Wednesday, 1 October 2014

You don't have to be Scottish to join the Green Party surge


In 2014 the two main non-traditional parties in Scottish politics (the SNP and the Scottish Greens) have seen their parties swell with unprecedented floods of new members, but the English political landscape is changing too, albeit more slowly.

Scotland

"Project Fear" succeeded in driving the majority of Scottish pensioners to vote en masse against independence and defeat the under-65s, the majority of whom who voted in favour of political change.

The politically energised under-65s haven't simply given up because the older generations torpedoed their dream a better, fairer and more accountable political system for Scotland. They're determined to carry on the fight to improve Scottish politics by throwing their support behind the political parties that offered them an alternative to the continuation of the unacceptable Westminster consensus.

The Scottish National Party welcomed so many new members in the weeks after the referendum that they now have significantly more party members in Scotland (population 5.3 million) than the Liberal Democrat party has in the whole of the UK (population 64 million)!

The growth in membership of the Scottish Green party has been even more spectacular. At the end of 2013 the Scottish Greens had just 1,178 members. As of late-September 2014 they had 6,237+. That's a growth rate of 429% over a nine month period!

This extraordinary rise in popularity of the two pro-independence parties in Scotland suggests that there is going to be a sea change in Scottish politics. If these two parties between them return just 6 out of Scotland's 59 Westminster MPs in 2015 (as is the case now) it will be a huge surprise. The Scottish Liberal Democrats are dead in the water and will do well to retain just a couple of the eleven Scottish MPs they have now, and the Scottish Labour party looks set to learn that siding with the Tories against the working age people of Scotland is a very complacent move indeed.

The independence debate has energised Scottish politics and awoken a desire for significant political change amongst the working people of Scotland. They have become sick and tired of the cosy consensus of the three Westminster establishment parties (austerity, privatisation, deregulation of the financial services, an economy centred on the City of London, industrial decline, repressed wages and labour rights, overbearing state surveillance, a brutal and draconian welfare system and a blind eye to corporate tax-dodging). Now it looks like, despite the defeat for the independence movement, tens of thousands of Scottish workers are deadly serious about doing something to oppose the toxic Westminster consensus.

England

The evidence suggests that people in England are just as sick of the Westminster establishment, their rip-off privatisation scams, their relentless expenses scamming and their insistence that the working age public bear the brunt of austerity whilst the super-rich elite become wealthier at a faster rate than ever.

 The surge in Green Party membership in England and Wales has been nowhere near as dramatic as in Scotland, but an increase of 42% (from 13,800 to 19,300) in a nine month period is impressive stuff, given that the overall trend in British politics has been declining political participation and ever increasing voter apathy.

One of the clearest indicators of the fact that the three Westminster parties are hopelessly out of touch with the will of the public is that none of them will touch renationalisation with a barge pole, yet the vast majority of the British electorate want to see our water mains, our energy companies and our rail network returned to public ownership, and the NHS run as a not-for-profit public service, instead of getting carved up and given away to private health profiteers, as is happening right now.

The biggest party by far to propose the renationalisation policies that the vast majority of the British public want to see is the Green Party, and since the English electorate have no option of voting for the SNP or Plaid Cymru, the choice for those who oppose the establishment three, is essentially reduced to the Green Party or UKIP. There are of course other minor parties and independent candidates, but of the non-traditional parties the Greens and UKIP are by far the most likely to actually win any seats and get to represent the views of their voters in parliament.

My views on UKIP are clear. They're a Trojan horse party, bankrolled by former Tory party donors, stuffed with failed and defected Tories and led by a privately educated former Tory party activist and stock broker. They are not an "alternative", they are a "Thatcherism on steroids" party offering an even more brutal version of Thatcherism than the 35 years we've already suffered since 1979.


In terms of presenting genuinely alternative policies the Green Party beat UKIP and the SNP hands down. I'll outline a few of the policies that really mark them out as a party determined to present a bold progressive alternative to the Westminster consensus.

  • Renationalisation: Despite the relentless pro-privatisation agenda of the Westminster establishment and the mainstream media, the vast majority of the UK public believe in the renationalisation of fundamental services like health, energy infrastructure, public transport and water.

    The Tories and Lib-Dems have totally ignored this widespread public opposition to privatisation in order to privatise the Royal Mail, huge swathes of the NHS, and over 3,000 primary and secondary schools. They also plan to sell off the profitable parts of the probation service too before 2015, if they can get away with it. New Labour kicked off most of these privatisations (PFI hospitals and schools, private sector health providers, academy schools, Royal Mail privatisation plans). And even now, all they dare offer is ridiculous pseudo-socialist tinkering like freezing energy prices for 20 months instead of the energy market renationalisation that the public actually want to see.

    Anyone expecting UKIP to set off on a renationalisation agenda is living in cloud-cuckoo land. This leaves the Green party as by far the biggest party in the United Kingdom offering the public what they actually want; a party to renationalise vital infrastructure and oppose further privatisations.
  • Opposition to TTIP: Another thing that makes the Green party really stand out as an alternative is the fact that they are by far the biggest party to explicitly oppose the TTIP corporate power grab. The Tories and the Lib-Dems are firmly in favour of it, the SNP have made lots of positive noises about it, the UKIP leadership have remained completely silent about it (because openly expressing their support would betray their utter hypocrisy) and the Labour party only seem to want to tinker around with it to ensure an exemption for the NHS.

    The Green Party are the largest political party to explicitly oppose TTIP, rather than openly supporting it, refusing to talk about it, or cherry-picking one or two small aspects to quibble about whilst supporting the rest of it. 
The Green party and the media

In blind tests it turned out that the Green Party has by far the most popular policies, however hardly anyone votes for them. In my view two of the main problems are the fact that the mainstream media completely ignore them, and that when they are talked about, people like to lazily caricature them as "a bunch of hopeless tree-hugging hippies" instead of spending a few minutes bothering to learn anything about their actual policies.

One of the biggest problems that the Green party faces is that they are largely ignored by the mainstream media, and when they are mentioned it is often in a negative light. There are several reasons for this including the fact that Rupert Murdoch and the Daily Mail absolutely hate the Green party; the fact that the majority of news editors and political journalists are loyalists of one or other of the establishment political parties; and the fact that an ever growing percentage of mainstream media journalists are lazy people who prefer to get paid for doing little more than rehashing government press releases or articles from other newspapers, instead of actually doing any investigative or analytic work of their own.


What would joining the Green party achieve

There are four important things that joining the Green party could achieve.

The first is that the Green party needs every activist it can get in order to try and counter the bias and hostility of the establishment operated mainstream media.

The second is that the Greens really need to up their game and stand MPs in every constituency they can, and without sufficient activists, this will be impossible. Politics isn't just about putting a cross next to a name every five years, it's about working hard to achieve the changes you want to see in society. If you don't stand up and fight for what you believe in, you've not really got any substantial grounds for complaint if the next government turns out to be a pack of complete bastards who only ever bother to serve the interests of their wealthy donors and their core demographics.

The third thing is that the Green party needs as many good people to hold them to account as possible. If you join your local Green party, you can attend meetings and "get in their face" if they do anything you disapprove of, and offer them praise and support when they do things you find agreeable. The more people who join the Green Party, the more people there will be to hold them to account, and the better the Green party will become.

The fourth thing that a significant surge in Green party membership could achieve is a change in the mentality of the Labour party. Everyone has witnessed how the Tories have moved further and further to the right in order to slow down the exodus of defectors from their party to UKIP. If the Green party could establish themselves as a credible threat to Labour party support, perhaps this would inspire them to put down the handbook of ideological right-wing dogma they've been using since 1994 and get back to being the social democratic party that the majority of their voters still want them to be.

If a minor non-traditional party like the Greens were to double their membership and attract around 10% of the vote at the 2015 General Election on a platform of social justice and renationalisation, the Labour party leadership would be forced to consider ditching the right-wing economic ideology they've been pushing for two decades and booting neoliberals like Ed Balls out of the party leadership forever.

What else could we do other than join the party?

Some people don't have the money, or the inclination to join a political party, and that's fair enough. Even if you don't want to join the Green Party, there are still a few things that you can do to help push politics away from ideological neoliberalism and back towards social democracy.

  • You could follow the Green Party on Facebook or on Twitter. Social media is going to play a bigger role than ever before in the 2015 General Election, and the parties with the strongest social media campaigns will make the most significant gains, especially with the 18-55 demographics.
  • If you are a Labour party voter you could write to your local Labour representative (your MP or your MEP) telling them that you are considering abandonment of the Labour party because the Green party offer a less right-wing political agenda. If enough people did this it would help by giving the Labour party a load of tiny little nudges in the right direction. The combination of enough nudges could result in a hefty shove.
  • You could spend a few minutes familiarising yourself with actual Green Party policies (this website provides a concise guide to Green Party policy). Then next time you hear someone mouthing off like an ignorant sub-Clarksonesque cockwomble about how the Green Party "would ban cars, force us to eat tofu and make us weave our own sandals out of mung beans", you can confront them with some real Green Party policies such as monetary reform, increased science funding, basic income, renationalisation of the energy companies or opposition to TTIP, providing them with an education, and making yourself look like a political expert in the process.
Conclusion

I'm not going to tell you that you must support the Green Party, but I do suggest that you learn some more about what their actual policies are and at least consider it.

If you decide against supporting the Green Party that's perfectly fine with me, however what is not fine is doing nothing.

If you don't attempt to get involved with politics in any way (joining a political party, becoming an activist or candidate, supporting political campaign groups like 38 Degrees or Positive Money
attending street protests, participating in boycotts, writing to your political representatives, signing petitions, voting in elections, or simply talking about political issues with your friends and family), then you have absolutely no grounds for complaint when the political system completely ignores what you want.
"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." Plato

Link to join the Green Party of England and Wales

Link to join the Scottish Greens


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