Why I’m not a member of the Labour Party
Lefty blogger Ellie Mae has just joined the Labour Party. She explains why over at Liberal Conspiracy. So, I thought I’d follow the trend, and write about my membership status in that party: that is, why I am not a member of the Labour Party. Of course, an obvious place to start would be with ideology. As Bright Green’s Gary Dunion puts it “why should politics be more complicated than ‘I’m left wing. I’m not going to join a right wing party’?”.
And, make no mistake – Labour is a right wing party. In her piece, Ellie spits with fury at Labour’s ‘Third Way’. Presumably because she recognises there is no such thing – Blair’s philosophy turned out to be less Giddens and more Friedman, with mass privatisation, stripping of any industrial policy, and an increased reliance on markets. Or we could talk about immigrant bashing. Or a legacy of the most unequal society since the Victorian era. Or increasing carbon emissions, or Afghanistan and Palestine. Or forcing trade deals on developing countries that have locked millions into poverty. Or, you know, Iraq.
I could give the simple argument “I’m not a member of the Labour Party because I am a member of the Green Party. I spend elections knocking on doors asking people to vote for candidates who I know believe in basically the same things as I do.” And for me, that is important.
But that all seems unfair. Because Ellie (and others on the left who have recently joined Labour) happily agrees that she doesn’t believe in many of the policies of the Labour Party. She might even accept that she agrees with more Green Party policies. So let’s look at why she has said she has joined – both because the arguments are worth considering, and because they are the same used by many on the left who have joined Miliband’s Party in the last few months.
The first argument is that her priorities have shifted. Whereas before, she hoped to build a better future, now she just wants to stop the cuts being forced on the country by the coalition government. The only way she sees to do this is through trades unions, as represented by Labour. Now, I agree that stopping these cuts is important. But I don’t see how Labour will do that – they support massive cuts too, and, just as importantly, they have spent the last 13 years pushing through mass privatisation. Sure, they were assaulting the country more slowly than the Tories, and yes, that is important. But it is hardly worth fighting for, and it’s hardly saving something if you then plan to destroy it a little more slowly. Similarly, the unions (or many of them, at least) may still be a constituted part of the Labour Party. But no where in her piece does Ellie explain why the fact that I believe in unions means that I should agree with the decision some of them have made to remain affiliated to Labour after 13 years in which the party did nothing to repeal the laws that make it so hard for shop stewards to lead the fightback against cuts. If it’s the unions you believe in (and I certainly do), then you can join, and become active in, a union. You don’t need to join the Labour Party.
But, beyond that, we can’t accept the idea that the best we can hope for is that things become worse more slowly. Our children deserve better than that.
But again, I am not being entirely fair. Because I have avoided Ellie’s second point, and her most important. She hopes that she can (with others) reform the Labour Party. I can respect that. But I don’t see how. Labour is not a democratic party. New members have very little say over policy. The only way that you can gain any significant influence is through climbing the slippery ladder. And that means supporting people that 1970s Tories would have considered loony right wingers. And all that time, you are pushing candidates who are dragging British politics to the right. I can see a route to reform the Lib Dems. They have democratic policy processes (sort of). But after 2 decades of trying, the left in Labour is weaker than it has ever been – many of their decent MPs stood down at the last election. And no, Ed Miliband is not on the left of the Party. The fact that some think he is is just a sign of how bad things have got. If your strategy is to infiltrate a right wing party and make it less right wing, why not go the whole hog and go for one of the ones which have power at the moment?
But, ultimately, I don’t see how being a member of the Labour Party is the best way to reform it. Surely that is a basic failure to understand how negotiation works? If you want to send a message to Labour that ‘No matter how hard you swing to the right, no matter that you screw over refugees and dismantle the public sector, no matter how much you hand our national economy to a tiny elite, and no matter how much you gloat about it, you can always rely on the support of the left’, then join the Labour Party. If you want to send a clear message ‘keep tacking to the right, because no matter how far you go, we’ll always be right behind you’ then join the Labour Party. And tell them that there is absolutely no point whatsoever in changing any of these policies. Because they can rely on your support anyway. If Labour is going to reform, then they have to understand that moving to the right means losing supporters, members, activists – and voters.
And so, if you want to reform Labour, join the only properly organised party to their left – the Green Party. That isn’t why I’m a member. I’m a member because I want to help build a better world. Because I think that the way that the neo-liberals win is by making us believe that the best we can hope for is that the grit being ground into our faces doesn’t go in our eyes. Because I think that history shows that radical social change isn’t only possible, but happens all the time. But, if your reason for joining a political party is because you want to reform the Labour Party, then why would you think that Labour is the party to join to do that?
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I am a member of Labour and have been for many years. I realised a number of years ago that some one had to stay behind each time a group from the left or right railed against the leadership because they lost an argument at some point, and stormed off with an “i’m not playing anymore. Some times groups were ejected from the playing area, so to speak, because they would not go along with the rules of the game. Many end up coming back, and others move over to Labour also, my own local party has ex greens, and the local Greens have ex-labour people.
All of us have to ask why the arguments of the left gain no traction. I don’t mean the blame the media or similar quasi marxist conspiracy of capital discussions The arguments are plain to see and freely available these days via the internet, why aren’t they accessed, taken up and massive demands made for them a la egypt or tunisia or anywhere for that matter? Because they do not have popular appeal. To put it bluntly what part of “don’t have popular appeal” is it that you don’t get?”
I know in some parts of the country Greens on the right have joined the Tories because of the influx of left leaners who call themselves green and taken over the party, and other more eco minded greens have left or been removed because of partisan politics. A number of ex Labour, SWP, WRP people are now heavily involved in the Green Party.
Nothing is really as clear cut as the article suggests, and the cut and thrust of the politics of power is very different then idealising from the wings. Nick Clegg has found this out and fast.
What is good is by having a more credible Party to the left will keep Labour more connected to its roots. In the old days they said when The CP was strong Labour gained from its strength.
Although it’s becoming a matter of survival to get the Tories out, Labour wasn’t without their own horrors:
Lest we forget Blair came after a 17-year effort to get rid of the Tories.
Right now I’ve voted Labour more times than everything else put together, but I’m approaching the tipping point. On one level I still regard myself as a Labour supporter – it’s just that Labour no longer exists, maybe it never did.
To me it comes down to what policies I support. Whether its Afghanistan, private sector involvement in public services, climate change, or civil liberties Labour’s policies are very different from mine and so it would make no sense for me to go and campaign for candidate who will oppose the things I want to happen and advocate things I do not want to happen.
Sadly I think Labour degeneration is irreversible, and it probably wasn’t that great in the first place. That doesn’t mean that the Greens will become the party of government this generation or ever – lots of acorns never become oak trees – but the existence of alternatives who *do* make a difference means at least there is hope of change.
I was at one time long ago. When Clause 4 was on the front of my membership card. Never again and for four, to me at least, very compelling reasons.
1. In the long term just Labour absorbs radical Left energy. Directs it into careerism and the minor eddies of political controversy. A safe and cosy home. All the entrists over the many years I have watched them, good people so many of them, have in the end achieve nothing so much as the dissipation of their energies. How well it suites the ruling class to have a broad-based Labour Party that “includes” and dilutes their message.
2. I came to understand that better conditions for the workers and trade unionism were not enough. We need to fight for the rights of future people yet unborn and those in other lands yet un-free from the tyranny of deprivation. In a finite planet that means recognising the central issues of the need to reduce consumption. And, yes, to me that means I am anti-capitalist, but I am, first and foremost, a green anti-capitalist.
3. The Labour Party is, and actually always has been, but much more so now, fundamentally authoritarian. Sometimes, as we saw with the last Labour government, dangerously so – taking us into war and the obscenity of high prison populations and 24 days detentions without charge.
4. I aspire for something better from myself than such a shoddy compromise as that. Honour and principle still mean something to us Greens. There is very little in the huge tome of the Policies for a Sustainable Society that I don’t just accept, but hold to be important truth that I am prepared to defend with vigour and enthusiasm.
“Look at today for example: Ed Miliband announced he will give a speech at the TUC march. Can you honestly imagine Blair doing that? Miliband is speaking, not because he’s some philanthropic lefty, but because he recognises anti-cuts sentiment when he sees it.”
Yes, I totally can imagine Blair doing exactly that, if he were in Miliband’s position today. (I’m old enough to be able to remember the wonderful things Blair said in opposition.) He’s doing it not because he’s some philanthropic lefty, but because he’s a cynical political opportunist who recognises the opportunity to associate himself with popular sentiment without any immediate danger of actually having to implement it in Parliament. There is no relation between their claimed sentiments when in opposition and their actions when in government.
How do I know he’s a cynical political opportunist? Simple: there is no other route to becoming the leader of an established major political party. (And yes, should the Greens ever achieve that status, we will face exactly the same problem. It’s an inevitable result of group dynamics and social psychology.)
I’m mystified by the idea that people, even in large numbers, can change Labour by joining it. Decisions haven’t been made democratically for a generation, and there’s no way to restore that without some kind of serious internal coup.
The leadership won’t change because they’re tied to the same corporate vested interests that Blair was, and the membership can’t, even if all the left had stayed rather than leaving for disillusionment, Greenery or other politics. They’ve been internally disenfranchised.
I agree that Caroline Lucas probably isn’t going to be Britain’s next PM. But working with others to elect one more person you agree with on the issues, even at local council level, achieves a lot more than propping up and endorsing the bland managerial centre that EdM occupies.
Plus what Stuart said – in 1900 you wouldn’t have thought Labour would be less than three decades from office, ditto the SNP in 1969.
New parties arise because the issues they seek change on aren’t dealt with by the existing choices – in 1900 it was the rampant exploitation of the working classes, in the sixties Scottish self-determination.
The rise of the Greens globally is a response to two issues, though, and especially here in the UK. Sure, the other parties have no practical response to climate change (and the chief inactivist is now Labour’s leader), but there is also now no-one else in Parliament prepared to put the interests of the poorest in society ahead of the captains of banking. Every other party wooed them during the bubble years, and every other party is trying to refloat the same failed model now (with the odd press release sounding radical to placate the angry public).
Labour in particular have failed to adhere to their historic mission and founding purpose: they’ve lost their way. Their institutional weaknesses make it inconceivable they’ll get back to it. So we’ll take that on too. It’s not like the issues aren’t linked anyway.
Please stop saying that the green party is the only party of the left. The SSP are still active, we’re growing and i’m sure we’ll get some MSPs again.
Maybe this is because in Scotland we’ve actually seen a political party grow from virtually nothing into a government in 50 years (SNP), but I find Ellie’s comments on the Green Party deeply depressing.
Political Parties grow and die away all over the world (see SNP in Scotland/Greens in Germany and Liberals in Australia), and they do so because people take a leap of faith- they are won over by the fact that there is another way, and they have the courage to join parties that they want to build for the future, and rightly or wrongly, bring about an improvement in society.
In the UK, but particularly England, entrenched traditions win out right. You’re either red or blue, with us or against us, while at the same time these parties are interested in pandering to a small part of society where the swing votes are, rather than sticking to what they believe in.
I grew up in the Scottish Borders, where one of the most popular saying of the older generations was “its aye been” (its always been). Not a great message for the youth who want to change things, who see injustices and want action to stop them- the Borders is a beautiful place, but I was glad when I left at 18. Its sad to see this thinking has seeped down to even the brightest political brains in this country.
So, Ellie doesn’t choose the Greens because they can’t influence anything- at Westminster, that’s true. But I believe that politics is a marathon, not a sprint. Every party has to start from somewhere, and the Greens are on the same trajectory as Labour were at the turn of the century and the SNP were back in 1967, when they won their 1st MPs.
There must be something fundamentally wrong with our democracy when people who are involved in politics and understand it, don’t feel comfortable with the party that best represents their political views.
Its depressing because the Greens are really the only party of the left, and it won’t grow unless we take people like Ellie with us- I’ve largely blamed this on political cultural here, but may be that’s more a flaw in the Greens?
George says it for me
I don’t think it really matters what Labour is like now. As my dad once said, politicians are followers, not leaders. It doesn’t matter that they’re not anti-cuts now. What matters is whether they can change. And I think they can – not to the extent that I would like, admittedly, but they can.
Look at today for example: Ed Miliband announced he will give a speech at the TUC march. Can you honestly imagine Blair doing that? Miliband is speaking, not because he’s some philanthropic lefty, but because he recognises anti-cuts sentiment when he sees it. Personally I’d rather he march with us, but there you go. I’m used to politicians disappointing me.
As I see it, the Labour Party is currently trying to rediscover its identity. Ed Miliband kind of brought an end to the New Labour brand, but not quite (and if you’re sensible, you realise a lot of it is just PR anyway – their more suspect policies were pushed through by people sitting in Ed Miliband’s cabinet). But I say again, politicians are followers, not leaders. If there is currently a vacuum where a party identity should be, I think the left should take advantage of that and try and steer the party in a better direction.
Now obviously the right way to do that might not be to join the party itself. But I’ve already had a lot more interest today from Labour MPs than I did before. So they’re clearly interested in new members. Whether that has any significance I don’t know. But this post by Richard Seymour sums it up well: http://leninology.blogspot.com/2010/09/few-points-about-ed-milibands-victory.html#
When it comes to the Green Party, I’m sorry to make this point because I hate this argument, but you are not going to be running this country any time soon. I appreciate that you can make gains locally, which is great. But the next government of this country will be Labour. That being the case, it has to be as benevolent as possible.
Also, for personal reasons (as I explain in Part 2 on my blog) I’d been toying with this for a while, and I just had to try it. I’m aware of the volume of former Labourites desperate to reconnect with the party in the face of something worse, and I need to know if it’s the right thing to do – or the Right thing to do. I will be writing about it a lot, I’m sure.
Finally, when I made this decision, I was prepared to take a lot of shit from people I knew would be disappointed. Frankly I’m surprised at how much interest people have taken in my opinions. But I’m getting really fucking tired of having to fend off accusations from people who seem to think I’ve shifted to the centre overnight, or I suddenly don’t think the Iraq war is such a big deal (Adam excluded here, obviously). I’m still the same person I was a few days ago. I’m still going to be shutting down banks this month. The only difference now is that I’ll be getting chucked out of council meetings as well.
Sean @ 37; I may have been confused, in which case I apologise.
Im with Alisdair on unions, im in a union, always have been even when unemployed. Supported others NUM in the 80s, marches/picket lines ect ect. Strongly support unions, unions are all of us so why wouldnt I.Some misunderstanding re G/P views on unions perhaps?
Im guess im not in a position to criticise people for falling for the view they can change the party from within as I thought that myself for years, and was a labour voter for 35 years, sad to say.
The Labour party is a party of cuts, its leaders/managers proudly proclaim they are not “deficit deniers” and they will cut as well. They are stuck in this view despite the fact that many of their activists are anti-cuts and for explaining alternatives. However much the activists want, the managers will not change, they wont want to do anything that will scare “middle england” whose votes they have to work for. The less advantaged, they have over a barrel,they take for granted. That wont stop whatever the so called “lefties” say or do.
There is no point denying its hard being in a small party even if you believe in it and its policies, to leave a “main” party for a small one, you really have to believe in what its trying to do. The Green Party is the only party that puts action to confront climate change a the centre of its policies, there is actually not much point in having a more equal and fairer society if the planet is uninhabitable. Thats one quite good reason why Green Party policies/ideas are so important whether other political views like it or not.
Suggest people look and/or look again at G/P policies, if you dont like them, fine. But if you do, have the courage of your convictions.
And do you understand that amending the Labour/Tory budget is not necessarily the same thing as amending the Council budget?
Sean – my point isn’t to slag off Edinburgh Labour. My point is that they prioritised a living wage, and were willing to comprimise to secure it.
Sean@32 – do you understand the difference between a local council and the Scottish Parliament? Yes, amending the council budget will have a practical effect for council employees.
And how much higher is the amended ‘living wage’ than that proposed in the original Labour budget proposals?
Sean – look at the numbers – the council is split exactly 50:50. The Provost will probably side with the administration, but there is a chance of squeezing this through. But my point is that you can’t claim Greens are only interested in abstract purities just as Greens are comprimising to try & secure a living wage!
Is amending a Labour/Tory budget going to have much practical effect when the ruling administration is LibDem/SNP?
Kieran – this very minute, my co-editor here, and Edinburgh Green councillor Maggie Chapman managed to force an amendment to a Labour/Tory budget in Edinburgh – an amendment to ensure that every council employee in Edinburgh is paid a basic living wage. In exchange for this (and a couple of other things) the Greens voted in favour of this budget proposal. And you are saying it’s Greens who aren’t concerned with people’s real lives? Or aren’t willing to compromise?
The Greens are no more left wing than the Lib Dems. Let’s face it, a faux populist party with no link or commitment to the working class isn’t going to hold onto its apparent all encompassing ‘ideology’ once it’s offered a chance to put through the one issue it’s really concerned with.
I believe in Green issues, and would like to see the Greens become a caucus within the Labour party, but that’s not going to happen when opposition junkies like yourself who are perfectly willing to give the Tories a free ride so that you can retain the ‘moral high ground’.
Ellie Mae, and thousands like her, have joined the Labour Party becasue they care more about real people than they do about retaining the moral high ground and feeble opposition.
Get a life and join labour
I’ve been in two parties: Labour and the Greens. I joined Labour because a) I’m Welsh, and Labour meant something different in the dirt-poor area I grew up in, and b) I wanted to “Change it from the inside”. I left Labour, not just because their policies were increasingly abhorrent, but I was aghast at how utterly undemocratic it was, and just how much time was expended on rigging internal elections, turning up for an hour or two at strategic elections to curry favour with party officials, and deriding anyone who didn’t agree with them. I was regularly called a “Trot”, and am still amazed that phrase is still in use.
I found the Greens far more welcoming, and open. There are many arguments within the party, but usually on the way to a broadly shared stance.
Ultimately though, I decided I might be better off not being in a political party. I’ve been in unions since I was 16, and have never allowed my contributions to go to the Labour Party, since the Labour Party do not have the monopoly on trade union activism.
In short, I felt my energy was better expended on campaigning for what I believed in than writing lengthy blogposts and justifying again and again, why I was in a party, and being expected to defend every decision they make.
I think this is a timely piece – we’ve lost at least two members of my local party to Labour – they are ‘re-joiners’, not first-time Labour members.
One of the ship-jumpers came up with the same argument as Ellie – that she wanted to change Labour from inside, specifically “to make Labour as ‘green’ as possible.” She then instantly commented that she “may well come back to the Green Party at some point.”
I think we need to ask why we failed to hang on to these members. Yes, hope springs eternal/people have collective amnesia, but is it also a failing of the Green Party? Have we not articulated well enough (or perhaps loudly enough?) our opposition to the cuts and our alternative vision? Are we, particularly in the eyes of an ex-Labour party member, too disorganised internally?
We can sit around criticising Labour or we can work at making ourselves more attractive to members – better at recruitment, and, crucially, at retention.
Couldn’t agree more. I’m pleased this isn’t a “why I joined the Green Party” piece, because the world doesn’t need another smug “why I joined X party” blog post.
I stood for the Greens in May’s London council elections in a borough where a lingering bit of flytipping would get elected if it wore a red rosette. Once it was all over, someone asked me: “If you wanted to be a councillor, why didn’t you just join the Labour party?”
It wasn’t just the national Labour policies – war, privatisation, pandering to Murdoch – that alienated me, it was the activities of my local Labour party.
Want to see elected representatives bullied and cowed into submission, rarely making an effort to talk to their electorate between one election and another, in case they say something out of line? Take a look at the haunted faces of backbench Labour councillors in their London fiefdoms, watching hopelessly as their leaders strut around like peacocks. Did I want to be a part of their machine politics? Of course not.
Granted, there are excellent Labour councillors in the capital – but like the best councillors of all parties, they’re mainly people doing it because they feel a duty to serve others and not themselves.
There’s too many tinpot bullies and yes-men/women in Labour, too many people who haven’t lived lives outside of politics, too many people doing it as a career, patronising people by claiming to be pragmatic instead of fighting for something better.
In the Greens, I saw people who actually gave a toss about their own doorstep, so that’s why I signed up, and that’s why I fought an election with them. I’m fading out of the party now, but I’m proud to have contributed something and I’m convinced I wouldn’t have learned so much if I’d been with another party, happily distributing leaflets which I knew sought to deceive voters and smear opponents.
This wasn’t about ideological purity – I just wanted to feel honest and proud about what we were doing. I think your point about “supporting people that 1970s Tories would have considered loony right wingers” nails it for me. Sure, the Greens have their own more curious personalities, but they’re not the ones in charge.
I’d hoped losing the election would teach Labour some humility – sadly, no. If people want to fight cuts, there’s plenty of other ways to do it than joining a party which planned to make cuts anyway.
sorry, I’m at work, so can’t go through all the comments right now, but will in a bit.
However, Emily – Sorry if you feel insulted. I certainly wouldn’t say that the left is homogenous, and I would certainly include social democrats on the left. It is not only possible for Greens, Labour left, and others to work together, it is necessary. When campaigning, of course we must work together with whoever will share our goals. And I spend a lot of time working with good friends in the Labour Party who agree with almost everything I think.
However, saying that ‘The Labour Party, as measured by its policies and actions, is currently a right wing party’ and saying ‘everyone in Labour is right wing’. I am saying the former, and not the latter.
There are some interesting thought-provoking points here Adam, but they are somewhat undercut by the rest of the blog’s overstatement and hyperbole. I think Sunny Hundal’s post about the various different types of ‘leftie’ was much broader than your categorisation of anyone less ‘left’ than you as ‘right-wing’. It seems to do not allow even the concept of different categories within the left as a possibility – e.g. social democratic, democratic socialist, social liberal etc. No, for you politics is left or right, you’re either with “us” or against us i.e. people who share your exact political views on everything, it seems.
This is not only unhelpful and unrealistic, it’s also very insulting. Under your description, as a social democrat myself, does that mean you definitely class me as right-wing, something I consider, and you obviously do, an insult?
I really don’t see why Labour and the Green party can’t work together on things we agree on. And also, in activism, should I not bother to campaign with you on things we personally agree on as you obviously see me in such a negative light? I really think you are going to push people away and box yourself into a corner at this rate, Adam.
I support a single-transferable-vote in this country which would help to bring the Green party (and others) further into play in the political arena, and hopefully help drag politics further to the left – but if you are going to brief so negatively against all parties you don’t consider as left-wing, then perhaps that won’t work.
Yours, disillusioned. 🙁
I’m not a Labour member and I’ve not voted for them recently. I’m just agreeing with Tom that there was a massive increase in inequality during the previous Conservative period in office and a relatively small increase during the Labour administration.
I do think the Labour government has done good things – although I have always tended to see it as tinkering at the edges of a system that is fundamentally wrong, a system that Labour has immorally embraced over the last couple of decades.
The reason I have joined the Labour party, perhaps wrongly, is because I think the battle lines (if I can use such a melodramatic phrase) have changed now. I want there to be a better future, along the same lines as you, Adam. But I just fail to see how we can hope to build that when the very foundations of it are about to be destroyed.
The fact is, people (again, perhaps wrongly) are returning to the Labour party in droves. It is the only party that is providing formidable opposition and attracting members. It is also the party that will be in government if and when the coalition fails.
I’m not interested in climbing the ranks, but I am interested in applying pressure locally to make things better, which I do believe will be easier by joining.
In terms of joining the Greens, I wouldn’t do that as I am such a strong believer in trade unions. I believe the Green Party described trade union donations as ‘fundamentally corrupting.’ I couldn’t disagree more.
I don’t believe Ed Miliband is left-wing, and I think it’s a sad indictment of politics in this country that he is perceived as such. But politicians have never done anything out of the kindness of their hearts, only out of political pressure, and a lot of that comes from their base.
I’m not seeing this as nailing my colours to the mast – more as an experiment. It’s provoked quite a reaction so it’s clearly an important debate. There are definitely a lot of lefties feeling as stranded as I am.
Also here is part 2 of my post: http://lurehumano.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/why-i-joined-the-labour-party-part-2/
I believe in stronger trade unions too. That’s why I’m not in Labour, I’m in the Green Party. I think every editorial member of this blog is in a union.
The English and Welsh Green Party policy document (PSS) states:
“we envisage a major role for unions in promoting workplace democracy. ”
“We support the right to join a trade union, and condemn discrimination by employers against union members.”
“Individual contracts signed between an employer and worker will not be able to waive the right of that worker to be represented by their trade union. ”
“All employers, regardless of the number of workers they employ, will be legally obliged to recognise unions chosen by their workforce.”
“We oppose and seek the abolition of those conditions and loopholes which unfairly restrict statutory union recognition.”
“Unions should seek to recruit all eligible workers, including those traditionally under-represented in unions, women, part-time workers, volunteer workers, the low-paid and the unemployed. ”
We would legalise secondary picketing, use of public highways of picketing, make lockouts illegal, make it an offence to sack someone for not crossing a picket line.
Unions would have a statutory right to be consulted over workplace management and on legislation and government policy affecting them.
And those are only a few brief highlights of a very long section of policy. In what way are these policies less pro union than those of the Labour party?
Frankly I’m getting a bit annoyed of being told if I support trade unions I should be in the Labour party. If that’s true why are the most political unions, like the RMT, FBU and PCS, no longer Labour affiliated?
How about this: we need some good green lefties in Labour, as well as a strong Green party? Rather than carping on abotu how your party’s best, why not talk about how green lefties in Labour can work with the those in the Green Party for maximum impact?
Tom / Sean: “We’re not quite as evil as the Tories” isn’t really a winning argument from where I’m sitting. I refuse accept that I have to chose between Sauron and Morgoth.
“How do overall trends in poverty and inequality compare with those observed under the last period of Conservative government between 1979 and 1997? As the figure below shows, income inequality rose substantially during the 1980s, dwarfing the small increase under Labour to date.”
Gino, you need to consider what’s called the “counter-factual”, i.e. what would have happened if Labour weren’t in government given the background economic conditions.
I would recommend this report by the IFS, which sets out their record very clearly:
This quote is the key point that backs up my point:
“Labour’s tax and benefit reforms have reduced income inequality compared with what would have happened if benefits and tax credits had simply been uprated in line with prices, the normal practice of the previous Conservative government. Labour’s tax and benefit reforms thus seem to have prevented a larger rise in income inequality.”
I’m frankly saddened by the way Labour still manage to suck in new members by letting them believe they can change from within. My father told me years ago that, as a CND member, he gave up trying to change Labour in 1963!
In over 20 years of political activism I’ve seen genuine, caring, committed Labour members ( including Councillors) worn down by their hopes of being able to change from within.
The only effective way to change have real change is by getting inside the system (i.e. getting elected) and this won’t happen if you join one of the 3 or more neo-liberal parties.
If all the people who say ‘I agree with the Greens but they’re not a big enough party to join’ had the courage of their convictions, the Green Party would be bigger and stronger and better able to win elections at all levels!
“But let’s not forget that inequality grew much more slowly” sorry Tom you are wrong. After 13 years of Blair and Brown, this country has left with higher levels of inequality than it did after 18 years of Thatcher and Major. There were more people in extreme poverty when Labour left office than when Labour took office. Under Labour of the extra income enjoyed by British households 40% has accrued to the richest 10%.Whereas the average real incomes of the poorest tenth declined by 2% in the 10 years to 2007-08.
Under Thatcher manufacturing fell from 25.8% of GDP to 22.5%; under Blair it fell from 20.0% to 12.4%, a rate of decline which was almost three times faster giving the bankers a big sourse of Govt revenue. As for Labour’s benefits, they were a deliberate poverty trap with a marginal tax rate of 90% on withdrawal, to create a client class.
This is a great post Adam, thank you. Very interesting comments afterwards too. I can’t respond too thoroughly as I’m at work but I’ll come back to this later.
In short, it’s a very double-sword!
By the way I’ve written a follow-up post on this, which I’ll share later. In the meantime, though, thanks for writing this. I feel really flattered that you took the time to do it, especially as I think your writing is aces.
it wasn,t until i was 40years of age that i understood i was living in the worlds 2nd most evil country in the world that had only been relegated to that position since the second world war by the usa . our country has always been run by the bank of england and no party has really had any power the only way forward is to nationalize the bank of england then our vote’s wouldn,t be a wasted vote keep swapping 1 right wing puppet for another right wing puppet government .the liberals are a fine example there manifesto is so far removed from what there being told to do in coalition
Comments from Jimmy and Carl level two fair criticism against Adam’s arguments.
Adam, I am with you on feeling revolted by much of the last Labour government’s legacy. But let’s not forget that inequality grew much more slowly, and child poverty and working poverty was reduced much more impressively, than would have been the case under a Conservative government. Would a Hague or Duncan Smith government have put £20bn into refurbishing social housing?
So you give Labour nationally too little credit.
Second, there’s a world of difference between trying to influence national policy in a very large national party and influencing your local branch. What is your argument against joining a local Labour party and trying to win back a council to be able to implement national cuts better, which is something the Green Party is only in a position to do in a handful of towns?
Actually, it’s at the local level where a powerful argument against the “ideological purity and irrelevance” charge from Jimmy and Carl. There are plenty of great examples of Greens having a disproportionate influence on local councils and devolved administrations. That’s a really good reason to campaign for a Green rather than a Labour candidate.
As much as I love this post, it’s a shame Adam doesn’t start this post as “Why I’m a member of the Green Party” – because it’s not about *not* being in Labour, it’s about actually wanting to develop a vision without the coloured elements of constantly hating your own leadership.
The Green Party has disagreements, and a spectrum, but at least when you’re part of it, you know that what you’re all working towards is the same destination and not something that is going to be sidelined.
Another thing is that the Greens are still at the beginning of their political development. Being a part of the party, you still have potential to create change and influence the direction when you disagree – and you don’t have to take the whole climbing the ranks issue as seriously as you do in any other party.
But I could fill a post with this (which I will) so I’ll stop here.
Excellent post Adam.
Yes, but what do they actually achieve there, beyond providing a convenient fig-leaf for the neo-liberal leadership?
As for the argument that it’s better to try and influence a party that is currently in with a chance of winning rather than try and develop a minority party in the name of “ideological purity”, isn’t that exactly the sort of thing the Whigs used to say about Labour? And look how far you’ve come since then!
I’m not a member of the Green party becuase it argues for Scottish Independence.
It’s dismissals of the Labour Party like this, which fail to see a distinction between it as a totality and Blairism (now currently undergoing a slow death), which have done more to carve up, not unite the left.
In the 80s it was the Militant tendency which were regarded as pursuing entryist tactics into the Labour Party, in the 90s the neo-liberals were trying to crowd out a traditionally democratic socialist party, which they eventually succeeded in doing, due in no small part to attitudes like the one above suggesting right wing policies were the natural terrain of the party – which is not true.
Obviously those right wing members of the party have as much blame as anyone for working people using their vote elsewhere, and young leftwingers taking their politics elsewhere, but politics is not about finding political purity among small numbers of people, it is about pursuing change, and it would seem to me that as a leftwinger to join any other party than Labour – particularly now with the tory/LibDem cuts agenda – is to forefeit any real political challenge to the status quo.
This is as true for the greens as it is for Trots – leaving Labour or joining one of the dozens of small, relatively powerless parties talking among themselves for the sake of Blairism is doing exactly what Blair wanted, that is to reduce the left to ashes.
There are two types of Labour leftwinger (though they’re not mutually exclusive); those who see the party historically as a vehicle of socialist change and those who think on account of its size that it should act as a hub of socialist politics which can eventually disenfranchise the smaller sects and sectarians in smaller left wing outfits. The latter practice is a noble one and is being massively undermined by smaller parties unable to see neo-liberalism from Labour as a whole, and this kind of politics could not be more tragic at a time when left unity is needed.
I say foresake political purity for political unity and take up this fight in the Labour Party.
Or, in brief, ‘I would rather be ideologically pure and in an irrelevant party than work with people I disagree with in order to improve things’.
I don’t mean that to be as snide as it sounds, but I think it’s largely true. There are undoubtedly more lefties in the Labour Party than there are Green Party members. They don’t just sit idly by applauding everything Labour does (and while I agree Labour was largely a centre-right party in government, the idea that they didn’t also achieve great lefty things is childish).
I say this as someone who voted for socialist parties throughout Labour’s time in office, by the way. I voted Lab for the first time in 2010 because I could see the way the wind was turning and did not want a Tory government.
Ellie Mae sounds a bit rubbish if you ask me.
Or here if you live in Scotland http://www.scottishgreens.org.uk/join-and-donate
And you can do so here – http://join.greenparty.org.uk/membership/index.html
Great. Numerous people I know who joined Labour after the elections are now wondering what influence they actually have in the new policy direction – especially as the only contact they’ve since had with the party is requests for canvassers for May’s local elections and generic emails from a bot-manned inbox asking for ‘fresh ideas’.
As my housemate said: “How can I tell other people how to vote, when even I don’t know what they’re voting for!”
Thank you for putting into words my own thoughts so well. I’m a ex Labour voter who woke up to Green Part policy and found it a natural home. I had also had a wasted vote for all my voting life.
I must make time and effort to support the Party more this year