Going Where the Grass is Greener – Why I’m Leaving Labour

It’s been a tough decision to make, but I have decided to join the Green Party. For the past year I’ve been in the Labour party, and met some fantastic people – principled people, including many on the left. MPs such as Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have consistently acted upon their socialist beliefs, and been dedicated to fighting for social justice and egalitarianism. The election of Ed Miliband provided some hope for people like me, that is, Young Socialists (sadly just ‘Young Labour’ members now) by offering a split from New Labour. But I have decided to change party for a lot of reasons, which I’ll try and explain.

Firstly, the old cliche, which I’ve just realised to be true. Though there are some socialists in the Labour party, it is fundamentally, and unfortunately, not a left-wing party. That is not to say this won’t change in the future (social democratic parties have been wiped out in Europe after the ’90s) – but the Labour party doesn’t represent all that many progressive views. Cuts? Labour is backing them.  Just at a slightly slower rate – not really encouraging for people about to lose their job or having their disability support slashed. And in education, Labour still supports a view of education that sees it as a mere commodity to be sold to students, or ‘customers’ as we are increasingly called. Education is a public good, a gift from one generation to another. It pays for itself in extra tax revenue from higher earning graduates. It creates well-rounded individuals. And ability to pay shouldn’t come into the public sector – whatever part of the public sector that is. On Trident, the war in Afghanistan, on Gaza and NATO, the Green Party is on the side of progressivism when frankly Labour isn’t.

I voted for Ed Miliband. He appeared to support a future for Britain that is centre-left on the side of equality. But now he seems keen on reducing the role of trade unions within the party and is cozying up to ‘Blue Labour’ – effectively a continuation of New Labour but with slightly less free-market obsession and slightly more racism and xenophobia. Again, not all that inspiring.

I come back to the point of socialists in the Labour party. John McDonnell, the beacon of hope within the party,  couldn’t even get on the ballot for the leadership election. He had to drop out to boost Dianne Abbott’s chances of getting on there. And she sent her kids to private school. Caroline Lucas MP is to the left of Abbott – and leads the Greens. I want to be part of a party that not only has strong left element, but that is actually led by the left.

Of course, there are flaws with the Greens. They don’t have trade unions at their heart. But unlike Labour, the Green’s stand on a platform of removing anti-trade union laws. Something Labour didn’t do in their 13 years of power. And the Greens perhaps have a presentation problem of being seen as a bourgeois humus-eating elitist clique.  However, all the Green Party members I know are rooted in realism and the working class. Are they a single issue party? If so, which single issue? Wishing to clamp down on tax dodging? Seeking a fairer tax system to stop the cuts? Through their 131 councillors, their MP and MEPs, they have shown that they most definitely are not a single-issue party. Nonetheless, if they were it would be preferable to a party that has no firm beliefs anymore at all.

The Greens are growing. Membership is growing. Their representation is growing – even under First Past the Post – as they now control Brighton council and have councillors across the country. Their stature and credibility as a party is growing. It took a long time for me to be convinced of that, but it’s true.

I don’t want, or need, to list what I think the Labour party did wrong over the past thirteen years. Because many good things happened. Sure Start, investment in the NHS, the minimum wage, devolution and so on. And I am filled with a certain sense of guilt for leaving a party that declares on our membership cards it is a ‘democratic socialist party’. But then I remember this was only put in as a concession after the tragic removal of the radical Clause 4 in the ’90s.

Again, I have to stress, I fully support the left within the Labour party. The Labour Representation Committee has played a fantastic role in keeping it alive within the movement, and I will sorely miss not being able to retain my LRC membership. Even of those not on the left there are some fantastic people locally who I respect and wish all the best. And were the Labour Party to ever (as unlikely as it may seem) shift back to the left, I will be one of the first to rejoin. But this is looking increasingly remote the more disillusioned I become with Ed Miliband and the rest of the leadership.

So. All the best to all the Labour comrades I have met over the past year and hope to remain friends with – and solidarity with all the trade unionists and socialists still sticking with the party. I’m going to make a firm pledge now that if I ever stand as a Green candidate it will never be against a dedicated left-wing Labour member.

And neither am I going to ask anyone to follow suit. I don’t want to be a human billboard for ditching the Labour party. But as the saying goes – the Labour party left us, not the other way round.

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13 comments

  1. All I can say is – Labour’s loss is most definitely our gain, and we are delighted to welcome you and look forward to working with you.

  2. Great post, couldn’t agree more. Know of many people that agree with you but are too devoted to Labour to want to leave, and rather fight to get Labour back again rather than just ditch it. Still, you’ve summed up everything extremely well!

    Can’t help but feel that the Greens are making gains from Labour and especially Lib Dems. They’re being dismissed a lot still, but give it a year and I think Greens will need to be taken a lot more seriously…

    What you say about standing is especially true – several areas were lost to conservatives because Green and Labour had campaigned so hard that their votes cancelled each other out. Needs to be more communcation between to two in times like these.
    Adam.

  3. You realise that this makes us -almost- comrades in the same party. The Greens and Mebyon Kernow have, at times, forged a good working relationship and, via the European Free Alliance/Greens group in the EU, we are partners.

    You know the Cornish Green Party supports the creation of a Cornish Assembly don’t you?

    Anyway its good news. I have great respect for the Greens and I have regular contact with les Verts where I currently live. The electoral alliance that is Europe Ecologie in France should interest you as a way for MK, SNP, Plaid, the Greens and others to work together in the future.

  4. I feel in a similar boat – I’m a dedicated trade unionist and got into political action through my trade union work, not the other way round – none the less, I didn’t feel that i could get that from Labour. I resolved a while back not to bother with political parties, but eventually came round to joining the green party following the resolve shown by greens and caroline Lucas in particular, last November December during the student actions.

    It is worth noting that there is a Green party trade union group, and any green who have an interest in unions or active in unions should join this . http://gptublog.blogspot.com/

  5. I can’t say from reading your blog and following you on twitter that I am really surprised. You always seem to me someone that was committed to fundamental and radical change in politics, economics and soceity and unfortunately these are not Labour party values. Sure enough they have done some good and they are different to the Tories and the Liberal Democrats but they are a party of the status quo on fundamental questions.
    Anyway good luck in your new political path and I am sure the Green Party will be much better for your dedicated campaigning and strong beliefs. Still a bit disappointed you didn’t want to join the ranks of Mebyon Kernow but we must all make our seperate ways on the path to radical, progresive change, again good luck comrade.

  6. I think I’ll just add to what most people have said and say you’re absolutely welcome in the Greens, and I’m certain you’ll feel at home!

    This post has been shared all over the place, I think you’ve come out and said what lots of Labourites probably feel in their hearts.

  7. The Labour Party has been one of the greatest barriers to socialism since its inception. It has incorporated socialist whilst, in government, has acted as an imperialist and right wing force. Although Labour conferences have had many progressive policies Labour prime ministers have merilly ignored them and acted in the interests of the rich. How much longer will the Labour Party continue to fool and subvert socialists? For some evidence read Web of Deceit by Mark Curtis.

  8. “However, all the Green Party members I know are rooted in realism and the working class.”

    I find the exact opposite.

    And they have this fixation on Israel that I find worrying. It crops up on blogs all the time and nowhere else is subject to such treatment. And Hamas, a deeply unpleasant and fascist – by any definition of the term – organisation is not viewed by many Greens in what I would see as a sensible and rational manner.

  9. Red Jelly – maybe that is because they support social justice and are opposed to the blockade, the theft of Palestinian land, the slaughter of civilians and other war crimes that surpass the evil of apartied in South Africa. How bizzare to call that a fixation. And remember that some of the most prominant campainers for Paletinian justice are Jews, including Israelis.

  10. No, it’s a fixation sure enough. Where else do they focus on to such a degree. Where else do they boycott? Where else do they blog about so much? Why do they accommodate Hamas speakers – actively homophobic, anti-semitic people?

    Just yesterday, I noticed on Joseph Healy’s website that he was insinuating Israel killed Vittorio Arrigoni rather than the fascist Salafists. I fond that deeply disturbing and it shows the deep seated hatred at work.

    1. Didn’t Hamas execute the people that murdered Arrigoni? If by fixated you men passionate about social justice then lets drink to fixations. Remember that Hamas are the democratically elected government of Palestine. Lets remember the killing of large numbers of children by the IDF supported by the Israeli right wing government. Check out Gideon Levy’s new book The Punishment of Gaza. If you are Red then your politics need to extend to all social injustice. Feels to me like you have a blind spot here.

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