Tuesday, 27 September 2016

After Corbyn’s Re-election as Labour Leader – Where now for the Green Party?

Congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn for his overwhelming victory in the Labour Party leadership election, for the second time in a year. Corbyn won convincingly, in all sections of the party, members, supporters and affiliates (mainly union members). You can see the scale of his success at The Swawkbox here.

You will notice that according The Swawkbox piece, more than 300,000 members and supporters were banned from voting in the contest, for one reason or another, so this result is truly staggering. If all members and supporters had been allowed to vote, rather 62% of the vote, Corbyn would have probably have won 80% to 90% of the vote.

But where does this all leave the Green Party? In recent years, the party membership and votes rose steadily, then quickly with the surge just before the general election last year. This progress was built on breaking out of our ecological niche, and pushing our left social policies to the forefront. It has to be said, that since Corbyn became Labour leader, membership of the Green Party has fallen back, with many ex Greens joining Labour.

Labour has even started to poach Green Policies, on fracking, rail nationalisation, environment to some extent, and are even considering the Citizen’s Income policy. Whilst this is good from the point of view of possibly getting these policies introduced, it also leaves the Greens out on a limb in terms of holding an exclusive constituency. Maybe this doesn’t matter, as long the policies survive, but they may get watered down, to encourage ‘unity’ in the Labour Party.

So, what are the options for the Greens? We could fall back on the old ecological style, and forget about the social policies? Climate change is not going away anytime soon, so there is an argument to be made here. Labour’s environmental policies are better than they were, but still unambitious and not really enough to address the issue. The likely problem with this move is it would be too narrow, and if people can get half way there policies from Labour, and more chance of them being implemented, they may well take this option. I think the social agenda must stay.

A second option would be to move to the political right, although this is a pretty crowded area already, with the Tories, UKIP and the Lib Dems all covering to some degree this terrain. Most Greens are of the political left, although not all, so I can’t see this being popular with most members. There are ‘lifestyle greens’ but this is a fairly small demographic, so has limited support amongst the general public. You wouldn’t expect me, writing on a Green Left blog to advocate this anyway.

Whilst, I might find it appealing for the Greens to move further to the left, further than Labour, I expect this would not be particularly successful electorally, and would probably cause discontent within the party, which is eco-social democratic in the main.

We could remain largely on the same territory that we have been on in recent years, as I don’t think the civil war in the Labour Party is over, and the Greens are at least united on policy issues by and large, and divided parties never win elections, and Labour is divided.

There are policy differences too, Jonathan Bartley, newly elected co-leader of the Green Party, sets out some of the main ones writing at Left Foot Forward: nuclear weapons, nuclear power, airport expansion and a fair voting system. Bartley also touches on the fundamental difference between Greens and Labour - economic growth and the centralisation of power. These are clear differences, and the Greens have better policies in all these areas. Bartley also calls for a progressive alliance between the Greens, Labour, Lib Dems and nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales. It doesn’t look like Labour is interested in this though in general, although some members are open to the idea.

One such Labour member is Jon Lansman, a leading figure in the Momentum group in the Labour Party. He is quoted from a fringe meeting at Labour conference at politics.co.uk as saying:

That Green party candidates should be allowed to be stand on a joint ticket with Labour, in the same way that some Labour MPs are also part of the Co-operative party. "Why shouldn't the Green party have the same relationship with the Labour Party that the Co-op party has with the Labour Party?"

This is a new idea, and is worthy of further consideration. The policy differences mentioned above though do make this unlikely, although not impossible. There will be resistance in Labour’s ranks, I think, and possibly the Green Party as well. If Labour became serious about this proposal, then we will need to look seriously at it.

It would be better though, I think, if Labour committed to a fair, proportional voting system, then we can have our differences, but work together, maybe in coalition, and this has the added advantage of locking the Tories out power for good on their own.

Let the dialogue begin between Labour and Greens, and we will see where we get.   


  1. We should be hailing Corbyn's rise as a huge success for the Green Party. Just as Thatcher's self-declared greatest achievement was New Labour, so we could claim Corbynism as partly due to electoral pressure from Greens. The message should be " You've seen what the Green vote has done to Labour - if you want this to continue, to Trident cancelling, no Hinkley, etc keep voting Green."

  2. We are a separate political party that is looking to get elected: on councils, on regional assemblies and in Parliament. Lending our resources and effort to green washing the Labour Party doesn't seem a very positive move in that direction.
    Labour isn't just Corbyn (and even he isn't Green); in Haringey, for example, we have a Labour Council - in power for over 45 years - arrogant and complacent and doing the Tory's dirty work for them. Indeed, they withdraw the whip from anyone within their own ranks who dares to question them. Why would we make common cause with them? No, we need Green councillors who aren't subject to the Labour whip (or any whip, for that matter) who can ask the awkward questions and hold the Council to account. The rump of 8 LibDem Councillors (their erstwhile leader has just defected to Labour) isn't in a position to put up a credible opposition because they're Tory-light themselves.
    Let's get a grip; let's be Green and proud and fight for our seats in elected chambers and right for Green politics (environment and social justice and peace because you can't have any one of them without the others) to be heard.
    We owe it to the electorate.

  3. Spot the typo! Sorry! It should be 'and fight for Green politics' of course!

  4. Political parties have always borrowed or stolen bits of policy from each other. The fact that this theft seems to be disproportionately from the Greens might be an irritation, but could be taken as a compliment - Greens are better at reasoned original thought than the traditional 'dead-sheep', follow-my-leader (or else) parties.
    Corbyn is a distraction, a magnet for the millions who might prefer to vote 'None of the Above'. Rupert Murdoch will ensure Labour never regains power under Corbyn.

  5. Six months on & I've just tripped over this site by chance, the wonder of surrendipitous surfing?!? Whilst I share much of the above sentiments ( I'm a GPEW member since 2014), I worry that we are trying to analyse political positioning using traditional heuristics rather than analyse how the political landscape's changed post Brexit. Admittedly the recent by-elections have given us better insight into what is unfolding, however Green politics, just as all other persuasions, is undergoing a reshaping largely influenced by external factors which we need to try and understand better. I'm not convinced now, given the wider context post Brexit, that the environment is best served by us being a separate party. The future of UK is at a massive crossroads and we need to appreciate that whilst we have had a fairly influential voice given our size in Westminster and across local government the future is really where our political fortune lies. Whether that is in splendid isolation or shades of collaboration remains to be seen. The progressive left as a whole is struggling to counter the real challenges of the day, so let's not make that worse - the outcome isn't worth thinking about if you're a progressive left optimist that cares for this magnificent planet!!