Young Greens call for Young Leaders Debate for General election

A great idea from the Young Greens – see below.

(Make sure you sign the #InviteTheGreens petition – over 160,000 signatures and counting. And like the Facebook page.)

Hundreds have joined the party over the past few days over the Greens’ exclusion from the TV debates. 

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The Young Greens, the youth branch of the Green Party, have this week launched calls for a “Young Leaders” debate to be held in the build up to the General Election in 2015.

This comes in response to widespread criticisms that the current proposals for Leaders Debates, published on Monday, have excluded parties such as the Green Party and the SNP which have substantial support.

Siobhan MacMahon, Co-Chair of the Young Greens, said:  “The obvious truth from the proposed TV debates is that broadcasters are struggling to adapt to the new political reality that we face in the UK, with five or more parties all staking legitimate claims to featuring in the debate. The Greens have been unfairly excluded from that process, despite receiving over a million votes in the European Elections and beating the Lib Dems into fourth place. Leaving out the Greens is an affront to democracy and a slap in the face to millions looking for a genuine political choice.”

The Young Greens’ proposal would feature representatives from the youth branches of each of the political parties with MPs in Westminster, and would focus predominantly on issues affecting people aged 30 and under. If TV broadcasters are reluctant to take on the idea, it is suggested that this could take place on radio or be live streamed over an internet platform such as YouTube and Google Hangouts.

Clifford Fleming, the other Co-Chair of the Young Greens, pointed to the massive engagement of young people in the Scottish Referendum as a reason for launching a Young Leaders debate.

Fleming said: “Politicians usually ignore the youth vote because we are less politically engaged, but the Referendum proved that young people do care about politics when they can see the big difference it will make to their futures. It’s time that we had a political debate that speaks directly to young people and reflects the issues that really matter to them.”

MacMahon added: “I really hope that representatives from the Youth branches of other Parties will work with us to make a Young Leaders debate happen. We have an opportunity to work together to really engage young people in politics, and have a real debate about the future of our country.”

The Young Greens have grown by over 100% in 2014 alone, with over 4,000 members – making the Young Greens the third largest party among young people.

For quotes, inquiries or interviews email press@youngreens.org.uk or call 07454397816.

Support radical acoustic music – crowdfund this EP

OK, I’ve got some big and exciting news: I have just started crowdfunding for my first proper, EP, Luddite Ballads – a collection of acoustic songs, some of which are political, which will be funded collectively.

I want it to be good. I want to get some acoustic, politically-aware music out there. More importantly, Rack Mount Records – the York label I’m signed to – really think it can work and are going to put everything into pushing the EP if I can raise £3000 in the next 37 days.

It’s a big ask, but I really want to do it, and get some radical folk into the public sphere. Please be a part of it!

So yeah. Please chip in a tenner or whatever you can to get a copy of Luddite Ballads, and to make sure we can get it national – on the radio, at festivals and everything in between.

Let’s do this!

All the best, and solidarity,
https://www.crowdshed.com/project/josiah-mortimer—new-ep-luddite-ballads

Josiah

(PS please share this post, repost it on your blogs and sites, share the link on social media – anything to get some socially-conscious music out there. I’ll make sure you get a thank-you, whether on the Rack Mount site, my own blog, and/or FB/Twitter. Thanks a million!)


https://soundcloud.com/josiah-mortimer
0745 439 7816
josiahmortimer@yahoo.co.uk
twitter.com/josiahmortimer

House of Commons corrects massive error about the Green Party…

I’ve just had this reply from the author of this week’s House of Commons report on party membership regarding my complaint to him and the Statistics Authority here. 

The report made a number of errors – talking about ‘the Green Party’ next to UKIP, Labour etc., without noting that they meant the Green Party of England & Wales (and thereby writing off the Scottish and NI Greens with thousands of members). It also listed ‘Green Party’ membership at 14,000, when it’s actually more than 19,000 now.

So the clarifications mark a bit of a success – turns out making a fuss works.

I’ve emailed back to ask that they:

a) Mention the Northern Irish Greens – an extra several hundred members, and again, a separate party

b) Include the latest GPEW membership statistics (though it’s good they mentioned Scottish growth figures) – over 19,000.

Here’s their response to my complaint:

Dear Mr Mortimer,

Many thanks for your email to the House of Commons Library regarding the note ‘Membership of UK Political Parties’.

As you note the Green Party (as registered with the Electoral Commission 25/02/1999) and the Scottish Green Party (registered 04/04/2001) are two separate entities, each registered independently with the Electoral Commission as parties of Great Britain. To clarify, the primary name of the Green Party (England and Wales) as registered with the Electoral Commission is the ‘Green Party’.  Our note focuses on membership of political parties as represented in the House of Commons. It therefore reports membership of the Green Party (as currently represented by Caroline Lucas MP) and not the Scottish Green Party; in its accounts published by the Electoral Commission year ending 31 December 2013 the Green Party reported a membership of approximately 14,000.

Before publishing the note we were sure to contact each party press office regarding up to date figures; on this occasion we did not receive a reply to our correspondence from the Green Party office. Membership figures included within the note are, unless otherwise stated, based upon submissions by UK political parties to the Electoral Commission. For those parties from which we received up-to-date membership statistics, or where press releases published after 31st December 2014 were found, such statistics have been quoted alongside official submissions to the Electoral Commission.

Nonetheless, we welcome your correspondence and your suggestion to make clearer the distinction between the Green Party and the Scottish Green Party within our note. For this reason we have updated our section on the Green Party to clarify this distinction and quoted up-to-date figures for membership to the Scottish Green Party.

So whereas before, the report said:

Membership of the Green Party appears, according to submissions to the Electoral Commission, to have held level at approximately 5,000 members between 1998 and 2002.

It now says:

Membership of the Green Party (England & Wales)…

That’s an important clarification.

They’ve also added a large section on Scotland that wasn’t there before – previously there was no mention of the Scottish Greens:

Membership to the Scottish Green Party stated in accounts ending 31st December 2013 was around 1,200; a party press release issued 22nd September 2014 reported membership has
‘passed the 5,000 mark’ following the Scottish Independence Referendum.9 Please note,
however, that the ‘Scottish Green Party’ is registered with the Electoral Commission as an
organisation separate from the ‘Green Party’ (England and Wales); consequently throughout
this note figures for ‘the Green Party’ refer to the Green Party of England and Wales only.

So it’s a minor campaign victory. Of course it all sounds petty, but actually this is a pretty politically significant document that is used by a large numbers of researchers, wonks, students, and political writers etc. This stuff matters.

You can read the updated report here. It’s gold dust for political geeks.

 

Green Party membership now over 19,000

25 September 2014

Membership of the Green Party of England and Wales is now over 19,000 following a massive surge over the past year.

Green Party membership has risen by over 40%, now sitting at 19,357 as of the 26th September, according to figures released by the party’s membership office.

Meanwhile membership of the Young Greens is now well over 3,000 following an increase of over 70% in the past six months alone.

The Scottish Green Party, a separate party, has seen a tripling of membership over the past week following the independence referendum in which Greens played an active role. The party now boasts nearly 6,000 recruits.

Commenting on the news, Clifford Fleming, Young Greens Co-Chair and Green Party Executive Member said: “Thousands of people are flocking to the Green Party for its vision of a more progressive Britain. Our call for a decent Living Wage, a publicly-owned railway network, workers’ rights and fighting climate change are inspiring people up and down the country.

“With over 19,000 members, the Greens are now in a fantastic position to run in next year’s election and pose a serious challenge to the mainstream neoliberal parties, with a plan for social justice and radical green action.

“The growth of the Young Greens has also been incredible this year. We now have dozens of branches across England and Wales full of active members keen to push for positive change and a world that puts people and the planet before profits. Young people are increasingly pushing for free education and not a system that places the market at the centre, and the Young Greens are fully behind them.

“It’s onwards and upwards for the true party of the left in England and Wales, and our counterparts in Scotland.”

For interviews call Josiah, YG Press Officer, on 07454397816

PR taken from here.

Why I’ve Complained to the Statistics Authority…

I’ve just written to the UK Statistics Authority over the House of Commons Library’s recent publication ‘Membership of UK politics parties‘, released on Tuesday. It’s a highly interesting document that myself and other political geeks love to read every year. But there’s a few clonkers in there.

 

1. They talk about ‘the Green Party’ as if it was a UK thing. They at no point clarify they are talking about the Greens of England and Wales. This skews the membership stats and fails to compare like with like – a massive statistical error.

 

2. They have very recent SNP membership stats (from this week!) but the latest Green Party stats are from December 2013 – despite it being widely known Green membership in E&W is now over 19,000 – see below (from the members’ site, but it’s all over social media). So they list ‘Green Party’ membership (again implying UK-wide numbers) at 14k, ignoring the recent membership surge.

 

national party

 

3. In doing all this, they completely ignore the highly successful Scottish Green Party, an entirely separate entity, and the Greens of NI (again, separate). This is unfair. The Scottish Greens’ membership has tripled over the past week to over 5,600 – 4000 new members. So UK Green membership is probably nearing 30,000 now. Yet the figures obfuscate this/leave it out entirely.

 

On another note, they’ve also missed out the Scottish Socialist Party which has also added thousands of members over the past week – something not mentioned while the SNP’s growth is. In both cases, the percentage rate of growth of the SSP and the Scottish Greens is far higher than the SNP (as impressive as it is). Anyway.

If you are annoyed by these glaring mistakes email papers@parliament.uk and authority.enquiries@statistics.gsi.gov.uk

Here’s my email below to the House of Commons Library and the UK Statistics Authority.

 

Dear Sir/Madam,
 
I am getting in touch regarding you recent publication ‘Membership of UK political parties’. In it, it states that ‘in 
December 2013 membership of the Green Party was around 14,000.’ This is misleading, as it is written alongside total UK membership of the other parties – when in fact the 14,000 figure is for the Green Party of England and Wales. The Scottish Green Party and Green Party of Northern Ireland should be listed in the statistics as separate parties. This takes the UK membership of the Greens up significantly. 
 
This is an issue of failing to compare like with like. For example, you write ‘Membership held level just below 13,000 in 2010-2012, before rising slightly to 13,800 members as of 31st December 2013.’ This is the England and Wales party, something not stated. As written below morover, more up to date member figures are available. 
The 14,000 figure is not the latest statistic, despite you showing very recent SNP member updates. GPEW now has over 19,000 members in England and Wales, and the separate Scottish Party has over the past week seen a tripling of membership to over 5,600. This is publicly available knowledge.
 
I am emailing to request that you make these important factual clarifications:
a) With regards to the completely separate nature of the different Green Parties of the UK – there should be separate sections on the Greens in Scotland, Northern Ireland and E&W, and it should be clearly stated that the stats currently used refer to England and Wales.
b) With regards to the latest membership statistics – there are now over 19,000 members of the Green Party in England and Wales. This is publicly available information (although the screenshot attached is from the members’ site). Moreover, such information is widely available regarding the Scottish Party – https://twitter.com/scotgp – but official current figures will be available by contacting the national offices. I suggest you do this.
I hope you can resolve this complaint swiftly.
Yours faithfully,
Josiah Mortimer
Young Greens National Committee

The Yes campaign may have won the #indyref

Update: The SNP now look on track for 60,000 members after hitting 50,000 yesterday and now standing at 59,000 (as of 1pm Wednesday – no signs of slowing, either). They have overtaken the Lib Dems’ and UKIP’ total British membership numbers by a long stretch. Meanwhile the Scottish Socialists are processing over 2,000 membership applications and the Greens over 3,000 (plus hundreds more in England, too). 

The SNP’s doubled membership means that over 1 in every 100 Scots are now members of the party – a higher proportion than party memebership of ALL parties across the UK as a whole. A back of the envelope calculation puts the membership fees gained from the over 33,000 new recruits shows if they all paid:

  • The recommended fee – £5 a month: The party would rake in £2m in extra subs for the next year
  • The lower fee: £3 a month: £1.2m in extra subs for the year ahead
  • The minimum fee: £1 a month: £400,000 extra for the next year

That’s a lot of money (in addition to the tens/hundreds of thousands that will have been donated over the past week – genuinely). It’s also 33,000 additional foot-soldiers who have an experience of campaigning.

Something incredible is happening in Scotland – people are actually getting excited about democracy. Meanwhile a poll puts the SNP on 49% for Holyrood and catching up with Labour for the Westminster election next year. 

The article below was originally published at Left Foot Forward

With pro-independence parties seeing record-breaking membership growth, the indy camp could be the real winners after all

Who do you think won the Scottish independence referendum on Thursday? You’d probably have a fair claim to say it was the unionist campaign, winning 55 per cent of the vote.

But a few facts suggest that in the long run, it could be the parties that campaigned for independence.

Why? Over the past three days, membership of the SNP has risen by at least 14,000, nearly half of which joined in the 24 hours after polls closed. To put that into perspective, that was the SNP’s total membership ten years ago. They’ve now added that since Thursday night.

This now makes the SNP by far the largest party in Scotland with over 45,000 members – far more than both UKIP and the Lib Dems’ total membership across the whole of the UK. It’s also, according to a Green Party activist I spoke to, nearly four times Labour’s membership in Scotland.

It’s hard to even accurately assess the extent to which people want to sign up: the SNP’s website crashed on Sunday for two hours when 500 tried to join in one hour. There were fascinating stories circulating on social media – such as an extended family of 18 people simultaneously resigning from Labour to join the Nationalists.

This has to be a total rarity in modern British politics at a time when membership of the mainstream parties is stagnant or plummeting. People are, whisper it, actually getting excited about politics.

It’s not just the SNP that is facing this surge either. 2,500 joined the Scottish Green Partybetween polls closing and Saturday evening – a faster rate than the SNP. Earlier this year the Greens had just 1,200 members in Scotland, meaning in a few days they have doubled or more in size. The impact? They could end up with over dozen MSPs in nine month’s time; their highest ever.

It’s hard to fathom the impact that could have on politics north of the border. The combined membership of the England & Wales and Scottish Green Parties is now around half that of the Lib Dems nationally. They’re gaining ground, a fact reflected in the polls, too.

Even the Scottish Socialist Party has seen a minor revival, with another 600 members in the two days following the referendum.

I could go on. But the key issue isn’t the numbers here – as impressive as they are – but the issue of why, and what impact this could have on Scottish politics.

Yes Scotland shared a Facebook status pointing to the astonishing recruitment figures (it was shared over 2,300 times). Of the more than 1000 comments, almost all were from new activists. And many are deeply interesting.

One of the most popular comments appears to sum up the mood:

“I will not lie down and accept this result. I will not suck it up, and move on. Nobody achieved anything in life by rolling over and accepting the status quo. I will continue to hope for an independent Scotland in my lifetime. I’ve never really taken an interest in politics before this referendum, but today I’ve become one of the 4000+ people to join the SNP in the last 24 hours. We are the 45 per cent and we will not be silenced.”

Another:

“We lost the battle but were not losing the war.” Again: “Yesterday we cried, today we move forward with renewed determination to claim what is rightfully ours.”

All these reflect the fact that the referendum was not the end of the road, but perhaps the start of a process. Many were disgruntled with the BBC and the rest of the almost entirely unionist press, 70,000-strong allegations – however ridiculous – of vote rigging, and the apparent reneging on promises to grant further devolution just one day after the referendum.

But they were also impressed by the principled move of Salmond to stand down upon losing the vote, and the vibrant radical grassroots campaign which mobilised working-class people who had long been ignored by neoliberal politics.

Those activists are now becoming party political: “Now that there’s no referendum campaign to be involved in, these people, who have been politicised for the first time in many cases, are looking for some political activity to get involved in – they’re not going back to their sofas,” Edinburgh Greens’ membership secretary Mike Williamson told me.

They also, crucially, have experience of campaigning that will help them in next year’s election. Paper members they shall not be.

The vast reawakening of the democratic spirit in Scotland on the Yes side in the months running up to the #indyref suggests it is a political resurgence that will not go away quietly. We can laugh at the rhetoric of ‘We are the 45 per cent’ [the total Yes vote] – but the major party leaders may not be laughing come next year’s elections. Johann Lamont’s own constituency voted overwhelmingly for yes, after all.

With pro-independence parties all seeing record-breaking membership growth (and thus resource growth – finances and feet on the ground), it looks like the indy camp may be the real winners after all.

Green, left, growing – lessons from the Greens in England and Wales

[My first piece for the Green European Journal]

‘Neither left nor right, but forward’ has been a semi-official motto of many Green Parties across Europe since their inception in the 1960s and ‘70s. But as the Green Party of England & Wales’ (GPEW) Autumn Conference drew to a close this weekend, the party appears to be maintaining or indeed continuing its leftward drive. The implications could be promising both for Britain and for Green Parties elsewhere.

It’s an interesting time for British politics, with less than a year to go before the General Election. But what space does the Green Party hope to fill in the UK?

THE PARTISAN CONTEXT

One answer could be the space vacated by the Liberal Democrats, a party which joined the right-wing Conservative coalition in 2010. Previously seen as a centre-left party, all traces of this perspective seem to have disappeared with the onset of the austerity agenda, and in particular the near-tripling of university tuition fees early on in the government’s term.

At the same time, however, the Labour Party has been equivocal in its opposition to these policies. Despite the election of Ed Miliband to the leadership in 2010,a man previously thought of as on the centre-left of the party, they have pledged to maintain the government’s harsh spending plans for at least the first year of office, arguing “the next Labour government will have less money to spend.” This is despite the wealth of the richest 1000 Brits soaring by 15% over the past year alone to $874bn. He has also pledged to cut welfare benefits for the most vulnerable, with a cap on social security spending.

This means there is a large ‘gap’ to the left of the Labour Party for those who disagree with austerity, alongside the still significant proportion of people who agree there is an urgent need to tackle climate change. This was the defining message at Autumn Conference – the Greens positioning themselves as the ‘true left’, and ‘taking the fight to Labour’.

Yet there is another interesting – and worrying – dynamic currently at play. The rise of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) threatens to pull British politics even further to the right, feeding on (and equally, fuelling) an atmosphere of euroscepticism, welfare-bashing and anti-immigrant rhetoric. It’s an atmosphere manifesting itself in an internal Conservative Party split, but, despite the non-proportional First Past the Post electoral system, it is a split that will still damage all those who value social justice and ecology as UKIP appear set to win their first Parliamentary seat next month.

Moreover, as the Conservative Party internalises UKIP policies, from an EU referendum to even harsher attacks on migrants, UKIP’s appeal does not decline. Why? Because it stems from a hostility to the ‘establishment’ and ‘the political class’, however mislaid it may be. In this context, a privately-educated, wealthy, white and male former stockbroker can pose as anti-politics if he speaks convincingly enough. This is how, with the help of extensive media coverage and generous funding, Nigel Farage has come to exert such a powerful and noxious influence on the British political makeup over the past three years. All this while the UK battles to discover what its true identity and place is both within itself – via the Scottish independence referendum – and the world, through the EU.

RADICAL GREEN SOLUTIONS

What should the Greens’ response be to this? As with the rise of the populist right in the rest of Europe, it cannot be to mimic reactionary policies. Instead – based both on principle and pragmatism – Greens can reassert how our message is different to all the parties.

Green Party members appear to have in part reflected this view last week, electing an ecosocialist as a deputy leader in Amelia Womack, alongside Shahrar Ali, a key figure in London. Womack came first in the ballot, arguably reflecting a desire for the party to adopt a radical response to the current political context. Incumbent left-winger Will Duckworth also came within a few dozen votes of winning the second deputy post.

At the same time, the party is promoting its key policies for the General Election which include a wealth tax on assets over £3m and the renationalisation of the railways, water and energy networks. Last weekend’s conference also saw the launch of a demand for a £10 (~13 EUR) minimum wage by 2020. Such ideas are backed by a vast majority of the public – yet are ignored by politicians.

Pushing these policies has been at the core of (now-re-elected) leader Natalie Bennett’s strategy over the past two years, as well as standing up for workers’ rights. The latter – as well as being morally right – has been at the core of attempts to win the backing of trade unions in the UK. Trade unionists now regularly speak at Green Party conferences and events (with several leaders and activists speaking at the most recent conference). Similarly, both Bennett and Lucas have spoken at a number of trade union conferences, including the still-powerful National Union of Teachers, and Trade Union Congress (TUC) fringes.

Though in the medium term it’s unlikely that the largely Labour-supporting unions will switch allegiances, support from the six million grassroots members and local branches will be vital in the coming years; indeed on a local level, unions such as the rail workers’ union RMT have donated to and campaigned for Green candidates. Meanwhile the Green Party’s welfare spokesperson and Trade Union Liaison Officer (a recently formed post) is also co-chair of Britain’s anti-austerity movement, the People’s Assembly. It’s an important symbolisation of the space that the Labour Party has vacated, and how the Greens see the terms ‘green’ and ‘left’ as symbiotic.

There are countless more examples like this – the fact that the party now asks for information on trade union membership on its joining forms, the Young Greens launching a campaign to get members unionised in their workplaces (‘Get Organised!’), a Philosophical Basis which states ‘inequality and exploitation is threatening the future of the planet,’ and a recent core policy on employees being granted the right to take over their companies as co-operatives.

All these factors generate a view that GPEW is a real, progressive alternative to neoliberalism, contributing in part to public support for the party increasing dramatically over the past four years.

STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

Despite a lower overall vote share, the Greens secured a third MEP in May through the South West Molly Scott-Cato, a green economist in a rapidly growing region for the party. Membership has approximately doubled since the election of Caroline Lucas to Parliament, from around 9,000 to over 18,000 today, and there are now nearly 170 Green councillors; successes exemplified in the highest poll ratings for the party since 1989, with the Greens increasingly equalling the Liberal Democrats in public support, at around 7%.

The growth of the Young Greens is also astonishing – a 70% rise in members since March to over 3,000, perhaps dialectically spurred on by the rise of UKIP.

REJECTING THE RIGHT

These statistics are than mere numbers but reflect a new vibrancy in a party keen to re-elect Lucas and potentially secure one or two more MPs next year. Being a ‘UKIP of the left’ – a fighting force that shakes up the political structure of the UK – could, ironically perhaps, be part of that. Meanwhile the politics of fear is pushing many towards the Greens’ ranks out of the need to challenge a rising threat.

Is the UK a unique case in these discussions? Certainly, few other countries (except perhaps Spain) are facing the kinds of constitutional and political destabilisation currently taking place in the UK because of the Scottish independence referendum. But the rise of the far-right is something that Greens are uniquely equipped to tackle, proudly able to say, for example, that unlike many social democratic parties, they genuinely oppose both the language and actions of intolerance that are spreading across the continent. Moreover, the scale of disillusionment with mainstream politics is not unique to the UK – distaste for the political establishment is widespread across Europe and must be drawn upon lest other more reactionary forces do so.

Crucially, we can also show that these parties pose no answer to the questions of devastating climate change, environmental destruction, or the politics of austerity that are blighting the lives of ordinary people.

With a discredited far-left, and a social democratic ‘movement’ that has capitulated to failed economic and ecological strategies, Greens in the UK – and perhaps in the rest of Europe too – are able to show that that when brave enough with our ideas and outspoken enough to present them, we can inspire those who have been left behind.