A Post-Conference appeal to the Green Party leaders

Conference was positive. A good speech Jonathan. How widely was it was reported? Especially the bit about Basic Income not Universal Credit?

But I fear basic problems remain unaddressed. A Conference speech is not the place to deal with difficult questions, but I looked in vain (in the GPEx report to conference) for evidence that the real reason for the 55% drop in the Green vote in 2017 had been recognized, let alone acted upon. Socialist voters simply went back home. The Green Party is in serious trouble.

The Green Party was founded to address Limits to Growth, the MIT report drawing attention to the physical limits of the ecosphere. Oddly enough, it was I who startled the four founder members by the prediction that they had just started a Socialist party, because ensuring social justice whilst limiting economic activity would entail drastic redistribution (through the Basic Income).

The ‘Target to Win’ strategy achieved its purpose of large numbers of bums on council seats, so for some time it did not matter that the global need for a ‘steady state’ economy was forgotten.

The 1989 Euro Election was fought with a passionate band of Socialist activists, but the result demonstrated what has always been obvious, that it is easier for the better off to heed constraints on economic activity than those with limited means. Greens polled 2.3 million, as compared to 1.15 million at the 2015 ‘high water mark’. In England, the Green vote was consistently between 40% and 45% of whatever the Conservative vote was. We lost those when they heard about the redistribution, but I shall come back to that later.

There were two largely overlooked trends: although Thatcher made the Conservatives popular, a minority uneasy at her approach switched to the newly invented Lib Dems. In 1997 Blair adopted Thatcher’s ‘aspirational’ message, but a gradually increasing trickle noticed that the Green Party was closer to what they wanted than Labour.

That locked the Green Party into the course which led to the 2017 result. Our 2015 Manifesto was more Socialist than Ed Miliband’s, but light on environmental still less ‘ecological’ references.

No one could have predicted Corbyn’s Lazarus-style resurrection of the Labour Party, but they had adopted several Green policies, so that regardless of tactical voting, there was in any case little or no point in voting for an almost identical party which would still be on the fringe.

As Corbyn’s campaigning success became apparent, I was cringing at the looming disaster. Rather than help with an illusory ‘final push’ in Bristol West, I spent the last 5 days of the election campaign in the Green Party’s best 2015 result in a Conservative seat – Isle of Wight.

But that outstanding 2017 result is not mentioned among the ‘positive’ consolations. Of our 10 saved deposits, the only Labour seats were the target failures in Bristol West and Sheffield Central. In three, special factors probably dominated, Buckingham (Speaker), Glasgow North (SNP) and Down North (Independent, DUP territory), and one, Skipton & Ripon was due to a local pact with the Lib Dems which would almost certainly have happened without the Progressive Alliance.

That leaves four which clearly bucked the general trend, all in Conservative or DUP heartlands: Isle of Wight, Herefordshire North, Hertfordshire North East, and Belfast South. I have not researched this, but in the May local elections, I believe the general trend was losses to Labour, and gains from Conservatives.

I can understand why many rank and file Green Party members still think they are on the same side as Labour against their old enemy, but there are two important differences which we should always have made clear. Firstly, Labour may appear to take climate change seriously, but that is nonsense if policies still depend on economic growth.

But ecological footprints means that we must address the ‘right wing’ issues of population and immigration. There are so called ‘primitive’ societies which (until invaded) lived within the limits of their environment which we would do well to study. A basic income given to every individual world-wide would not of itself bring about the necessary mental paradigm shift, but it would make it possible, where now it is not for the vast majority.

A Basic income for everyone would also allow those desperate to escape poverty (in many places climate generated) not to migrate. These ideas need working on, and the Green Party is the natural home for this to happen, but it is possible to combine social justice with a sustainable economy.

But we must approach those who will lose through redistribution in sorrow, not in anger. Doorstepping in Conservative areas establishes that they are worried about the climate. But they will not listen as long as we appear to be using the environment as a pretext to win the ancient class war and confiscate their wealth.

Belief in the Progressive Alliance is understandable among those who used to be Labour. But I find such a belief incomprehensible in our leadership. The true cause of the 2017 result is avoided in the report to Conference, but it should be equally obvious that to the Labour Party, the Green Party is a flea on its back, to be destroyed in case it becomes a vampire.

We should never have positioned ourselves as better at Socialism than Labour, but until they see us taking votes from their enemies it is preposterous to expect any co-operation.

Oddly enough, I did propose a ‘Progressive Alliance Mark II’ It failed to gain acceptance by Leeds Green Party by 17 votes to 19, but I sent it to the leadership anyway. They ignored it. I suggested that as a national strategy we should do what chessplayers would call a gambit – an apparent mistake. In the full knowledge that we would receive nothing in return, we would stand aside in a handful of Tory held marginals, and some seats lost by the Lib Dems in 2015. This was when it still looked as though T May was serenely on course for a landslide. Its sole purpose was to emphasise the need for a hung parliament, something lost sight of in the event. Or was it? My hypothesis fits the result better than the claim that 600,000 deserting Greens didn’t understand tactical voting. It might have provoked some horse trading between Labour and Lib Dems.

When I joined what became the Green Party in 1973 I had a vision of why the new Party was needed – in a word, sustainability. It is needed now, but the present Green Party is seen as pointless by the millions who should be voting for us. Please re-kindle that vision.

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