It’s no secret that I’ve been a Green Party member for about a year now, and I spent a sizeable portion of the pre-election campaign urging people on the left to ditch Labour and vote for the Green instead. The Greens represent everything Labour should be and more, and despite the obstacles they face with out intolerably undemocratic electoral system, it is becoming more and more clear that “tactical voting” and not “splitting the vote” are simply not justification enough for turning your back on the principles you hold dear, and do not yield desired results.
The way many progressives backed Miliband out of fear and desperation was a stunning display of cowardice, and it has bore them absolutely no fruits. Supporters of Palestine, anti-austerity activists, environmental advocates, and anybody else discontented with the current system opted for a party of pure mediocrity which wanted to keep all of Osborne’s budget, all of Smith’s welfare reforms, and all of May’s anti-immigration mandates, and would have seen none of the policies they wanted implemented. Not one. The absurdity of backing a second-rate Conservative party to undo the damage done by the Conservatives is one of the darkest chapters of left-wing activism in the UK.
But that was then and this is now, and a new opportunity presents itself for the left to bemoan the Green Party for encouraging a splitting of the vote. Desperate to justify their cowardice at the last election, left-wing activists who reluctantly voted for Labour are now looking to Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn (familiarize yourself) for some grace, some way to tell them that they did the right thing in the end.
The sailor-esque commie rascal himself.
Putting aside cowardly Milibandites, I’ve been asked a few times for my thoughts on Corbyn, since he shares a sizeable ideological territory with the Greens, and specifically I’ve been asked whether a Labour Party led by him would be enough to make me defect from the Greens. In short, any party that matches my political ideology and has some remote capacity to win elections is enough to make me defect because I am not a partisan. I believe in the implementation of my ideology, not in party structures. To their credit, this seems to be the view of some Green Party officials too. If Corbyn proves to embody the right path for the UK, then I’m sold.
So far, Corbyn is doing a good job at representing the ubiquitously unheard in not only the Labour Party, but in British society as well. He is opposed to the profit motive in healthcare, is opposed to military interventions, is opposed to cuts to welfare and public services, supports nuclear non-proliferation, supports environmentalism, rejects corporate tax evasion, and believes in free education. Corbyn is an old-style socialist that pre-Thatcherite Labour leaders would be proud to call one of their own. My only bone of contention so far is that he does not support proportional representation, and while this is hugely disappointing, it is by no means a deal-breaker for me.
The problem I have is that even as leader, Corbyn is just one man. If you take a look at the four contenders for leadership (Andy Burnham, Jeremy Corbyn, Liz Kendall, and Yvette Cooper), all candidates save Corbyn are centrists at best who refused to oppose the government’s recent Welfare Bill. In the leadership race, Corbyn is outnumbered three to one on the issue of welfare, and this is somewhat similar to the make-up of Labour MPs, only 20% of whom defied the party’s instructions and voted against the Bill. In essence, Labour is comprised of 80% Red Tories and 20% Corbynites where welfare is concerned, and it’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to think this is the same for many other policy areas.
While many of the same cowardly left-wingers who opted for Miliband now think Corbyn is the man to save the Labour Party, I’m not convinced that he will be enough to salvage their socialist credentials, the purging of which began with Blair. Until Labour undergoes a complete attitude change and stops putting forward candidates that agree with the Conservatives on key areas, it will continue to be a stale and failed party. As I’ve argued before, the longer Labour tries to be more conservative than the Conservatives, it will continue to grant a mandate for right-wing politics and starve the country of a much-needed opposition.
One thing is for sure; Corbyn has a massive fight on his hands. The oh-so deceptive Andrew Marr managed to lure Corbyn into a discussion about Karl Marx recently, prompting predictably embarrassing fears about a Russian-style revolution if Corbyn is Prime Minister. These will surely be the first of many sly and boring attempts to paint him as some kind of freedom-hating Marxist like they did with Miliband. Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy managed to corner Corbyn into a trap too, painting him as a terrorist sympathizer by repeating another misleading sound bite where Corbyn referred to Hamas as “friends” during a delegation. A sad sign of things to come and another indictment of our petty “free” media.
In short, even if he does secure the nomination, Corbyn is going to face five years of enormous opposition inside and outside of his own party by cowardly Blairite catastrophizers and Thatcherite demagogues, and will have to fight tooth and nail to drag his party away from centrism and mediocrity. It is not clear yet that he can win this fight. Until Labour changes not only from the top-down but from the bottom-up, I’ll stick to the Greens.