Friday 5 September 2014

The Greens Stake Their Claim To The Left

The Green Party has begun their autumn conference in Birmingham today, a conference they see as key in their effort to crack the UK political scene once and for all. The party, despite being chronically under represented in the media, is seeking to do this with a bid to claim the progressive left of British politics as their own.

Last night, ahead of the conference, party leader Natalie Bennett was interviewed on LBC, where she reiterated that the Green Party would introduce a wealth tax in order to stem the rising inequality that has gained significant political credence through the work of Thomas Piketty and others. This policy is a part of the party’s effort to broaden the prospect of a ‘green economy’ not only meaning an environmentally sound one, but also one that is fairer and works better for ‘the common good’.

This focus on the damages of high wealth over high income is backed up by concerns about low wages. In a somewhat polemic piece on the New Statesman this morning, Natalie Bennett said that the Greens were committed to raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour by 2020, going further than their current commitment to the living wage with a long term goal. The party has been pushing the idea of the citizen’s income for a while, the idea that citizenship guarantees a standard of living, protecting people against the often harsh realities of the wider economy. Through their sustained support for higher wages, the Greens are putting firm policy emphasis on inequality.

Inequality has certainly reached a political mass, not only with Thomas Piketty’s book this year but also with The Spirit Level, The Price Of Inequality and even Mark Carney talking of the virtues of an ‘inclusive capitalism’ with an emphasis on reduced inequality. This has created a reinvigoration of the left’s focus upon inequality, with many calling for action; the Greens are building upon this and other feelings of disaffection with leftist politics in the UK in order to position themselves on the progressive spectrum. In fact, today asked whether the Greens are ‘the only left-wing party left in Britain’, something that no doubt the party are happy about.

The Greens have long celebrated the fact that they score very well on blind policy tests and are equally happy to point out that their policies of tackling low wages and renationalising the railway are incredibly popular with the public. Alongside their locally popular, grassroots campaign against fracking it demonstrates the party’s goal of being responsive to the public and representing the model of the kind of democracy that they want to instil. Being popular without resorting to populism shows that the party is serious about electoral politics and the left’s future within it.

Perhaps the key message that Natalie Bennett and her party want to push this weekend is the fact that the Greens are not a single issue movement, and that voting for them is not a frivolous protest vote. By presenting a broad platform of common sense, thought out and costed ideas, the party is showing that idealism is not political suicide. When you consider that the party is currently polling neck and neck with the Lib Dems, the UK’s official ‘third party’, you realise, that despite the lack of column inches devoted to them, they are serious force in UK politics.

First published at Shifting Grounds


  1. I am glad that the Greens are moving leftward, and hopefully they will lose the middle class 'let's keep politics out of it' brigade. But I'm not sure the Greens have much presence on the ground. In Haringey,there are two consituencies, Hornsey and Wood Green which is quite middle class, and Tottenham, which is working class. It looks like Hornsey will be the focus for the Greens in the election, since they have a decent level of support there. But Tottenham may be just a paper candidate. Not sure if this is the case, but Greens are not in evidence here. Would it not make more sense to join forces with other groups and stand a community candidate on the basis of anti war and anti austerity. There are a number of small groups in Tottenham, but if they pulled together it might make waves. The sitting MP David Lammy had little credibility and his standing for Mayoral candidacy indicates his continuing lack of interest in this constituency. Would be a shame to waste the potential here,

  2. The Green Party did marginally better in Tottenham than in H&WG in the 2010 GE. In the council elections this year, the Green vote was pretty evenly split. We attempted to have some kind of joint arrangement in Haringey in the local elections with LU and TUSC, but it fell on deaf ears. We stuffed TUSC everywhere they stood except one ward. The rest of the left should get behind the Green candidate in Tottenham at the GE next year, we are by far the most effective electoral machine in Haringey.

    Oh and it will not be a paper candidate, the Tottenham candidancy is being being contested at the moment. We will have a proper candidate, and a good one too. I think the future of the Green Party in Haringey is in Tottenham. The demographics have changed with young professionals moving into the area and voting Green. This trend will continue I think.

  3. Well written piece - we need to push the message: sustainable development + social justice. Policies such as rail renationalisation and a wealth tax are bang on. But we also need to initiate a serious discussion on restructuring international finance. This is another elephant in the room - since we all know real economic change will be indefinitely frustrated by global financial (it's control of credit; it;s power to undermine currencies; the power to withdraw/withhold investment, etc)

  4. last post disappeared so if this appears twice...sorry. Just a correction Mike. Before the local elections LU Haringey discussed an approach by the Greens and while all were sympathetic we felt we were so few that we couldn't really contribute. Thats the long and the short of it. I voted Green myself. I do hope the Greens will not adopt a 'all the left must just vote for us' approach. That kind of attitude has been prevalent in Labour and it has now lost touch with the people. If Lammy is to be challenged at all, it will have to be by a coalition of people and groups. You simply can't do it without knocking on doors(and Labour ARE good at that) Reaching out to create a broader grouping against austerity and war could embrace a much wider audience that a couple of percentage points. The Greens simply won't be able to do it on their own.

  5. Mike I'm a bit perturbed by your dependency on middle class professionals moving into Tottenham....surely all you have to do is win over the people who are already here! The Greens already HAVE the reputation of being middle class do gooders, and that's one that heralds ill!

  6. LU supported TUSC candidates, some anyway, they did support any Greens in Haringey, despite the rhetoric from your national party. There has been no approach from anybody in Haringey about the GE, as far as I know. We are selecting our candidates, end of story I'm afraid.

    I know LU were new at the time and didn't really know what to do, but TUSC could easily have made arrangements with us, but they chose not to. As far as we are concerned we tried, but we won't waste our time again on this, I don't think.

    The Green Party is gaining a lot of members in Haringey and across the country. We are neck and neck with the Lib Dems in some polls. What cam LU and TUSC offer in comparison?

  7. We can hardly specify who can and cannot vote Green Philip. The fact remains that we are by some distance, the second party behind Labour in Tottenham. If you want Labour out, you are best voting Green.