Why Corbynmania is a win for the Green Party
Deb Joffe is a Green Party Councillor in Bristol. This article was originally published on her personal blog, here.
It’s difficult as a Green not to feel a little conflicted about the rise of Jeremy Corbyn. After all the policies he is espousing are pretty much identical in many cases to those the Greens championed during the General Election. Against austerity and fracking; in favour of state ownership of the rail network; cancelling the renewal of Trident; a humane and intelligent response to immigration. Indeed Jeremy’s latest soundbite about education is lifted straight from the strapline of the Green Party Manifesto: ‘For the Common Good’.
Not only did the Labour Party not stand on this manifesto (far from it), but they also received a lot of votes from the very people who are now excited about Corbyn. Much of this may be due to the electoral system which favours the big parties and the breadth of ‘tactical’ voting which went on across the country (in the end to no avail). In Bristol we estimated about 18,000 people may have split their vote, electing Green councillors but ‘playing safe’ in the national elections, even in seats which were nowhere near marginal such as Bristol East or South.
There is also a wariness in the party that now that Labour’s failure to oppose the Tories has been made crystal clear, the people who might have turned finally to the Greens are hanging in with the Labour Party in the hope that Corbyn will be the new leader. It must be true that the Greens are losing out here on potential new members and supporters.
Nonetheless I see the enthusiasm for Corbyn as a success for the Green Party. The Greens (along with the SNP and Plaid Cymru) held the torch of opposition to mainstream neoliberalism and the austerity programme throughout the General Election. For all the criticism of Natalie Bennett’s technique, people on the doorstep told us they liked what she had to say. That torch is – for now- in the hands of a man who might actually be able to set something on fire.
The point of the Green Party is to see its policies implemented. We can achieve this directly through electoral success or through shifting political discourse towards the environmental sustainability and social justice which are our core values. Electoral success and the agenda shift are of course interconnected and voting Green certainly turns the heads of the parties who lose votes in the process. In Bristol City Council the Liberal Democrats demise has coincided with the Green’s rise but the Tories and Labour are also finding it harder to hold their seats.
I am in no way suggesting we should not stand for election. The Green Party is not simply a pressure group. However we have to recognise, with the electoral system we have, that success may not always come in the form of winning seats. Watching a major party shift its position towards our own has to be viewed gladly. After all it is the policy not the party that counts.