Five things I’ve learnt since joining the Green Party
I joined the Green Party in March, three months ago. I feel happy about that every day. We share our commitment to social and environmental justice. What have I learned from my experience on the Wirral?
1. Lefties are welcome in the Green Party
In the Labour Party, I endured two high profile suspensions before investigation, vilification in the media, and a dozen complaints. I won every case. To get rid of me and hundreds of other members, the Labour Party had to change its rules and apply them retrospectively. The Labour Party expelled me last November, for speaking at a meeting in 2018 (like elected representatives do). Jewish people like me are 31 times are more likely to face disciplinary action than other members of the Labour Party.
I was warmly welcomed by all kinds of Green members across England and Wales. We secured positive news coverage before some hostile media caught up – and even then, I was publicly defended by senior figures in the Green Party, including Jewish Greens. Conflict was de-escalated by talking with each other (like people do).
Four years ago, Councillor Pat Cleary was the only Green councillor on the Wirral. Now there are nine diverse Green councillors and counting.
The Labour Party is increasingly centralised, authoritarian, dysfunctional and disconnected from organised workers. Freedom of expression and internal democracy have been abandoned through expulsions, speech bans, imposed shortlists and candidates.
This combination has encouraged many people on the Wirral to move from Labour to Green. Our personal and political experience has been unanimously positive. I believe this can be replicated across the country.
2. Greens put evidence before loyalty
There is no whip and no disciplinary action against Green councillors who vote differently to each other. Disagreements are heard without undue interruption. This means Green councillors seek consensus, make informed choices and vote on the evidence, while being guided by Green Party core values and policies. The Green Party has liberation groups and networks committed to certain policy positions. However, entrenched factionalism is missing and I hardly ever hear talk of “them and us”.
In most Labour groups, the Labour leader makes all appointments to paid positions. These ‘payroll votes’ are an important way to wield power and reward loyalty. The Labour whip has wide power to impose punishment on councillors for putting ward residents before the Party line. I’m used to Labour politicians pre-judging or misrepresenting my words, then piling on with personal attacks.
3. Greens have good policies
Wirral Labour councillors voted with the Tories to keep me off all policy committees, in a public display of vindictiveness watched by thousands of people. After three years on Labour back benches, the Green Group quickly appointed me to the most powerful committee on Wirral Council – Policy & Resources. I’m using this position to promote the Real Living Wage for all workers delivering Council services.
Another Wirral is possible. Wirral Green councillors voted for my Council budget amendments to save frontline services including libraries and leisure centres. Labour councillors voted together with Conservatives to close them.
On the significant issue of Israel~Palestine, the Green Party supports Boycott Divestment Sanctions against Israeli human rights abuses. In May, Caroline Lucas MP wrote “Whether it’s boycotting Russian corporations complicit in Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression; divesting pension funds from Saudi-government linked companies complicit in the destruction of Yemeni homes; or supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement of Palestinian civil society organisations to stop illegal and immoral actions by Israeli authorities; Greens are standing up for what matters.”
4. Greens candidates work hard
I work hard as a local candidate and councillor. I was re-elected with 13% increase in vote share by 2,248 out of 3,680 voters in Bromborough, Port Sunlight and New Ferry, in May 2021 – while Labour lost 327 councillors across the country.
But Green local candidates work even harder! Over 550 Green councillors have won hearts, minds, votes and seats by working smart, all year round. Targeted election campaign work means regular newsletters and weekly door knocking. I’m standing for re-election next May. Help is welcome ‘on the stomp’ all year round.
In a ‘safe’ Labour ward there might be only one leaflet delivered a few weeks before polling day.
5. More work to do on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
All political parties struggle with challenges to privilege and power. The Labour Party ensures gender balance in some internal elections and selection of candidates in Labour-held wards. Green Group’s terms of reference say consideration should be given to gender/racial balance in the election of Group leadership.
Greens could enable more candidates without university qualifications – and could address the gender pay gap when allocating paid positions.
The Green Party has good policies, good people and strong devolved democracy. Unfortunately, the Labour Party’s authoritarian leadership continues to take the party downhill – it is no longer a vehicle for social nor environmental justice.
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Discrepancies between Council policy & ‘Green’ positions always work out in favour of ‘Council policy’ -the ward resident often being squeezed between the two – especially if the ‘ward residents apparent ‘false’ understanding of ‘Green ideas is identified. Predictably there is little opportunity for any sort of discussion about what constitutes ‘Green issues’ – the ward resident soon being seen as ‘troublesome’ .