What else did anyone think Corbyn would say to the Green Party’s Progressive Alliance? It makes sense for Labour – both factions – to eliminate Greens wherever we do well, because we only take what they regard as ‘their’ votes and nobody else’s. So the four or five seats (if you include Sheffield Central) where we would want a clear run, are the last that Labour would allow us.
There are two underlying assumptions to the Progressive Alliance which I question. The first is that the 2015 election result brought about a sea change, so that Labour now has no alternative but to co-operate with the Greens. That would only make sense to a Labour strategist if they thought they were finished anyway. They may be, but in their position I would do just as Corbyn has done, and the faction trying to remove him likewise. Hopes that it is merely a temporary statement are clutching at straws.
I first realized that the Labour Party was dead when they abstained, I think it was in 2013, on Iain Duncan Smith’s egregious legislation to reverse a Supreme Court judgment in favour of disabled claimants. That legislation should have had the entire Labour Party in a rage. Guess who was one of the 8 rebels. But not only is Corbyn not really Green, but that is why I could not take his election as leader seriously.
Caroline Lucas could have used Dynamic Benefits, IDS’s own literature, to condemn the entire government anti-scrounger’ strategy. She did condemn IDS’s callous reinstatement, but that occasion was one of many missed opportunities
Better late than never, the Citizens’ Basic Income can come to the fore now. We start by using Dynamic Benefits to demonstrate the social justice case for the Basic income. It makes work pay rather more effectively than the Universal Credit would have done. With a Basic Income, you lose tax on every penny you earn – but only at whatever the tax rate is. Under the Universal Credit former claimants would pay an effective tax rate of 65%, because you only keep 35% of your former benefits on finding work. You would be imperceptibly better off working.
But the universal Credit is 90% mythical. For all but a few single ex-claimants, the situation is still as illustrated in the graph at the top of this page – work still does not pay. Many claimants probably do not even register, let alone vote. But they might , once they realize that the Green Party’s Basic income can get the DWP off their backs.
The second dubious PA assumption is that there is a solid phalanx of hard faced Tories who are not only climate deniers, but firmly convinced that if anyone suffers in a recession, it must be their own fault for being stupid.
The Basic Income will resonate with some Conservatives better than many think. I remember Harold Macmillan as Prime Minister. Under his leadership the Tories ceased, albeit temporarily, to be the ‘Nasty Party’. He had been shaken to the core by the deprivation he saw in Stockton-on-Tees when sent there in 1922 to fight a byelection. ‘Macmillanite’ Conservatives mostly became Lib Dems under Thatcher. Instead, Tony Whittaker, a former Conservative councillor, founded the Green Party
Once we have demonstrated that the Basic Income is quite the opposite of a ‘Scroungers’ Charter’, we can approach those who used to vote for us up to and including 1989 – in Conservative heartlands. The Basic income is easily explained as ‘making work ‘pay’, giving entrepreneurs a start-up opportunity, allowing e.g zero hours contracts to make sense instead of being a form of slavery when backed by benefit sanctions, but above all, it can bring behaviour to preserve the ecosphere into the debate. The ecosphere is the thin shell round a little ball which is all we have, and we are trashing it.
So the basic Income can be presented to ‘Macmillanites’ as a compromise. They get something they value for their money.
If the Green Party is ever to become a significant political presence beyond a few local authorities, it must break out of this ‘everyone who isn’t Tory’ mind set, and regain contact with its ecological roots. But we need to reassure two sets of misgivings.
Are we socialist? Yes, in two important respects: redistribution, and a recognition that a sustainable society must be much more co-operative and less competitive. For me, that will mean returning health and education to communal control. ‘Deprivatization’?.
But instead of the outdated class war, we must approach former enemies more in sorrow than in anger. They too need reassuring that all we intend is a fair, level playing field for everyone, so that we can all start to think how to preserve the environment. It will probably not happen quickly, though it might, but if the Green party can stop insisting that it is more socialist than Corbyn, the (probably mostly Lib Dem) voters in leafy shires may give us our second, and maybe even more MPs. There are some appalling climate deniers among Conservative MPs.
This strategy could be spearheaded by an attack on Zac Goldsmith. After losing the guidance of his uncle Edward, co-author of ‘Blueprint for Survival’, Zac has lost the plot. His voting record is that of a loyal party hack, fully supporting the benefit sanctions regime, and totally failing to see the connection, which Tony Whittaker grasped immediately, between a fair tax and benefits system and saving the ecosphere.
Zac will plead in his defence that he initiated a debate against TTIP in Parliament. Yes, but there was no vote. Where was he when Caroline Lucas got arrested at Balcombe for opposing fracking?
Theresa May demonstrated her even greater contempt than Cameron for Green issues by abolishing the last department concerned with climate change as one of her first acts as Prime Minister. Zac must be put firmly on the spot. Does he want to further what his uncle Edward started, or has he become a career politician? A lot of ‘Macmillanites’, and those who think of Zac as a Green at heart, will be watching.
We may yet deliver what was hoped for from the mortally wounded Progressive Alliance .