This post was first published on The Disraeli Room, on behalf of the Young Greens.
It has been a bitter winter: unprecedented snowfall, steep hikes in fuel prices, and the prospect of job losses and service cancellations lingering around the corner. For the majority of the UK population, 2011 is going to be tough – benefit payments will be cut, libraries shut, transport costs risen, VAT increased… the list is endless. We’re facing a harsh loss of our welfare state for an economic crisis we did not cause. And we’re not happy about it either.
Voted Liberal Democrat, Got a Tory
In April, the Liberal Democrats promised us that their would be no cuts this year. They promised us an end to tuition fees. They promised Proportional Representation. They promised the liberalisation of migration borders. In all of their progressive commitments, the Liberal Democrats have failed to live up to their promises, pandering to the Conservatives in return for a false sense of power. None to the left of the party has spoken out against these cuts; instead we are faced with policies from a government we didn’t vote for.
The increase in Liberal Democrat vote for Elwyn Watkins in the Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election could suggest a swing from the Conservative liberals. Alternatively, Watkins’ publicity and success could be due to his role in the dismissal of Woolas for running a false campaign against him. In any case, Watkins was certainly not voted for for his progressive beliefs.
Even with a deficit caused by the crash of the international banking system, no party has taken the reigns to pull the economy back into control. Instead of challenging the creators of the economic crisis we’re facing – the lack of regulation on financial products – the poorest are being asked to pay. Of the three main parties, not one is questioning whether any of these cuts are necessary at all. Instead, they’ve all accepted neoliberal monetary policy – cut the deficit by cutting public spending. There is no need to say that there are progressive alternatives in abundance.
Yet there is a Party that has made its voice heard, and is likely to take the swing vote away from the Liberal Democrats. The Green Party remains the only political voice that encourages public investment through tax increases for the richest and closing the loopholes in the tax system. Caroline Lucas MP has consistently called out against rail fare increases. She has supported the vulnerable in speaking out against unnecessary fuel price hikes this winter. Her Question Time appearance made clear the weak economic theories behind the Coalition’s austerity measures:
“If we try to [reduce the deficit] through throwing more and more people out of work, we will simply lose their tax revenues, we will have to pay out their redundancies, we will have to pay out benefits, and actually that’s going to make matters worse, that is more likely to tip us into that double-dip recession.”
“George Osborne’s strategy is basically to close his eyes, cross his fingers, and hope that the private sector will manage to produce the jobs that have been destroyed in the public sector.”
The Liberal Democrats have vacated their seat as representing a better alternative to the main two parties. For progressives who truly want to build a more equal, fair and just society that places people before profit – the Green Party is the only party to support.
The Progressive Red is in the Past
The Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election may have swung to Labour, but the population was clearly making a stance against the regressive coalition cuts, choosing the only party they believe would not have cut jobs, cut benefits and cut local services – no matter if Woolas did deceive them. Yet Labour has not promised to save any of those under its plan of austerity measures.
The Blair years have seen Labour move away from its original position of representing the working classes; they have betrayed their original supporters, pandering instead to the mainstream media and middle-class dominated centre-right politics.
Miliband’s “new generation” is no different – progressive policies are not blaming economic problems on immigration or satisfying corporate interests. Alan Johnson as Shadow-chancellor says enough on Labour’s future political economic theory – for them, austerity is the bitter pill that all of us have to take to ensure the rich don’t move away.
Is this really a Party that looks like it is likely to change to progressive politics? For a progressive in Labour, how much energy will it take to battle Johnson internally and the Coalition externally at the same time? Is it worth it?
Why go Green now?
Green Party politics is about values; values such as the right to a job (and stable income), the right to an education, and the right to public services. The right has made us believe that people are only self-interested. They are wrong.
Keynesian economics, tackling climate change, building safer communities, improving well-being, stamping out inequality and injustice: these are all part and parcel of the same problem. The Green New Deal is beginning of a perfectly viable solution to these crises – through investment in green jobs, ending tax havens, sustainable social housing, capital controls and green banking we can rebuilt our society.
These changes will not happen overnight, but it will happen. We need to reclaim the left, reclaim its values of inclusion, community and life – destroying the belief in selfishness and insecurity that drives right-wing politics. The Greens still hold those values close to their hearts, acknowledging the Common Cause. We’re starting with the grassroots, talking to the everyday person and learning that Green politics is about what is right, not ill-fated hope.
There is only one truly progressive party left – and we’re building and growing it idea by idea. Joining the Green Party now is signing up to a Progressive future – and it’s a future you can still shape.