Friday, 6 December 2019

Leaving the Greens – A Pact Too Far


Written by Allan Todd

“Labour really need to get their act together and I would like to see them announce at the general election that they will go into coalition with the Greens and Caroline Lucas will be their environment secretary.”

George Monbiot, Viva! Life, Issue 72, Winter 2019, p.9

Sadly, life - especially political life - sometimes springs surprises on us all: some of which are good, but also some which are totally unforeseen and very bad.

Last Friday, I regretfully felt it necessary to resign from the Green Party - and from my role as Membership Secretary of Allerdale and Copeland Green Party, my local Green party. As a consequence of that decision, I have also decided that I should stand down as a Green Party councillor in Keswick. I am under no illusion that those who voted for me in June did so because of who I am - the votes I received were simply because I was representing the Green Party. As I am no longer a member of the Green Party, I feel that - morally - I have no option now but to stand down from Keswick Town Council.

I was proud to join the Green Party in 2012, proud to stand as their candidate in Copeland for the 2015 General Election, proud to stand for various local elections as a Green Party candidate - and proud to be elected this June to Keswick Town Council as its only Green Party councillor.

In addition, I have been very proud, as a Green Party member, to have organised the anti-fracking ‘Green Monday’ protests at Preston New Road over the past 2 and a half years.

And, finally, I was proud to be a member of Green Left, the small but influential ecosocialist group within the Green Party.

Down the Yellow-Tory Brick Road?

Though very disappointed by the decision of my local Green party to stand in both the marginal seats of Copeland and Workington, I could have lived with that - and was prepared to do so. 

Sadly, my pride in being associated with the Green Party began to erode on Thursday 7 November, when the ‘Unite to Remain’ pact with the neoliberal Lib Dems was first announced.

This is a party which has yet to apologise for its part in causing over 120,000 austerity-related deaths since 2010 - Professor King of Cambridge University, one of the authors of the 2017 Report in question, described those deaths as “economic murder”.



Of course, I’m fully aware that it’s always possible to argue that different analyses are more correct than others - & I really hope my fears are unfounded. But, given that John Curtice (one of the UK’s top election experts) thinks the pact will yield the Greens not a single extra seat, it seems immoral to gamble - on the lives of the most deprived - that he’s wrong; or that Greens standing in the 80+ key marginals that Labour need to win/hold to prevent Johnson returning as PM on 13 December, won’t make any difference to the national outcome. It’s ok to gamble with our own lives - but gambling with the lives of others seems to me to be incredibly wrong.

In particular, the push for Bristol West, Stroud & Warrington South as target seats threatens to see Labour MPs replaced by Tories. The latest YouGov poll for Stroud sees Molly Scott Cato increasing the Green vote in this extremely marginal seat - but the Tories taking it from the sitting Labour MP.

The more I’ve examined this pact, the more it appears to be a short-sighted, opportunistic and unprincipled pact: 10 of the 60 ‘target’ seats actually target pro-Remain Labour MPs!

In fact, on 19 November, The Guardian ran an OpEd from Tom Meadowcroft, who had been the Green Party parliamentary candidate for the Bristol seat of Filton and Bradley Stoke, in which he explained why he had withdrawn from the election: 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/19/unite-to-remain-anti-brexit-labour-green-party-seat 

Describing the pact as “rank opportunism”, he stated his main reason for resigning was because:

“The obvious problem, to me, was that the [Unite to Remain] alliance could end up hurting the Remain cause as much as helping it. Polling expert John Curtice predicted immediately after details were released that there were ‘probably five or six seats’ that might be turned over by the pact - but rather counterproductively, it targets 10 pro-Remain Labour MPs…. As a prospective Green Party MP, I would have taken crucial votes from Labour - but its Brexit policy is [now] the closest to ours."

But when the leader of the LibDems - in the ‘other’ Leaders’ Debate on ITV - announced her willingness to unleash the horrors of nuclear warfare on civilians - something so much in conflict with Green Party policy and values - I really expected our leaders to say that was a step too far and that they were therefore withdrawing from the pact. It has been their deafening silence on this that finally drove me to resign. 

On my Todd? 

To be honest, I was expecting a lot of very angry reactions to my decision to resign - instead, the opposite has been true: only one negative/hostile one (so far!) & LOADS of sympathetic responses (it would be big-headed to say how many - but it’s taking me ages to reply!). Quite a few have told me that they also have resigned from the Green Party over the LibDem pact issue. Which seems to confirm that the pact is a BIG mistake.

The saddest thing for me is that, as regards both policies & core values, the Green Party is by far and away the only party I want to belong to - I most categorically WON’T be joining Labour. 

I’ve supported Proportional Representation (PR) for almost 50 years, and fully get that the whole ‘No PR' thing makes a mockery of real democracy - Labour really need to commit to that, AND to forming a pact with the Greens. In virtually every other European country, this happens - & results in a significantly increased vote for radical policies. 

But Labour’s policy weaknesses are no excuse for holding hands with an unrepentant neoliberal party.



In fact, with less than a week to go to the election - and with opinion polls predicting a Tory victory - it is not too late for the Green and Labour Parties to come to their senses and act like they really mean their respective straplines: 

For The Common Good - For The Many, Not The Few  

What Labour needs to do now - before it is too late - is to ask the Greens to join them in a truly radical pact. This would include getting their candidate in Caroline Lucas’s Brighton seat to stop campaigning and instead to ask all Labour voters there to vote Green. They should also do the same in the Isle of Wight. Ideally, they should also commit - at long last - to the much-needed democratic reform of PR.  

In return, the Greens should end their toxic pact with the neoliberal LibDems and, instead, join with Labour in a radical anti-Tory pact. In addition, they should get all their candidates in the 80+ crucial marginals - that Labour need to win/hold in order to stop Johnson returning as Prime Minister - to cease campaigning and, instead, call on all Green voters in those seats to vote Labour.

Caroline Lucas (Green Party) & Clive Lewis (Labour Party)

The 99% need - and deserve - to have both parties behaving in such a principled political way in such a crucial general election as this one. Sadly, I’m not holding my breath - both seem determined to continue behaving like squabbling children in the playground. 

Both parties need to realise that politics isn’t some comfortable Sixth Form Debating society for the relatively well-off, who won’t pay a price if their various ‘guesstimates’ prove to be mistaken - instead, it’s an arena in which the wrong decisions can, quite literally, spell death-by-austerity for yet more members of the precariat. 

What now? 

What I have been doing in my marginal seat of Copeland (Tory MP) - and in our adjoining marginal seat of Workington (where pro-Remain Labour MP Sue Hayman is under serious pressure from the ex-UKIP Tory candidate) - is campaigning for both the Labour candidates.  

Although I’m voting for Labour in Copeland, I will be arranging for a much more effective Green vote (and one which doesn’t risk helping the Tories MP gain another seat!) in the Isle of Wight, via Swap My Vote: https://www.swapmyvote.uk/ 

I urge all Green voters in key Labour marginals to vote Labour and then, via Swap My Vote, get a Labour supporter in the Isle of Wight to cast an effective vote for the Green Party candidate there, who stands a real chance of defeating the sitting Tory MP. 

At the end of the day, I don’t want to wake up on 13 December & find Johnson has just managed to get one more MP than the Labour Party. 

I remain an ecosocialist, & will still be voting Green in local and European elections (if we ever have another one!) - and am more than willing to help my former local party members & supporters with such election campaigns (assuming they’d want my help). 

In the interim, I’ve signed up to DiEM25: its political position - in what they correctly call “This once-in-a-lifetime election” - is to campaign for Labour; or, in those seats where the Greens, SNP or Plaid Cymru have a greater chance of defeating the Tories, to campaign for them. SIGNIFICANTLY, they are NOT doing so for the neoliberal Lib Dems - which is yet another indication that we/the Greens have made a HUGE strategic & political mistake by signing up to this ‘Unite to Remain’ pact with the Lib Dems. 

Pessimism - a sin? 

I first became involved in politics in 1963, when I was 14, thanks to Shelley’s Collected Prose & Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring - and my first political ‘act’ was to join CND (though living in the rural depths of South Norfolk at the time, my parents wouldn’t let me join the CND marches!). And ever since first coming across his Prison Notebooks in 1977, I’ve always tried to follow Antonio Gramsci’s maxim: “Pessimism of the intellect, but optimism of the will!”  

But I have never been so pessimistic/depressed about how things, across the board (but especially the Climate and Ecological Crisis), are going. 

Quite frankly, I have to say I’m dreading the results of this election - both locally & nationally. To be blunt, I think we’ll be f**ked for decades to come. 

Allan Todd is anti-fracking and Extinction Rebellion activist and an ecosocialist campaigner

3 comments:

  1. I am with you on this. I was dismayed by the green stance on Bristol and though I am a Labour, this is one election that is too important to lose and we are sufficiently like minded to be standing together ❤

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  2. The labour party came second in the last election with 5000 more votes than the green party. Please don't encourage labour voters who stand a good chance of giving the long standing tory a bloidy nose to split the anti tory vote.

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  3. Thank you from my heart for this expression of human concern and intellectual sanity . I have to comment for no other reason than to say that I agree with all of your reasoned argument - one which transcends petty party political antagonism and abuse . I've just written to a FB friend in Argentina stating very clearly that I believe that another term of Tory / Neolib control of our nation will see the end of what little democracy we now have left after 40 years of disintegration of the social advance that took centuries to achieve . The NHS will disappear ; workers' & civil rights will roll back to Victorian levels or worse ; the rape of our home planet without regulation will kill billions . You know all this and more is at stake & I applaud you for standing for humanity and Gaia.

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