Despite Corbyn’s leadership, Labour remains committed to regressive, corrupt politics
In the months since Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, the emergence of Momentum and the promise of a new type of politics, many Greens look on enviously.
Labour have successfully relaunched their party as a progressive and inclusive social movement, and the result of this has been a tidal wave of support from passionate young activists – the type of activists that were joining our own party by the thousands just seven or eight months ago during the ‘Green surge’. It’s perhaps understandable that a collective paralysis has set in, the energy and enthusiasm of early 2015 having evaporated as we all attempt to come to terms with what Corbyn’s leadership means for us as a political party.
Despite the rhetoric however, little has changed on the ground – and in Labour-controlled local authorities up and down the country, their policy-making remains as regressive and corrupt as ever. Arguably one of the most disgusting policy initiatives to be proposed at a local level in some years is the idea of utilising Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO’s) to effectively criminalise homelessness – not a policy dreamt up by the Conservatives as you might well expect, but an idea that has been given serious consideration by Labour-controlled councils in areas as far afield as Manchester, Newport, Liverpool, Cheshire West & Chester and Hackney. For all the rhetorical flourish of Corbyn’s “new politics”, this looks and smells much more like the rancid, rotting corpse of New Labour than anything particularly fresh or revolutionary.
Since the general election a few months ago, the local Labour Party in Merseyside where I live have also been busy putting plans in place to sell a significant portion of green space in Liverpool to property developers, so that they can build yet more luxury yuppie apartments, following a farcically green-washed consultation process headed up by a former Brookside actor. What better way to outsource a potentially unpopular decision than to bring in a soap star, and give the whole process a showbiz-friendly public face?
In recent months Liverpool Labour have also been busy cutting the majority of funding for libraries in the city, forcing most of them to be run on a voluntary basis only – and even more insultingly have re-branded this as a victory for “community run public services” – propaganda the Tories would be proud of.
In the same short period of time, my local Labour Party have also conspired with the Conservative Communities and Local Government minister Greg Clarke to force through a quasi-presidential “metro mayor” agreement encompassing the whole of Merseyside, further eroding democratic accountability in the region, and significantly entrenching Labour’s position as stewards of a deeply undemocratic one party state as a direct result of the broken First Past The Post electoral system we’re forced to tolerate in English local elections. Proposals from the Liverpool Greens to consider more democratic alternatives such as a regional Merseyside assembly fell on deaf ears, and dissenting councillors subjected to vitriol and abuse both inside and outside the council chamber.
And yet so many of my friends and colleagues in the Green Party continue to heap praise on Jeremy Corbyn, despite the fact that all of this has happened under his leadership. This is simply not good enough. As a committed democratic socialist, I mean this in the most constructive possible way: we need to wake up and stop participating in the ludicrously counter-productive worship of Jeremy Corbyn as the left-wing messiah, and concentrate instead on getting more Greens elected in our target wards and constituencies.
As far as the day-to-day operation of the Labour Party is concerned, nothing has fundamentally changed since the general election. They are still a regressive political organisation, and they are still an obstacle to genuine change. Greens need to stop fawning over the leader of another political party, and start committing themselves to constructive activism that will produce more Green councillors over the next five years, and more Green MPs in 2020 – that’s the only way we’re going to achieve genuine change for the better both locally and nationally – and the only way we can continue to take positive steps towards delivering a true alternative to austerity, tackling climate change, creating more robustly democratic structures, and all the numerous other vitally important issues that we all care so passionately about.