Green Party

Sian Berry: ‘Khan and Goldsmith wouldn’t meet the Greens’

The Greens’ London Mayoral candidate Sian Berry has said that the Labour and Conservative teams refused to meet with the party to discuss who Green supporters should back as their 2nd preference on May 5th.

Speaking to me for NovaraMedia, Berry claimed that ‘neither of the candidates wanted to meet with us to talk about them’ – despite the fact that 2nd preferences have been decisive in every single Mayoral election since the London Assembly’s first election in 2000.

She said that “Sadiq specifically turned [a meeting]…down’, while Zac Goldsmith simply “didn’t arrange” one. Labour’s response was apparently dismissive – “[Sadiq said] he didn’t want to seek the 2nd preference recommendation.”

It follows a meeting of the London Federation of Green Parties on Monday to debate and vote on who the party should recommend Green supporters back as their 2nd choice. In 2008 and 2012 the party asked members to vote for Ken Livingstone after Jenny Jones.

Under the capital’s Supplementary Voting system, Berry’s voters’ 2nd choices are counted if she doesn’t win enough support to make it into the final round – a likely scenario.

It was widely thought that the Greens’ would back a 2nd preference Labour vote this time. However, statements from Sadiq Khan on various issues and a refusal to meet have frayed relations between the parties: “You’ve got some real red lines there – Sadiq’s [pro-expansion] position on Gatwick, and Zac has been appalling on the Silvertown Tunnel [i.e. in support]. Those are things that either of them could easily have given way on.”

Berry stated that two candidates are “really hard to tell…apart – [Khan] visited the City and said he’s going to be a mayor for big business – that’s not what you expect from someone who says he going to be a mayor for all Londoners.”

This election the party put forward four ‘red lines’ to the two lead candidates, which they would need to give ground on to win official 2nd preference support – an end to road building, airport expansion and enforced council estate demolitions, and to reduce London’s inequality.

Discussions outside of official meetings had proven unhelpful. “We’ve had chats with them, including during debates. One example is [council] estate demolition – I’ve challenged them a number of times during hustings to condemn the councils that are doing it and they’re doing it on Labour and Conservative councils – and they haven’t.”

Berry also hinted she is against the system of recommending Green supporters back a 2nd choice – “This whole idea that we should instruct our voters who to vote for anyway is a bit wrong – they can think for themselves what kind of campaigns the others are running.”

Outgoing Green Assembly Member Darren Johnson wrote for MayorWatch that ‘London’s Greens have grown over the past 16 years, it’s no longer appropriate to endorse rival mayoral hopefuls’.

Around 50 members of the London Federation of Green Parties debated the Mayoral race on Monday, at the final ever meeting in the party’s traditional North London HQ Development House, with members voting unanimously not to back a 2nd preference.

Members also voted on whether to make a statement against the Goldsmith campaign, which has been viewed as ‘divisive’ on Khan’s faith. Members voted by around 4-1 to not officially condemn the Conservative campaign, in what may be seen as a boost for Goldsmith. Berry was among the minority voting to condemn the Tory campaign.

With Berry battling it out for third place with the Lib Dems’ Caroline Pidgeon and UKIP, last Monday’s vote may turn out to be a key moment in the Mayoral race.

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Final day to help Wales elect its first Assembly Member

Green Party members have just today left to support the crowdfunding campaign to help elect Wales’ first Green Assembly Member.

Amelia Womack, Green Party E&W Deputy leader, is standing for the proportional list seat of South Wales Central – which covers Cardiff – and is aiming to raise as much as possible of the £2,000 needed to run the last six weeks of the campaign that remain. So far she has raised over £1,000.

The crowdfunder ends at midnight on the 29th March, with the flexible funding model meaning that the money raised will fund a campaigns officer, leaflets and materials, as well as potentially billboards, and could make all the difference in what is a tight race for the last list seat in the region. The seat that could come down to either Greens or UKIP winning it, with UKIP expected to surge this election from zero to up nine AMs.

South Wales Central is seen as the most winnable seat in Wales, alongside Mid and West Wales, and Greens from across the country are targeting it hard.

Crucially, a Labour vote on the list in South Wales Central is effectively a wasted vote, given their high support in the constituency ballot, under the Additional Member System form of PR.

The crowdfunder states that “We have seen the difference just a handful of Greens make in institutions across the country. We have Greens in Westminster, the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Irish Assembly and the London Assembly – now it’s Wales’ turn to get the Green representation our nation deserves by electing Amelia Womack to bring our Green vision into the Senedd.

“Unlike other parties, we don’t have millionaire donors, donations from big business, or financial support from trade unions. We rely on you – our members and supporters to fund our grassroots campaigns.

The party has calculated that just under 6,000 extra votes are needed on top of last time to ensure Womack is elected on May 5th, as the candidate at the top of the list.

Womack grew up in local Newport and lives in Cardiff. She is also standing for the constituency seat of Cardiff central.

Can you support the crowdfunder? Chip in what you can here and help Wales Green Party shake up the Senedd.

Petition to #InviteTheGreens onto Wales TV debates hits 1,000 signatures

petition to persuade the BBC to invite the Greens onto the TV debates in Wales has garnered more than 1,000 signatures in just a week.  

The campaign, launched by Wales Green Party, adds weight to a letter written to BBC Wales last week, noting that “Over the last 12 months, membership of the Wales Green Party has tripled. In May we will be fielding candidates in constituencies across Wales, and already have our candidates for all regional lists. In the most recent polls, the Wales Green Party equalled the support of the Welsh Lib Dems on the regional level.” Activists fear the party is facing a media blackout, despite its growing support.

The petition states that the Wales Green Party is a “serious contender” in the upcoming elections and has “a strong chance of winning its first seat in the Senedd. Despite this, the Wales Green Party has been excluded from participation in recent broadcasts by BBC Wales.”

The campaigners claim that “a proper democracy requires that voters are well informed and can make a proper choice.”

The petition reflects the Green Party of England and Wales’ similar push last year ahead of the May election, when over 280,000 people successfully called for the Greens to be included on the major broadcasters’ televised debates. It arguably spurred on the #GreenSurge – an enormous growth in Green membership and support across the UK.

A spokesperson for Wales Green Party told Bright Green:

“We are the delighted by the wide range of support we have received from people who believe the Wales Green Party should be included in leadership style debates and political programs in the run up to the Welsh Assembly elections.

“We will be presenting the petition to the BBC this week and are awaiting for an official response to the letter Alice Hooker Stroud sent them.”

Think the Welsh Greens should be invited to the debates? Sign the petition here.

Beckett report: It wasn’t the Greens that cost Labour the election

We’ve all seen the headlines from Labour’s inquiry into its election defeat released last week. ‘Miliband seen as weak’, ‘Labour not trusted on the economy,’ and so on ad infinitum. But in listing four reasons for defeat, one thing was pleasingly notable for its absence: the Greens.

The Green Party have long been an easy cop-out for some tribalists within Labour to explain defeats. The ‘stealing votes’ narrative is well known by Greens, and can generally be met with a groan and a fatigued opposition to the idea that Labour ‘own’ votes. But the Beckett Report is surprisingly magnanimous – and it is by no means meant to be – in its handling of the Greens in terms of the 2015 General Election. The ‘Greens cost us the election’ argument – thankfully on the wane though never quite dead – is swiftly dealt with.

Here are four reasons the Greens didn’t cost Labour last May’s election, according to Labour itself:

  1. Firstly, and simply, the Greens didn’t take any Labour seats. They already had Brighton Pavilion. And Green wins add to the anti-Tory bloc. The report states: “Both UKIP and the Greens made large gains in votes but won only one seat each. Analysis suggests that votes that went to UKIP and the Greens did not significantly affect the overall outcome of the election, i.e. the number of seats won by Labour and the Tories.”
  1. It’s not just that Greens didn’t win seats though: Green votes mainly came from the Lib Dem collapse rather than Labour voters: “There were 43 English (mainly South and Midlands) and Welsh Labour target seats where the Green vote rose by more than the Labour vote. While some people switched to the Greens from Labour, they were probably few in number. The increase in Green votes came overwhelmingly from the 2010 Liberal Democrats and was correlated with those constituencies where the Liberal Democrat vote collapsed the most, including some of the seats that the Liberal Democrats lost to Labour.”
  1. There’s almost a hint of praise for Greens’ tactical voting – Greens tend to vote Labour in marginal seats: “What is certain…is that there was significant tactical voting by Green supporters, including many who voted Green in the local elections, who backed Labour in marginal seats. We can therefore conclude with some confidence that Labour was successful at attracting the support of Greens and that their rise played little part in Labour’s defeat.” Whether they attracted that support on merit or simply so that Greens could keep out Tories is neither here nor there: Greens use their votes carefully under our broken First Past the Post voting system. Indeed, Labour’s only Southern victory can be put down to tactical Greens, suggest the authors: “Our only gain in a southern town was Hove, where we had a very strong local campaign and probably benefited from tactical voting by Green supporters.”
  1. Finally, the report offers a welcome rebuttal to the tired ‘Labour was too left wing’ mantra. “Many of our most “left wing” polices were the most popular” – indeed the Greens’ quadrupling vote share can no doubt in part be put down to its positioning as the ‘true’ left party in the face of Labour wobbling. The left-wing policies Labour did have (rent controls, gradual rail renationalisation etc) “were the kind of policies the public expected from Labour.”

Indeed, they were quite probably a boon: “An analysis by BES suggests that some of those who supported us would have been less likely to had they seen us as less left wing.” Left-wing policies are often the vote winners: “Both the SNP and Greens gained votes in this election and arguably they were seen as to the left of Labour.”

So, Greens are absolved. It wasn’t the Greens that lost the election for Labour: it was Labour itself.

This piece was first published on Bright Green

Just three days left to decide which motions are heard at Green conference

Green Party members have just three days left to vote in the ballot that will determine which motions are heard at Spring Conference next month.

Every Green member gets a vote in the ‘Prioritisation Ballot’ to determine what order motions will be heard on the conference floor at the Harrogate International Centre between the 26th and 28th February. The vote closes at 23:59 on the 25th January.

You can vote in the Prioritisation Ballot here. Turnout is generally very low – although rising every year – so every vote counts:  

There are motions on removing the minimum membership time requirement to stand for leader, to ban Greens from entering the House of Lords, and to reform conference voting, as well as policy motions on housing, LGBT+ rights and energy, among much much else.

The deadline for motions to the final agenda was on the 15th January, and on the 31st January the final agenda will be published following the results of this ballot. You can read the first agenda with all the motions here: https://my.greenparty.org.uk/sites/my.greenparty.org.uk/files/First%20Agenda%20Spring%202016.pdf

Here’s that link again: https://my.greenparty.org.uk/news/spring-conference-first-agenda-and-prioritisation-ballot-now-published

Spread the word!

Democratising devolution: how the Greens can lead the debate

Under the surface, a quiet revolution is taking place with our constitution.

The government’s devolution agenda for England isn’t exactly at the top of the national conversation. But it marks a re-working of the British state – and it’s a debate that Greens can’t ignore.

Of course, the devolution agenda comes alongside big cuts to local government – putting many authorities in a difficult situation. But councils do want these powers, and the extra investment that is coming alongside some of the deals (over £30m extra every year for West Midlands and Liverpool). Last week these deals were signed – with the former being the biggest handover of power to date. And there are around 30 deals going through as we speak across the country.

If the Greens are about anything, we’re about democracy. That’s why it’s essential we don’t let the push for devolution go by without getting involved in the conversation.

On Tuesday, Caroline Lucas published a piece on Left Foot Forward arguing that “We can’t have our constitution written on the whims of the great and good – with politicians writing their own rule book. It’s time for citizens to lead the debate on our democratic future.” She’s absolutely right.

So far, devolution deals have been negotiated and signed behind closed doors, to ridiculously tight time-frames, and often with ‘commercial sensitivity’ preventing the public even looking at the documents. The conversations about powers and resources have been at a top-level, with almost zero public involvement.

But what is localism if local people aren’t involved? Here is a real chance for the Greens to carve a niche, calling for a democratised devolution agenda with real public involvement. Labour have so far been fairly quiet on the issue – they’ve had their own disputes and issues to deal with. The Greens though, have the space to work on this issue – and previous form, with the party’s reputation as a grassroots-led, democratic force for empowerment.

This month, the first ever ‘Citizens’ Assemblies’ in the UK on local government finished in Southampton. Run by universities from across the country together with my own organisation, the Electoral Reform Society, the project aimed to give local people what politicians haven’t so far given them – a say on the devolution deals currently going through.

What the ‘Democracy Matters’ project – based on two Assemblies in the Solent region (in Southampton) and South Yorkshire (in Sheffield) – has offered is a chance for citizens to debate the power-transfer for the first time. Up to now, many feel they’ve been left out in the cold. A recent poll showed that two-thirds of Northerners haven’t even heard of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ – a sign of the extent to which the public have been engaged in the discussions.

How about Greens call for Citizens’ Assemblies when devolution deals are going through locally? And if the councils don’t agree, set up ‘People’s Panels’ of residents to do a similar thing? Greens could be raising some key points:

  • Negotiations could be minuted, with documents released to the public. No more secret deals.
  • Mayors should not be imposed against the wishes of local people. But if areas get mayors, shouldn’t they be accountable to an elected assembly, rather than just other council leaders?
  • Genuine consultation should take place on the initial deals – with a real chance for the public to change the outcome.
  • The deals could be ratified by a referendum after extensive public debate.
  • What about our voting system – do we want to consolidate power in the hands of single-party states under First Past the Post? We need to open up the conversation on electoral reform
  • Local people should help determine the area the authority should cover, the powers they want for their authority and what kind of democratic set up they think should go alongside the new powers.

Let’s not let the biggest power-shift for decades in England pass us by without comment. It’s time for Greens to call for a democratised devolution agenda that puts people at the centre – not a handful of officials in back-rooms.

With Labour in open revolt against Corbyn, I’m sticking with the Greens

Originally published on the Norwich Radical

It’s now three months since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party. For Greens, it’s posed some interesting questions.

For a start, Greens didn’t really know how to respond to the new political context. The party positioned itself as the left party for so long (and rightly), but few had thought about what might happen if the Labour Party actually turned left. Suddenly, the political space for the Greens appeared to shrink dramatically. And for a while, there was silence.

But when the time came, Greens welcomed the election of Corbyn – albeit in varying terms. Both Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas praised his election as a boost for progressive politics. Members were cautiously pleased.

There remain, though, some crucial distinctions. While membership fell back slightly, most Green Party members have thus far stuck around. Why?

  1. Greens are in it for the long game. It says something that it’s a truism, but few in the Labour Party think Corbyn will last the full five years. Even many in Corbyn’s camp think he’ll be out before 2020. The Greens are pretty solid on their feet – it’s serious business being in a party, and it’s a choice people don’t make lightly. Many in the Greens are adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach to ostensibly left-wing Labour. It seems like a wise move. Years of the Greens being socialist won’t be undermined by a few trembling months of a progressive Labour Party under Corbyn.
  2. Only the Greens are pushing hard on issues like democratic reform and environmental action. Labour has thus far remained silent on policies such as reforming the House of Lords, introducing proportional representation or keeping 80% of fossil fuels in the ground, as is effectively mandated by the science if we are to keep below catastrophic levels of global warming. Given these are policies that few in Labour – including Corbyn – appear to feel strongly about – and that they are policies Greens feel very strongly about – the lack of overlap is clear.
  3. The Labour Party machine appears un-reformable. Any attempts to deselect right-wing MPs will be struck down before they get off the ground. The 91% non-/anti-Corbynite Parliamentary Labour Party remains the most influential part of the Labour machine – after all, it is they who vote on our laws. So a shift there looks unlikely anytime soon. Just last week, the Labour right triumphed in the influential backbench committees of the PLP. They are not going anywhere. Talks of a coup are not even behind the scenes – Labour are in open revolt against their own left flank – and the potential upcoming vote on Syria will bring the crisis to the fore.
  4. Westminster Labour is not Labour in Brighton, Glasgow, Manchester or Cardiff – council chambers are, needless to say, not echoing with Corbynite speeches across the country. Politics, for most people, is not party conferences. It is the local. And at the local level, Labour has a lot of answer for, if you’re services are being outsourced in Hull or your housing estate is being sold off in Lambeth.
  5. Political traditions matter a lot in politics. And the Greens have a fundamentally different approach to politics. In next May’s devolved (and proportional!) elections in London, Wales and Scotland, it will be the Greens pushing for radical grassroots democracy, for real public engagement, for direct action against housing evictions and climate change, and for a new way of doing things.

The Greens aren’t blowing in all directions like a weathervane – and they certainly aren’t going anywhere.

The Labour Party is in a period of flux, and the Greens are still navigating a new and confusing political terrain. But there remains a place in British politics to praise the good and challenge the bad from outside the Labour Party. The Greens aren’t blowing in all directions like a weathervane – and they certainly aren’t going anywhere.

What it comes down to one is thing: Labour is far too broad a church to remain a consistently left-wing party. Under First Past the Post, it is a party of both neoliberals and Marxists – a contradiction that can’t be reconciled.

All the best to socialists in Labour, but my place is in a party that’s comfortable with being radical.