It’s been about 18 months since I finally got fed up with just moaning on Facebook about the state of the UK and joined a political party, in my case the Green Party. I wrote about my decision to join the Green Party and vote green a while back.
18 months on, what has happened?
I got involved
It started with the London “new members meeting”, where it became clear that the number of attendees that month had shot up by 10 times the usual number. It was the very start of the “Green Surge”. I then started attending local party business meetings. I had joined in the run-up to the general election, so talk was of candidates and plans for the next few months. I was pretty much hooked from there on. This side of politics was all new to me. The official side of it, electoral rules, deadlines. The more I engaged, the more things I found I could get involved with. Because of my day job, I took on responsibility for the local website.
The General Election
I got involved in the Chingford & Woodford Green campaign, stalls, leafleting, canvassing, tweeting, and so on. I even stood at polling stations on election day, and attended the count at Waltham Forest Assembly Hall that long and tiring night.
The overall result was horrible. Labour’s weak opposition had come back to bite them, losing seats all over the shop and allowing the Conservatives an easy ride. Greens had hoped to increase the number of MPs, but it wasn’t to be. We did increase the number of votes considerably up and down the country. In Leyton and Wanstead and Walthamstow we finished third, and retained our deposit in both. In Chingford & Woodford Green, we went from 1.5% of the vote in 2010 to 4.2% in 2015. A little more work and we could probably retain the deposit here as well. I think my favourite memory of the night was Mhairi Black winning her seat for the SNP.
As we set about trying to make the most of our new members with a shake-up of local party structure and roles – I became Joint coordinator in the process – Labour’s leadership race went into full swing, and Jeremy Corbyn received a lot of interest from formerly disillusioned Labour supporters like myself. It resulted in a number of Greens nationally looking to join Labour on the basis of trying to help push their party back towards the sort of Labour they so desperately wanted.
When I considered why I’d stopped supporting Labour and joined the Greens, I must admit Corbyn’s appointment appeared to be a huge step in the right direction. But I was never tempted to leave the Greens, and felt that some of those being drawn back to Labour were probably a bit too premature in their decision, for the following reasons:
- Labour is a party that is very much divided on policy when you compare grass roots (Constituency Labour Party) to their MPs (the Parliamentary Labour Party). With that divide still very much evident, I felt that it’d be a while yet before Corbyn’s leadership and the CLPs would be in a position to really have a consistent message from top to bottom. The Greens on the other hand, have a much more consistent, unified message.
- Corbyn himself, while undoubtedly a step in the right direction, at his core still believes that economic growth can be sustained indefinitely. Ultimately this undermines everything else he claims to stand for, and what sets Corbyn and the Greens apart.
- Assuming Labour are a party (just slightly) left of the conservatives, and the Greens are a party to the left of Labour, I felt it was the Green Party’s job to pull the Overton Window (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overton_window) back, to reverse what UKIP have been doing to the Conservatives and Labour. I feel this is just as important a part of the political machine.
The honeymoon period has already started to wear off for some former Greens who followed the siren’s call. I know of at least two that were unimpressed by their local Labour branches, and have now returned to the Green Party. That’s why it had been important for local Greens not to be disheartened and push on with their own efforts, to remind them of the core differences between Corbyn’s Labour and the Green Party.
We’re now in an interesting period. The Greens finished third in the last Mayoral race, and we secured two seats in the London Assembly. We’re aiming to do better this time around, but with Corbyn’s leadership being questioned by his own MPs, and the rise of UKIP, it’s unclear how things will fall this around. I guess we’ll know in a week’s time…