The Green / Labour Feud – Bilgewatch

From the BILGEWATCH blog:

The run up to the General Election risks being truly horrid. The standard of mainstream “debate” will likely continue a frenzied downward plunge, founded on premises which are provably false.

Perhaps 2015 will be a key year in breaking the hold of the ceaseless, skewed and ill-informed nonsense so often presented as “news” and “debate”. But for now, stand by for a deluge of bile, which social media and broader campaigning will not escape, by any stretch. I want to address a growing build up of nasty and prolonged spats between supporters of the Green and Labour parties. They’re badly spilling over into groups normally united on issues such as public services, anti racism etc. and can be a dispiriting time-sink.

Likely to alienate most who are sympathetic to both parties, these odysseys often spawn several hundred posts. They disproportionately revolve around such themes as “Yeah, but Brighton bins…yeah, but Iraq”. They keep strong adherence to the great imagined internet law of “Last Post Wins”. People aiming to calm things down risk a dose of “But s/he started it” from both sides.

How much purpose does it all serve? With everything else going on, do we really need 4 more months of it?

As a Green, I’ve had many battles, close up and personal, with the Labour party. Most of it probably a bit petty and long ago in the scheme of things, but still…

I also have many valued friends and comrades in the party, which doesn’t mean I have to think much of the modern organisation as a whole. I can be a tribalist, but am not aiming for that here. My default setting is left-pluralist.

I’d like to create a sense of circumspection, if not harmony (which would probably be unrealistic). I’m certainly not after rancour, and I hope Labour supporters will take this piece in the constructive spirit with which it is offered.

The Greens have had a pretty good time of late. Polling numbers are healthily up, membership has shot past that of UKIP and the LibDems.

Labour supporters are increasingly concerned, attack pieces have started to emerge. Sadiq Khan has been tasked with addressing the issue on an official basis. None of this has had much effect so far.

I hope Greens keep a cool head about our progress, pride comes before a fall. We spent a generation in the electoral basement after the high of the 1989 Euro elections, where we still won no seats, (Euros were First Past The Post in those days). None of our recent fortune adds up to much till we win more seats under FPTP. Let the UKIP zealots be alone in giddy delusions about “earthquakes” and sweeping into power.

I’d also ask Greens to remember that, no matter how shallow, stupid or nasty they consider Labour attacks, Greens have been attacking Labour for a long time. We’ve often revelled in it, so it would be a bit daft to act all affronted at some return fire.

So, here are some things I’d ask Labour supporters to consider:

1) Respect the intelligence of Green/Labour considerers.

They understand the system. aware that most votes don’t really count toward the final outcome. We all know Labour had 13 years to change this, and failed to. Is it wise to now go round using emotional blackmail and erroneous slogans, such as “Vote green, get blue” on the back of that failure? Such soundbites are not valid in the vast majority of constituencies. As for the marginals, have faith in people voting according to their judgement, taste and circumstance, and perhaps splitting their national and local votes. Polling in marginals shows Labour doing sufficiently better than on average, this backs up my case.

2) Don’t assume that Green votes would automatically be yours as a second preference.

Taking votes for granted, as if by some divine right, is arrogant, complacent and alienating. Such characteristics could be a big cause of Labour’s current difficulties. Where Labour have taken support for granted in the past, votes have drifted to the LibDems, even the BNP. Now some of them have gone to UKIP. In other cases, people just stopped voting, but turnout in May will probably be high.

This isn’t all about left or “social justice” territory, but quite a lot of it probably is. Labour have no monopoly on that territory, and there’s no reason why they should assume it. In fact, a lot of votes they lost to the Libdems in 2010 were on that territory.

3) If Labour lose, it wont be The Green’s fault.

For all the “Green Surge” hype, a nationwide vote of even 5% on the day will be quite impressive.

What % of that in marginals might have been Labours? How much energy might go into wringing that % out with negativity and spin? would that energy yield justifiable return or be better spent elsewhere?

Two or three seats for The Greens will be astonishing. Even one will be a score draw. Increase in support can be ephemeral. There is a lot of work to do to build on our increase in membership. The first actual victories are more likely to be seen in 2016 locals.

To really blame a Labour defeat on a short period of progress for a much smaller party would be a dismal admission of failure in itself.

People may invoke the 2000 USA Presidential election, but that’s a far more cronky system than even ours. The comparison is fatally flawed by the fact that Gore won anyway! Bush got in on a courthouse coup, possibly the most horrific piece of electoral dodginess in modern western history. Is that Ralph Nader’s fault? Blaming him is letting a rampantly criminal regime off the hook. Gore’s personal cowardice was key in not letting so many voters in Florida have their voice heard. Murdoch’s Fox and a host of other nasties played parts too. The start of Michael Moore’s Farenheit 911 covers all this excellently, if you want to go revisit the sorry episode.

There are a host of things more likely to prevent Miliband getting into number 10 than The Green Party. Hideous and patronising right-wing propaganda is near the top of the list, but perhaps people need to look nearer to home as well.

4) Ask yourself why Labour are struggling.

By this I mean “struggling to be consistently in a position likely to bring around an overall majority”.

With 5 years of opposition, 100s of MPs and MEPs, thousands of councillors and scores of thousands of activists, there should be considerably more to offer the public than “The Tories are awful. You have to vote for us. It’s the system”.

What’s the point in fighting on right-wing territory now occupied by 3 other parties? Labour not only look indistinct in this neo liberal mush, it’s insincere as far as most of their activists are concerned. Between the 2 main contenders, if Labour are seen as too similar to Tories, especially on economics, the risk is that people will go with the devil they know.

Instead, Labour can persuade many potential Green, LibDem and even UKIP voters with a program that re-engages their centre-left core. Miliband has looked best, and rattled the right most, when taking on the likes of the energy cartel. Don’t lose sleep about being attacked as “too left wing” by Murdoch rags, The Mail et al. It will happen anyway, so you may as well make it worthwhile.

Also ask yourself if it’s strategically wise to argue on 2 fronts by opening a left flank on Greens, who will counter with skill and energy. Labour have a longer, more powerful past, with more clangers to draw on in arguments. I’ll spare the detail, you can fill in the blanks.

By contrast, why should Greens single out Labour as the huge problem? We should (and do) attack the general right-wing consensus, based as it is around failed austerity, corruption, corporate rule, growing inequality and blaming those at the bottom for problems caused by those at the top. If Labour are too big a part of that, it’s their problem. They still have a chance to distance themselves from it, and I think they should.


I’m not a lunatic, I don’t want another half decade of festering, psychopathic tory corruption, masquerading as “government”. Yet, most people can vote Green without the slightest risk of brining that about, and it would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

To recognise the realities of the system, and that “vote green get blue” can apply no further than outside Lab/Con marginals, is a sensible compromise position. Yes, UKIP mess up the traditional maths somewhat, but probably more to Labour’s favour overall. UKIP will probably do well in a lot of safe Labour seats while putting otherwise safe-ish Tory ones in peril.

A solid vote for firm ecological, anti austerity, social democratic politics outside of the Labour Party will firm up those causes within it.

Some people have talked about “vote swapping” between key and non key constituencies. Heavily relying on trust, maybe it will happen on a moderate scale. But on the whole, it’s unrealistic to even expect non-aggression. Still, many of us campaign together for years without party hats much on, doing the election thing now and again, and returning to generally good relations afterwards. I’ll try to be one of them, even if I don’t always succeed. Thus, we might at least spare non partisan campaigns from our bickering, and to aim for less overall aggression, more respectful attention to nuance, genuine analysis, good humour and an avoidance of crude strawmen, ad hominem attacks and the like.

Thanks for reading.


Please share this, read my other stuff and follow if you thought it worthwhile. No offence is meant to anyone by this blog not addressing supporters of Left Unity, TUSC, any other left party, Plaid. SNP, etc, anarchists or the non aligned 🙂

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