 4th, they nick a second seat from them. The above graph shows Tories on 16% and Labour on 32% !!!

So in essence all that seems certain is that Labour and UKIP (ffs!!) have one seat each in the bag, and it is then a case of perm any two from three for the other two seats between Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Tories. i.e. it could be Labour/PC, or Labour/Tory, or PC/Tory.

The Greens have made some gains, rising from 3% in February to 6% currently (just 1% behind the LibDems) The gains appear to be mostly from Labour, which is good news, but …..

Given the overall picture, I have no choice but to re-iterate my plea for Green Party supporters to wake up and smell the coffee. We simply have to rally behind Plaid Cymru and ensure that Jill Evans is re-elected, especially if it heightens the probability of the Tory losing her seat instead.

Let me remind you of what is at stake:

And this is just one key issue. Jill is a very experienced, highly respected and valued member of the Greens/EFA bloc in the EU. It would be a tragedy of epic proportions for Wales, and beyond, if Jill is not returned to carry on the good fight. Gaining a couple of MEPs in England will be great, but it will be scant consolation for us living in Wales if we lose the only true ecosocialist voice we have.

Do not listen to Pippa Bartolotti’s delusional pretence that she is ‘in with a shout’ – I would not have stepped aside if that were ever a realistic proposition.

The future of the Wales Green Party has to be in working alongside, and not against, Plaid Cymru. There is a lot of support for this vision from ecosocialists across Wales and beyond.

It starts with us doing the right thing  tomorrow. Vote Plaid Cymru and ensure Jill Evans is returned as OUR MEP !!

Andy Chyba