The Green Party needs to embrace a £15 an hour minimum wage or embrace irrelevance
To be a 27 year old hospitality worker in 2022 is to live fairly frugally. As a barista in Brighton and Hove, the phrase “London rents, Brighton wages” is fairly common, with small “double” rooms and extortionate rents being a defining experience for my generation. As a political activist, and a self confessed politics nerd, I look out across the offerings of the different parties, and try and find one that speaks to my immediate material concerns, and I see none.
At the last Green Party of England and Wales autumn conference, with help from the Green Party Trade Union Group, I brought an emergency motion for the party to support the BFAWU’s Fight for 15 campaign. I was fairly confident that it would pass. While generations of leaders have never bothered to vocalise it sufficiently loudly, the Green Party has always stood shoulder to shoulder with trade unions, and the party has always had a radical minimum wage offer compared to others.
I was pleased when the motion passed, the idea of a party that supported a £15 minimum wage inspired me and other activists in the party, and with 1 to 2 years out from a General Election, the party had time to make it a signature policy, campaign on it, promote it and allow it to bleed into the public consciousness long enough that we could see it associated with us generally.
The abject silence of the party since then on this issue, and downright contradiction that has come out, has been deafening.
Rather than champion a £15 minimum wage – a policy popular not just with Labour voters we hope to win over in places like Bristol and Sheffield – along with many other policies which we should be championing like public ownership and investment in the railways, energy and water, the Green Party seemingly doesn’t want to campaign on any policies in the long term.
The party and its leaders have called for a windfall tax on oil and gas, and for a “Dirty Profits Tax”, but fail to exposit a vision for what kind of country people would actually live in if Greens sought power, or had any influence over it at all. What kind of policies would Greens be fighting for that would help me for instance?
The failure of the Green Party establishment in the last year – and years before – to create a narrative that speaks to the ordinary experience of young people, to champion policies which are popular and necessary to them, is why we’ve seen no great influx of members since 2019, no buzz or – for lack of a better word – virality in the party. Talking about ‘Lewes Models‘ and taxes isn’t going to inspire people to campaign for us, or win more MPs.
A Green Party that isn’t radical is one that will embrace irrelevance. With internal elections coming up in the summer, for me, the test on who to vote for will be: who will step up and give life to that radical voice, and not allow us to carry on our current trajectory of middle class boredom vibes? They who embrace the £15 minimum wage, embrace success.
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