Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Can the Left and the Greens Cooperate at next Year’s General Election?

Well, it makes a certain amount of sense doesn’t it? Some kind of British version of Syriza (Greece) to take on the virtual one party state of the neo liberal parties, (Conservative, Lib Dem, Labour and UKIP) at the general election. There is a huge amount of electoral ground lying vacant on the left of politics in this country, which as we have seen from the Scottish Independence referendum, is just waiting to be occupied. It is hard to see this void being filled by any individual grouping on the left though, so cooperation by these groupings would seem to be the best way forward.

Desirable then yes, but likely, I don’t think so. I say this in disappointment but from my observations, this simply will not happen, which is largely down to the scourge of leftish politics in the UK, sectarianism.

Take a look at this piece from the Left Unity (LU) website. It is a list of exaggerations and distortions of the truth and distant historical examples of assorted nut jobs who have been members the Green party. All parties get some strange people attracted to them. There is not even the slightest attempt to build bridges between LU and the Greens in this piece. This is just a hatchet job really.

And of course, every time I talk to members of the various left sects, Brighton and Hove Green Council is mentioned immediately as an example of how untrustworthy the Greens are, (despite having some attractive policies to lefties generally).

Now, I’m not going to defend the Green group on Brighton council except to note that they were put into a very difficult position by being elected as the largest party on the council, but without an overall majority. And this in the face of the savage cuts to council budgets from the central Coalition government. Suffice to say that I think the Greens might have managed the situation better, but the idea that a 1980s style Militant strategy was going to be popular with electors in Brighton or anywhere else is pure fantasy.

The Greens in my borough of Haringey (north London) were contacted recently by the local Left Unity branch, with a view to a joint discussion on cooperation at the general election with the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

The Greens offered to cooperate with LU and TUSC at this year’s council elections, but this was rejected by TUSC in a less than comradely way (LU had only just got started up). This was the time to build trust between the parties ahead of the general election but it was dismissed for some reason. LU for their part, publicly supported some TUSC candidates in these elections, but no Greens, even though many Green candidates were openly socialist in their election literature.

In the end, the meeting was re-arranged at extremely short notice, so I was unable to attend but reports suggest only the tiniest amount of cooperation will be possible, this amounting only to working on some of the same campaigns (not even necessarily jointly). 

This was my suspicion all along because, although I knew LU weren’t planning to stand candidates in Haringey’s two Parliamentary constituencies next year, I also knew that TUSC were planning to stand.

The Green party position is that we have a long record of standing locally and some modest success (saving a couple of deposits in Hornsey and Wood Green) and with the very encouraging results in this year’s council elections, particularly in Tottenham, we are the best placed of the small leftish parties. We comfortably beat TUSC everywhere they stood in May, with the exception of one ward (which is the worst for Green votes in the whole Borough). Our membership is rocketing, both locally and nationally (over 20,000 now in England and Wales), and we are level with the Lib Dems in some national polls. We are on a roll.

In a council by-election last week in Woodside ward (part of Hornsey and Wood constituency in Haringey) TUSC gained only 35 votes. In a recent Lord Ashcroft opinion poll for Hornsey and Wood Green, The Green party scored 8% (weighted, the raw data said 10%) with TUSC on less than 1%.

On all logical measures TUSC should not be standing in either of the Haringey constituencies at the General Election, and should instead throw their weight behind two very good Green candidates, to maximise the anti austerity, anti neo liberal vote behind a single candidate.

Will they listen? No chance, they are standing come what may.

Maybe it’s just like this in Haringey, but my hunch is, it is far more widespread. So, don’t hold your breath expecting any cooperation between lefty and Green parties at the General Election, it is business as usual in left of Labour politics I’m afraid. People on the left in the UK it seems, care more about ideological purity than being part of a broader more relevant movement.

The video/song above is ‘Talkin Bout a Revolution’ by Tracey Chapman     


  1. You're completely right tactically Mike, as far as Haringey is concerned - and I'm sure in quite a few other areas. Everyone on the left should everywhere campaign for the left candidate best placed to maximise the anti austerity vote, and in many constituencies that will mean the Green candidate. But of course, it's a matter of sauce for the goose being sauce for the gander. Next door to Haringey, in Islington North, members of the Green Party should absolutely not be putting up a candidate, but should be campaigning for Jeremy Corbyn, who is of course a Labour MP. Similarly, in Wales I would suggest that the Greens should be supporting the Plaid's candidates in most places. There are even two constituencies (at the most) where we should be backing TUSC. There are perhaps twenty constituencies where the whole left should be campaigning for Labour candidates, a handful where we should be supporting the National Health Action Party and even perhaps a couple of places where People Before Profit or Left Unity are best placed.

  2. You may well be right Sean in other parts of the country. I hear there are some moves in Wales to do something with PC. Perhaps you should contact your LU comrades in Haringey to explain?

  3. I think the essential problem is that the Green Party is positioned a long way from eco-socialism which spells out the reality instead of some green-tinged, electorally acceptable version of reality as seen by virtually all politicians and at least 95% of the electorate. Heretical as it may seem I think Sean Thompson's suggestion is what Green Left should be advocating.