Monday, 19 January 2015
Are the Greens the Emerging New Left in the UK?
Green party activist Adam Ramsay has written two excellent pieces on the recent history of the Green party and how this relates to the Green surge in membership and the opinion polls.
In both these pieces his analysis concludes that the Green party are becoming the expression of a new emerging left in the UK. We have seen the rise of such parties as SYRIZA in Greece, Podemos in Spain and Parti de Gauche in France, but nothing of the same order on the left in Britain. UKIP (on the right) have so far been the beneficiaries of the protest vote, but they are just more of same policy wise (where they have any policies), except for their anti-immigration and anti-EU rhetoric.
The traditional left in this country has utterly failed to harvest the discontent amongst the public with the austerity policies of all the main political parties. Left Unity (LU), despite being quite new and claiming to ‘do politics differently’, have actually carried on the left’s traditional routine of pompously issuing statements which no one takes any notice of. The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) who have been around for 5 or 6 years now, talk in such arcane language and dream of ‘a mass movement of workers (armed if necessary)’, as though they are still fighting the miner’s strike, which was 30 years ago. Both have made no impact whatsoever with UK voters, and show no sign of doing so.
So, it has fallen to the Green party to take up the mantle of challenging the establishment’s obsession with austerity polices from the left. But is this as Adam Ramsay suggests ‘a new emerging left’ in Britain, comparable to what we have seen in Europe’s worst affected austerity regimes?
It is hard to tell at this stage, and certainly the collapse in support for the Lib Dems has had some effect on the Green party’s growth, but some of these ex Lib Dems are quite left wing in their thinking, so I don’t think that is necessarily an argument against this notion. In my experience of talking to new members, they are almost all from the left of the political spectrum and many have either dropped out of political engagement over the years or are young and have not participated in party politics before.
I think Adam is right when he says that the Scottish Independence referendum was a catalyst for a desire for change from the disastrous neo-liberal policies of the last thirty years, both north and south of the border. The Labour party has lost its way, and sold its soul to the devil in the Blair/Brown years and are unable to detect, let alone exploit this moment. The Lib Dems, even if they were minded to, have disqualified themselves as a left party, with their lurch to the right under Clegg’s leadership and resultant coalition with the Tories.
That just leaves the Greens, and I think people have taken a fresh look at our policies and been impressed by our one MP, Caroline Lucas, who has almost single handedly been the real opposition in Parliament to the coalition government’s failed austerity programme. The Green party has moved a long way from the old ‘tree hugging’ days.
This coming general election is a very important one for the Green party, and for the left at large in Britain, because it is looking like being the first election for thirty years to offer a credible alternative to the political status quo (and from the left).
It is the Green party that will be leading this fight and thank goodness someone is, the times are a changing I think.