Friday, 22 June 2012

We Need a Labour Government

Well, obviously we need a Green government, but sadly that will not come about at the next general election, which is planned to be held in 2015. It could be that we win a few more parliamentary seats, and if the result is close, possibly get some influence on a minority government. For me though, this could not be with the Conservatives, because they are just too right wing, and I think most Greens would agree with me on that.

So, that means that it would need to be a Labour led government, given the likely arithmetic, they are the only other party capable winning enough seats to be in with a chance of forming a government. It could well be that Labour wins an overall majority and doesn’t need to strike any deals with other parties, but even this is preferable to the present ConDem government, for two main reasons, one partisan the other not so.

Firstly, in general, it would be good for the country to have a Labour government, or at least not as bad as it is under the disastrous rule of the current incumbents, the coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, who have driven us into a double dip recession with their ideological obsession of cutting back the state. I say at least not as bad, because they too would be cutting almost as much and as fast as the government is, should they have won the last general election. 

The best thing that you can say about a Labour government, and it is pretty much what they say about it themselves, is that they would be slightly better than the Tories, and I suppose that is about right. I think a lot of other people are thinking this too, as they struggle with the consequences of present economic policies, and so Labour has become a more attractive proposition.

Take the recent London Assembly elections for example. Labour did very well as a ‘brand’ and only lost the mayorality to the Conservatives because Ken Livingstone was portrayed as shifty and hypocritical over his tax affairs. Which he was! Everywhere else they did well, mostly at the expense of the Lib Dems. The Green vote did increase slightly, but it looks as though Labour have swallowed up much of the disaffected Lib Dem vote, in London anyway.

So, let’s get rid of this ConDem government, and replace it with a Labour one.

Secondly, and in more partisan terms, I think the Green party does better under a Labour government. Hopes are always soon dashed by an incoming Labour administration, and the left type voters start looking for a credible alternative party to support, which was mainly the Lib Dems in recent years, but is less likely to be in the future.

Yes, it does take time to build into a party that can be taken seriously as an alternative government, a commodity we don’t have much of given the small window of time left to seriously tackle climate change, and the need to achieve real improvements to social justice for the people.

But if you keep making the arguments, particularly in a world where the status quo has clearly failed, and will continue to fail, you can bring people around. Admittedly, the UK is not in as bad a shape as Greece at the moment, but the spectacular rise of the Syriza left coalition which includes greens, from 4% to 27% of the vote in just three years, making them now the main opposition party in Greece, is an inspiration to us all.    


Jeremy Green said...

Labour is now in opposition, and it usually looks a bit nicer under these circumstances. It's easy to think that the Government is doing lots of nasty things because it's a Tory government, and that Labour wouldn't be so nasty.

But Labour's record in office speaks for itself. Inequality grew, the manufacturing base of the economy declined, the public sector was continually 'reformed', the principles of workfare were put into place, civil liberties were consistently trashed, surveillance grew, foreign policy was subservient to US interests. Education, especially higher education, was 'marketized'. Public services were funded not by redistributive taxation but by 'funny money' schemes like PFI which were premised on continuing consistent economic growth. On its own terms, as a mildly social democratic party of the centre-left, Labour was an absolute failure.

Of course on our terms Labour was a much bigger failure. It did little to tackle carbon emissions that didn't involve fudge and fiddling. It planned to expand aviation and build a third runway for Heathrow. Its solution to providing a better quality of life for all was more economic growth; and even now, in opposition, its main criticism of the Tories is that their economic policies will not deliver enough growth.

The main difference between the Cameron government and its Labour predecessors is the mood music. Cameron needs to indulge the Tory right which is anti-EU, anti-regulation and anti-environmental, and he has no need to try to keep what remains of the trade unions on board. Labour could deliver for big business without needing to indulge the free market fantasies of the Tory rank and file and their paid-for 'think tank' intellectuals, though as Leveson has revealed it was desperately keen to keep Murdoch, and the Daily Mail, on side.

I don't doubt that the political climate, and the opportunities for the Green Party, would be better under Labour. But that is the sense in which we'd prefer a Labour government. If we don't want to confuse the public about what we stand for, we'd better make that clear.

Mike Shaughnessy said...

Thanks Jeremy.

I can find very little to disagree with you here.

Yes, Labour was crap in government, which led me to join the Green party such was my despair. All the things you mention about their period in office are lamentably true. PFI was a disaster for public services, but remember the first ever PFI scheme in the UK, the Skye bridge, was initiated by John Major’s Tory government (a fact that the Tories neglect to mention these days when blaming Labour for PFI’s, whilst continuing to implement new PFI schemes). The SNP government in Scotland sensibly cancelled the Skye PFI, but at some financial cost.

But nothing you say changes my mind that the Tories are even worse than Labour in government. Just one example, is the shameful attack on people on benefits, by this ConDem (Tory led) government. I keep expecting to wake up one day, to hear the news that workhouses are to be reintroduced as the central plank of the welfare system. I could go on and mention other areas where the Tories are worse, but I’m sure you are familiar with all of them.

On economic growth as the cure to all our ills, this is an interesting question for Greens.

Yes, growth will lead to an improvement in economic prospects for most people in the UK, but as we Greens know, it has a downside, in costs to the environment, particularly in carbon emissions and so to dangerous climatic change.

The Green party (England and Wales) has sought to square this circle by talking about ‘green growth’ (if that is not an oxymoron), because you can’t fight elections saying that we need a thirty year recession to draw back from the brink of ecological disaster.

The Green New Deal is an attempt to put flesh on these aspirations, a classic Keynesian response to recession, whilst at the same time having a beneficial effect on the environment (insulation schemes, renewable energy etc). The problem with this is that at some stage even this type of growth has stop, and another form of growth found that is eco-friendly. Or we move to a no- growth, more sharing economy, or what you could call socialism (with an eco-prefix).

I am pessimistic that we will get to this stage in my lifetime, and so we have to achieve what we can, in the here and now, which brings me back to thinking that we need a Labour government in 2015.