Saturday 1 August 2015

Will a Corbyn Leadership Win Steal the Greens Thunder?

I’ve not commented until now on Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to become the Labour party leader, preferring to leave it as a Labour party matter. But it is becoming clear, that if Corbyn wins, it will have a big impact on the Green party’s fortunes.

I wouldn’t have given him a prayer of winning a couple of months ago, but he seems to now have the momentum running his way, with several large unions (some not all that left wing), supporting him, and polls putting him ahead amongst the somewhat strange electorate that is allowed to vote. The bookmakers now say Corbyn is odds on favourite to triumph in the contest.

There has been a trend dating back as far as 2010 with Cleggmania, through events in Greece and Spain, the Scottish referendum, the Green surge and now Corbyn’s astonishingly popular campaign. Incidentally, all this passed Left Unity by as though they weren’t there, and they may possibly not be for much longer. It is an expression of dissatisfaction with the status quo of politics here and around the world. Bernie Sanders Presidential campaign in the US is another example.

He may not win of course, but it is now looking as though he will, although if he was smart he would oppose our EU membership when Cameron’s expected reforms actually make our terms worse and with TTIP looming. He seems to have passed up an opportunity to split the Tory party wide open, but we will see.

Should we celebrate a win for policies lifted straight out of the Green party manifesto of 2015? A proper living wage, relax anti-trade union laws, renationalise the railways, fighting austerity; are all policies we fought this year’s general election on, and if another party implements them, so what?

Well, it would likely kill off our growth in membership if Corbyn wins and take away our unique selling point of anti-austerity party in England and we may suffer a similar fate to Left Unity. It is bound to affect the Green party’s popularity, not in a good way, at least at first.

Corbyn may win, but then be deposed by his MPs, hardly any of who support him. I would not bet against David Miliband making a return to the House of Commons during this parliament if opinion polls continue to show Labour trailing the Tories after a year or two. In which case we will be back in business, big time, as some of the unions may want to jump ship at that point.

Interviewed in today’s Guardian Andy Burnham, one of Corbyn’s rivals for the leadership warns of a 1980s SDP type split in Labour party. He is careful not to blame Corbyn, but the message is clear, his win could lead to the exodus of many MPs on the right of the party. Personally, I think this is best option for Greens and the Labour left as we could come together as a genuine electoral force on the left of British politics.

To hold Labour together though, Corbyn, if he wins, will need to back track on some if not all of his left policies and he has already made an appeal for ‘unity’. He may become a sort of English Tsipras as he disappoints all of those he has inspired, which would be a boost for the Greens if we play our cards correctly.

I my view, Labour will never again be a proper party of the left, whatever the membership thinks, and one way or another, Corbyn will be neutered by still powerful forces in the party. 

So to all of those Greens and others cheering Corbyn on, I say expect to be disappointed. And to those fearing a Corbyn win for the detrimental effect it may have on the Green party, just hold on. Let us see exactly how all this pans out.  


  1. I am unsure that if Jeremy Corbyn wins the Labour leadership contest we would suffer a fate as severe as Left Unity-we also have environmentalism as a selling point, which Labour does not (nor do any other major parties in the UK), and green ways of thinking, which are different from either socialist or capitalist ways of thinking.

  2. Alot of this is true and make sense, but, without wanting to be accused of whatever, the Labour Left and Greens need to work together rather than against each other, however things play out, as Caroline Lucas has suggested many times.

    Some, like Owen Jones, for example, although sympathetic with most Green policies, have historical loyalty to the LP which is almost impossible to 'break', and we should accept that, again working with, rather than against, them. The former approach would also be bad for the GP in terms of support, methinks.

  3. Yes but we will be back o small environmental pressure group party - after all the gains of the last year or two. Be worried Alan.

  4. I don't know what happened to my last comment but the answer lies in working with, rather than against, them, and breaking out of the 'tribal politics' derided by our de facto current leader, Caroline Lucas.

  5. Yes but we need to split the right of Labour off first. We can't work with them.

  6. A Corbyn Labour/Green combination is my dream ticket. I would be SO proud to vote.

  7. I agree with you Mike, and agree with Will Self with regards to the idea that LP has become too broad a church since it's embracing of neo-Liberalism, and it needs a Henry VIII to split it in two! The comment in question at about 3.19.

    JC is apparently in favour of electoral reform of some type, which would allow for an expansion of the 2 party system. Mind you, apparently Liz Kendall has come out in favour of it.....

  8. Yes it will steal green thunder, but socialists in the party may think it a price worth paying, or almost. It's the non socialists I'd feel sorry for.

    On the other hand, if he isn't elected, and then isn't given a decent voice (having presumably done very well) then the greens stand to benefit.

    I think labour left have seen the sincere support for Corbyn from green leftists, even though it's against our tribal interest for him to win (as greens)

  9. The Green Party needs to be an activist's party with roots sunk in local communities and workplaces, some our branches are doing this but too many are not but if we can more consistent with this effort we will have nothing to fear from a revived Labour Left who will be tethered to the pro-establishment Labour machine even if some of the Blairite neo-liberals try to form an SDP style breakaway party. Concerns over a Corbyn leadership are an indication of our own lack of confidence so lets get busy and active with a high degree of confidence, we should be here there and everywhere!! totally eclipsing parties that are dependent on electorialism.

  10. I'm glad to see this has provoked a good debate.

  11. Judging by Jeremy Corbyn's performance on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday 26 July, I would say that he and his supporters need to study your blog piece Review - Naomi Klein's latest book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate . Then perhaps they might see the dangers in the economic growth that he was advocating.

  12. I have no more illusions than you in the potential for Labour to be transformed into a socialist party Mike, but I think your rhetorical question puts the cart before the horse. No matter what how limited Corbyn's possibilities may be if he wins the leadership election, his campaign and the reaction it has generated are incredibly significant and the potential importance of his victory can hardy be overstated. The real question to ask is not how a Corbyn win might effect the Green Party, but what impact a Corbyn win would have on what should be the central priority of all socialists - the building of a mass popular anti-capitalist movement.

    The explosive rise of the SNP, the 'green surge' and now the spectacular Corbyn campaign, are all part of a reaction to the ongoing chronic economic crisis - the more or less spontaneous manifestations of popular rejection of the Tories’ austerity agenda, in large measure on the part of young members of the precariat. When crises come, they develop in new and unexpected ways as their contradictions are condensed and dispersed, rupturing in surprising ways. This crisis is at last beginning to produce a response among those who are forced to pay the price for its resolution, albeit delayed.

    In taking advantage of the possibilities opened up by the crisis we need to be aware that the window of opportunity can both open and shut very rapidly and without apparent warning. In order to seize the time we need a party, or at least a popular movement, or at least a critical mass of some thousands of activists who can provide the energy, physical resources and imagination needed to mobilise that movement and build (or rebuild) that party. In my (as ever) humble view, socialists in the Green Party should be looking for ways to mobilise as much of the party as possible to be playing a positive role in building that movement, now. Unless you think that the Green Party is, or has the potential to be, itself that broad movement or party, you should surely be placing the wider movement's growth ahead of any concerns about what the effects of that movement on the Green Party might be. Greens are in a good position to play a key role in what might be game changing events over the next few months - but not if they put their own sectarian concerns first (like all the little sects are, of course).

  13. I do think the Green party has the potential to be the vehicle that you describe, it has the numbers, but whether it will happen is an open question still. Are you planning to rejoin the Labour party Sean?