A Green appeal to Corbynistas
Joseph Elliott, Secretary of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, shares his view on the tumult in the UK Labour Party.
Writing an obituary on Corbyn’s leadership as he grapples to hold his shadow cabinet together may be perceived as distastefully pre-emptive. Although the body of his leadership is not yet cold, in fact it is evident that Jeremy is intent on not going down without a fight, it seems clear at this stage that Jeremy is going down.
As somebody who celebrated Corbyn’s approach to politics (‘straight talking, honest politics’), it is disheartening to see his demise. It makes me uncomfortable to pitch a stall at the wake of Labour’s failed and poorly executed experiment in genuinely progressive left wing politics; perhaps because it’s not in my nature to attempt to capitalise on another’s misfortune, perhaps because I was holding out hope that Corbyn would pull it off. However, following the imminent implosion of the Labour Party and its subsequent rebirth perhaps as something reminiscent of Blairite Labour, I see this as an opportunity to offer a positive alternative for disenfranchised Labour members.
The invitation says that they do not have to hang up their activist boots, to surrender in their struggle for social justice and for a society reflecting socialist values. It says that while they may lose a bike-cycling, anti-war, pro-sustainability, vegetarian, social justice advocating leader, there is another Party that reflects these values. Harnessing (or perhaps ‘reclaiming’) these stereotypes, it is evident that my proposition is going to be an invitation to join the Green Party: Corbyn’s politics and the politics of the Green Party have significant overlap and this is the right time to get involved in the Green movement.
Both Corbyn and the Greens support the principle of asking the wealthiest in society to contribute more in taxation for the benefit of society as a whole. The Greens are strong advocates of a living wage and support a £10 minimum wage, a policy advocated by shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Economic inequality is not the most media friendly political issue, but it is one that the Green Party are determined to address, acknowledging its role as a catalyst of social ills. Describing the ‘grotesque inequality’ in the UK, Corbyn stated that while we all want greater prosperity, we need to have a serious debate about how the wealth is created and shared.
Ecology and energy
During his leadership bid Corbyn published his own ‘Protecting our Planet Manifesto’ which emphasised the importance of investment in green technologies, a phasing out of fossil fuel extraction and a ban on fracking. Typically conceptualised as the cornerstone of Green Politics, sustainability and environmentalism are major areas in which Corbyn politics largely overlaps with Green politics. It goes without saying that the Green Party are strong advocates for renewable energy and sustainable practices, and are the most vocal of naysayers about the UK Governments lack of action on climate change. We envision a future of sustainable farming and fishing practices and one which is not dependent on fossil fuels.
Pledging to extend the 1967 Abortion Act and same-sex marriage provision to Northern Ireland, Corbyn shares ideological space with Northern Irelands Green Party. To say he is a vocal advocate on LGBT rights is an understatement. He also created the first female majority shadow cabinet. Corbyn is a defender of immigration and has spoken out against racism, as well as being a long time campaigner on animal rights issues. As a Green Party member I feel that it is stating the obvious to reaffirm that these are issues the Green Party are strong on. The LGBTIQ Greens in England and Wales and the Queer Greens in Northern Ireland are vocal campaigners on LGBTQ+ issues. Also the Green Party Animal Manifesto presents a strong case that a Green vote gives a voice to animals. The Green Party is a natural home for feminists, with our membership passionate about creating a society reflecting the principle of gender equality. As an international movement the Green Party is occupied by people from across the globe. Releasing our own BME manifesto we celebrate diversity as a strength of our society.
The Health Service
Corbyn and the Greens both want to see a NHS that is publicly run and publicly accountable. The NHS should be run entirely free from the corrupting influence that profit can have, and it should go without saying that no-one’s wallet should be benefiting from essential health care. The creation of the position of Minister of Mental Health in his shadow cabinet indicated Corbyn’s commitment to addressing the current poor provision of mental health services across the UK, a recognition present in the Green Party’s comprehensive policies on mental health.
The Military and Foreign Affairs
One of the four pillars of Green politics is ‘non-violence’, serving as a premise of Green Party policy positions. While we recognise that there are threats which may require military solutions, the Green Party favours the use of dialogue and diplomacy over bombs and bullets. The Green Party and Corbyn both recognise that there is no place for Trident nuclear weapons in our world, as they are unsuitable for tackling some very real threats we might face today. As already stated, the Green Party is a global movement and we are enthusiastic to work with like-minded groups across the world and engage in constructive debate with those whose views we disagree with.
Democracy and electoral reform
The Green Party are campaigning for electoral reform to see a system of voting whereby a majority government cannot be formed on a share of 37% of a national vote; where a 5% share of the vote saw the SNP claiming 56 seats while a share of 12% and 4% saw UKIP and the Greens respectively take one seat each. We are campaigning for proportional representation so that Westminster reflects the political landscape of the UK rather than perpetuating the two party system that suppresses alternative voices.
The EU Referendum
The Labour Party and the Green Party both campaigned for a Remain vote. Polling indicated that of the UK parties, the Green Party members turned out the strongest majority for a Remain vote. We recognise the need for a reformed European Union, but we advocate staying in the room to fight for reform rather than walking away.
The Green Party is a steadily growing movement in the UK, gaining momentum year on year. In Northern Ireland we have seen a surge in membership and teams of passionate activists stepping up to help return two Green Party MLAs to the Stormont Assembly in 2016. In 2016 the Scottish Green Party surpassed the Liberal Democrats to become the fourth biggest party in Holyrood with six MSPs, gaining four on the 2011 elections. The Green Party of England and Wales saw a surge in membership prior to the General Election in 2015, and although no gains in seats were made, the massive increase in support was reflected by a 2.8% vote share increase.
So as the Parliamentary Labour Party stamp out the cinders of Corbyn’s bright but fast-burning leadership, I would volunteer the opportunity to get involved in the movement that is gaining momentum in the UK and across Europe. A movement that will not be snuffed, the Green Party is fresh, vibrant and exciting. As we navigate the new reality of life outside the European Union, we stay true to our values with reinvigorated determination to see a better United Kingdom that works for the common good. Get involved, and help us change the UK for the better.