socialist

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
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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

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.

Steady gains through shifting left – the future of the Greens?

Reposted from Chat Politics

It’s been a strong few years for the Greens. Membership has surged past 18,000 – up from around half that figure before Caroline Lucas’ success in Brighton. There are more Green councillors than ever, 170, and this May’s European elections brought an extra MEP in the South West’s Molly Scott-Cato, bringing the number of Green European Parliamentarians to three.

Leader Natalie Bennett, a surprise victor back in 2012, has proved more radical than some would have expected. Prioritising the renationalisation of the railways and energy companies, as well as joining picket lines across the country for a Living Wage and workers’ rights; she has arguably entrenched the leftward pull on the party that has grown since the election of Lucas as an MP.

The growth figures – both in terms of electoral success and members – suggests this strategy has worked, picking up disenchanted ex-Lib Dem and Labour voters and becoming the third party of students and ‘the youth’ through the Young Greens.

All this has led to the highest polling figures for the Greens since the historic 1989 European election, where the party polled 15%. Greens are currently level-pegging with the Lib Dems for the General Election. That’s both new, and very exciting.

What does this mean for the next year? It could bring an extra couple of MPs. Natalie Bennett is pouring plenty of work into her Holborn and St Pancras constituency, while activists are dedicated to re-electing Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion. Although many expect the party will lose the council there, it seems likely that Lucas, a popular and hard-working MP, will retain her seat. However, Labour, targeting the constituency, are determined a Green alternative isn’t heard in Parliament which could threaten their position as ‘the’ ostensibly progressive party.

At the same time, Bristol is rapidly becoming a hive of Green activity, tripling the number of Green councillors at the recent local elections and becoming the first party by popular vote across Bristol West wards. The ramifications of this could be enormous, potentially securing a Green Parliamentary seat in local environmental campaigner Darren Hall. Alongside Scott-Cato, the South West could become a future stronghold for the party. Meanwhile, Greens expect to pick up further council seats in the Midlands, alongside Cambridge, London, Oxford, Liverpool, Leeds and elsewhere.

But there are ideological differences bubbling underneath these steady gains. Although you probably don’t know about it, there’s a leadership election going at the moment. The Greens are picking their team for the next two years. Well, sort of. The leadership position is uncontested, effectively guaranteeing Natalie Bennett another two years in her post. But the two deputy posts are contested among five candidates. Three come from broadly the centre and centre-right of the party – admittedly still on the left of the so-called ‘political spectrum’.

But the other two; incumbent Will Duckworth and Young Green Amelia Womack, are proud ecosocialists who intend for the Greens to stress a radically different vision for Britain compared to the neoliberal consensus. One which proposes systemic change, not just cautious reforms.

We don’t know who will win yet, but it seems likely that Duckworth, with the incumbency advantage of recognition and popularity as a working-class non-Londoner, will keep his post. And Womack, so far the only self-declared female candidate, is effectively guaranteed a seat through the gender ‘balance’ rules, although she is pushing for a strong first preference vote nonetheless.

What this means for the future of the Greens is that, for the first time in the history of Britain, a de facto ecosocialist party could be – if it isn’t already – the third or fourth national party. And that is something that gives hope to those on the left, whichever political tribe they come from.

Another hero has fallen

It was possibly the worst bit of news for the left in Britain to wake up to. Not just the left though – millions of others who respected Tony Benn’s rare commitment, passion and principle. It’s been a week of huge blows to all those who seek a fairer society this week, with the passing of Bob Crow too.

I was lucky enough to hear Tony speak, again like millions of others, at a host of political events over the past few years. He was the man whose Diaries convinced me of the need for a radical politics when I was 17 – a politics that was unreservedly socialist. And what is socialism but democracy extended into the economic sphere? It was his drive for an unapologetically ideological politics in a supposedly non-ideological world (though one dominated by neoliberalism) that inspired many. The need for us all to ask ourselves – ‘which side are we on?’.

The speech I will remember most was in the crowded Central Wall of Westminster at the launch of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity last year. Here he recounted how he had stood in that same hall in 1945 next to newly-elected Clement Attlee amid a wave of support for progressive values – universal health care, homes and jobs for all, a decent outcome in the workplace through collective bargaining.

Here’s the speechwww.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/rip_tony_benn

I can’t add anything else to the hundreds of articles and blogs that have already been written, but my own personal experience of being inspired, as a young person in a right-wing world, by someone who championed the cause of working class people. He was what the Labour Party should always have been but that never really was. One of my friends put it better than others: he was the ‘final ember of the soul of the Labour Party.’

Though always a Labour member, he was of course fiercely anti-Blairite. But Labour’s right-wing turn occurred way before 1997.

For Greens like me, here’s a snippet from him in 1989, following an NEC vote: “[Labour] have abandoned unilateralism [re. disarmament], and however we dress it up, we are going to keep the bomb. That is catastrophic, because lots of people are just not going to support Labour – they’ll vote Green or something. I think the Labour Party may be in a state of terminal decline.” In terms of principles, he couldn’t have been more prescient.

Because it’s not just Labour socialists mourning his passing. It’s Greens and progressives from across the movement and the world. And it’s also Young People, angry and poor but with no political figures to turn to in this modern age.

Here’s what I wrote for the Young Greens’ site: “Tony Benn was a man of immense courage, conviction and honesty. He was an inspiration to millions of people throughout his lifetime, including thousands of young people today who were introduced to ideas of social justice through his tireless campaigning, speaking across the country to those disenchanted with the legacy of Thatcherism that lives on today through austerity politics.

“His passion for a truly democratic society, not one dominated by corporate greed, is one that Young Greens share, and the progressive movement has lost a great figure today.

“The Young Greens send our deepest sympathies and condolences to Tony Benn’s family and friends.

“We can only hope that we as political young people today can carry on his vision for a fairer society.”

In 1990 Benn  said: “With the disappearance of socialism from the international agenda, we are getting back to great-power politics, to nationalism, to racism, to imperialism, and to all sorts of other unattractive xenophobic characteristics.” With the rise of far-right parties across Europe, he couldn’t have been more right. It’s time to bring back radical progressive politics.

If we can live up to 1000th of the principle and hope that Tony Benn stood for, we should be proud. There’s no one left like Tony.

Rest in Peace, comrade. I raise my pipe to you.

Image

 

Fair Equity Party backs the Greens

18th March update: the founder of the Fair Equity Party has now actually joined the Greens, and is in the process of moving all the party’s members over to the Green Party.

A bit of obscure party-political news, but something of interest for those active on the interwebs who may have seen a bunch of new little parties floating around in recent months – Fair Equity, None of the Above, Class War, Left Unity and so on (as well as the re-emergence of Bob Crow’s [RIP] No2EU). There’s also a random nationalistic ‘socialist’ group whose name escapes me. I hope to write about them in more detail soon but here’s a quick trivial update.

It seems one of the new fledgling left-wing parties has actually now thrown its (probably very limited) weight behind the Green Party:

In a statement shared on Facebook, the party said:

**The Green Party Update: Fair Equity Proposal to support**
We have made contact with The Green Party as we believe that that with such a short time before the General Election in May 2015, it would be unrealistic for us to try and mobilise the party and try to generate enough support to get suitable funding and enough votes

We are therefore proposing that we (FairEquity) put our voices / votes behind The Green Party in the run-up to 2015. We must make it clear that The Green Party of today are a very different organisation than they were and some perception probably is based on the past. The Green Party of today aren’t ‘bunny strokers’ of yesteryear, they are an organised political party/movement with excellent policies & people (some policiies they could go further with). They have put their policies very clearly on their website, and we will await The Green Party Leader to make contact (as promised by one of their colleagues today)

This Tory gvmt are trying to shrink the state so much that the only ones that will benefit will be the wealthy. The 95% of us will be asked to work harder for less money with less benefits. and God help the poor, who will be in a worse situation. On this note – we must all think very seriously come 2015 General Election as the Tories must go. They are the most disgusting political idiots that British politics has ever seen.

I will keep you all updated on the discussion with The Green Party, and maybe even ask Natalie Bennett (Leader of The Green Party, to come and have an open chat with people here)

Regards

www.fairequity.org.uk

They made a similar statement on Twitter: “FairEquity: looking to throw support behind The Green Party (some solid social policy & sustainability)”

On their site, the party state their three main aims are:

1. Proportionate ‘to earnings’ Taxation
(people on a smaller wage are taxed less, those on a large wage taxed high)

2. An end to massive Inheritances

3. [To] Equally Support all people in UK

Stuff I suppose has a fair amount in common with the Greens.

They state they currently have 70 candidates declared, but I suppose they’ll all have to now be out campaigning for the Green Party if that’s their new decision.

Ah the world of obscure lefty grouplets!

9 Thoughts on Left Unity and its Founding Conference

Saturday saw the launch of a new left-wing political party in Britain – Left Unity. I won’t attempt to report on it, as I wasn’t there (nor did I want especially want to be). I just want to lay down a few thoughts on its implications for the wider left, particularly the Greens – speaking as someone who was initially positive (I signed up to the launch appeal) but who is growing increasingly sceptical.

Just under 500 officially attended* the inaugural conference of Left Unity, the project set up by socialist film maker Ken Loach and backed by leading left figures such as Kate Hudson, Richard Seymour and others.

Here’s 9 points from a loyal-but-concerned Green Party activist on the founding gathering of the initiative.

  1. There is clearly demand for Left Unity – more than 10,000 people have registered as supporters, and over 1200 people have formally joined since membership launched just a few months ago. A third of those attended last weekend’s conference. Explaining the demand for a new project is partly down to disillusionment with Labour, and the many sects to its left (not to mention their behaviour – the SWP’s Comrade Delta scandal e.g.). But it also has to be put down to something the Greens are doing, or not doing. The party’s actions in Brighton – i.e. passing austerity budgets – is obviously a major factor. We only have to look to the stream of Greens who have joined Left Unity in recent months – most/all of whom put their defection down to Brighton Council.
  2. At the same time however, there are arguably already more than enough left-wing parties in the UK (of which Labour is clearly not one). Of them, the Greens are the largest and have the most representation at all elected levels (and unelected levels, if our first peer for some years, Jenny Jones, is included). TUSC, Respect, the Greens and now Left Unity reflect the electoral mish-mash of British leftist politics now – not to mention the vast array of tiny groups which don’t generally contest elections.
  3. The party already seems to have overcome some of the stereotypes of the far-left. Far from resembling the misogyny of the SWP, it adopted a 50%+ female-leadership quota. It also saw its dogmatic communist arm routed in a conference vote on which platform to back – the more mainstream Left Party Platform easily winning over the Socialist and Communist Platforms. This comes with caveats, however. The conference provided no crèche, was mostly white male-dominated and refused to allow extra time for safe spaces policy to be discussed. A mixed start, then.
  4. If Left Unity is to mean anything, it has to mean genuine unity. Partly that means there has to be a serious reduction in the number of random socialist parties – something that is only marginally currently happening (with the mooted merger of the ex-SWP International Socialist Network, the ex-Workers’ Power Anti-Capitalist Network and the [eco-]Socialist Resistance).
  5. The whole project puts Greens in a dilemma. For a start, the party is almost certain to contest the next bunch of elections – definitely in 2015, at any rate. This means they will in many cases be standing against Greens. Do the Greens simply try to shrug them off, or do we attempt to engage? Clearly we can no longer do that from within Left Unity, as it is now a separate membership organisation and an electoral party. Instead, there have to be serious talks at local and national levels about pacts – lest the Greens be wiped out under our already-hostile electoral system as another group joins the fray. It doesn’t look like Left Unity is planning to start such a debate – a large number of its members are actively hostile to the Green Party (Loach himself is sympathetic to the Greens but argues we can never become a mass party of the un/organised working-class). We thus need to make the first move.
  6. If Caroline Lucas loses her seat in 2015, many Greens are, sadly, likely to leave the party – possibly towards Left Unity. Already, a number of left-wing Green councillors in Brighton are thinking of defecting. If Caroline loses, this number will undoubtedly rise – both in Brighton and across the country. I’ve spoken to a large number of Greens – many of them young and active – for whom this is the case. Such an outpouring of elected councillors and members will be a huge boost to Left Unity after its first electoral showing – potentially pitching it as the second ‘major’ left-wing party of England (if not Britain).
  7. At this time, many on the independent left are adopting a ‘wait and see’ policy about Left Unity – if it doesn’t quickly descend into factional bickering (as I’ve heard it has in some branches already), they will jump aboard.
  8. However, for the Greens there are few genuinely good potential outcomes of Left Unity – if it succeeds, the Greens may be decimated and replaced by a less ecologically-focused old-school left project. If it fails, a massive swathe of the left will likely drift (again, in many cases) into inaction and despair – as in the past with the Socialist Alliance.
  9. The best outcome is for a decent working relationship with the Green Party – some form of electoral pact, as I’ve argued elsewhere. This will require hard work and mutual engagement. At the moment, such a prospect seems unlikely. But if Left Unity isn’t to become a slightly-bigger version of TUSC, it’s essential. What’s more, it’s also important for the survival of the Greens: without cooperation, Greens will face a choice. With an insurgent socialist force emerging as a serious left-challenge to our party and the political system, many will be asking themselves – ‘should I stay or should I go?’ Some have already made their mind up. After the next elections, which offer uncertain chances for the Greens in Brighton and nationally, many more may follow.

————————————————–

*Most observers put attendance at 400, out of nearly 700 who registered to come, but that’s neither here nor there.