This, I imagine for some, may come as a bit of a shock but this has been on the horizon, personally, for a good few months; I will explain my decision below in the hope people understand, even if they don’t agree with, my decision.
My politics have developed over the last few years, largely changing in line with my academic study and in accordance with the people I have met and learnt from, politically. I joined the Green Party in 2010, before the LibDems had officially signed a deal with the Tories but when it was pretty much clear that was the way things were going. I stand by that decision; the Greens at that time suited my political outlook, after the LibDems sold out I was wanting to be a member of a party that stood true to its values, principles and ideology – there was hardly anything I disagreed with, and still don’t, in the Green Party’s manifesto. I felt a great level of apathy with the political system and wanted to be involved in a movement that I believed in completely that shared my apathy but did something productive to challenge this.
However, as time has progressed my politics have changed from being more ideologically driven, and dare I say idealistic, as I have become more aware of the constraints, especially global, upon political decisions and the chance for progressive change. I’d say, if I had to pinpoint a specific time this started to change, was when I was writing my dissertation on Venezuela and the constraints Chavez has globally, financially and politically, but at the same time the hope he spreads throughout a country that has a history of colonisation, imperialism and oppression. Despite many criticising Chavez, this again comes down to ignoring the importance of context and the real difference he has made to many people in that country’s life.
The work of Immanuel Wallerstein has also influenced my analysis of political decisions and choices existent to politicians, especially those with good intentions as many in Labour have. As I said in a recent blog post:
I find walking away from substantial progressive attempts to make society better just because it isn’t 100% pure seriously counterproductive to the left’s efforts and I fail to see what they expect to achieve. This isn’t a decision like the Libdems who choose to go to bed with a fascist right wing Tory party at a national level, the reason we are seeing councils being cut at stupid amounts, whilst renouncing on pretty much all of their progressive policies in a desperate bid for power. Again, it comes back to what is the lesser evil, and for me the LibDems would have been better undermining the Tories’ power through remaining an independent, free thinking party. Instead, they have become a shadow of the party they used to be, and for me are set to come extinct. This relates also to my view that we shouldn’t be adverse to working with Labour. Labour, like the Greens, have many progressive members constituting their activist base. They are having influence, as Ed Miliband’s good comments are often painted over by left fractionation and right wing propaganda in the media (Jay Baker has set up an interesting weekly analysis of things we don’t see Ed Miliband say). We need to remember the reality of a system that we live in, for me the real enemies should be the Conservatives in the UK. We need to work together to try to marginalise the damage and pain that is being caused by a party so drenched in Social Darwinism. I’m not naïve to the problems of Labour, but nor am I naïve to the problems of an international system always undermining and cutting chance for progressive resistance. Again, it comes to being pragmatic sometimes when working within the system in a hope of helping alleviate the pain and suffering caused by a system obsessed with greed, corruption and profit.
This relates to Brighton. Whilst others have left because they couldn’t accept the Greens not passing an illegal budget, it actually made me think about how different the Greens can be locally given the constraints nationally placed upon local councils, with them suffering on average 30% budgetary cuts. Given the current national electoral system, FPTP, and little chance of change in the forseeable future the Greens don’t stand much chance in the short-term of gaining a massive influx of MPs to improve local democracy. In a recent article for Now Then, Jay Baker and I analysed the options councils have after £1.5 trillion utilised to bail out the banks has been turned from private to public debt, with the cuts to councils being disproportionately targeted towards the northern councils. In the article we addressed the problems with illegal budgets, the unequal ability for councils to rely on reserves with Eric Pickles’ own departmental research showing that wealthier councils are more likely to be able to rely upon their reserves. For instance, utilising reserves is easier for councils such as Henley-on-Thames, one of the wealthiest areas of Britain that only had to cut by £1m, with proportionately the third biggest reserves (£80m) in England with up to £14m available for use to offset spending cuts.
As Cll Adam Pogonowski said when leaving the Green Party for Labour, recently, it comes down to Labour currently being the best way to oppose the coalition. This government is systematically worse than the Tory government Thatcher led in the 1980s, and people’s lives are literally being lost. As shown in Brighton, decisions aren’t as black and white as I once believed, and in order to help minimise the pain, suffering and destruction that is happening to people’s lives I see joining the main opposition to the Tories and this coalition as the best way of helping build a movement and force against this economic, social and political sadism. I am fed up with the tired old line of “it’s Labour’s fault” given the Tories supported Labour’s economic plans up to 2008, when the recession hit, therefore the Tories either then supported the bailout of £1.5 trillion, and thus the debt and deficit we have now, or they would have supported letting the banks crash and the economy collapsing as a result. These lies and misconceptions have to be challenged.
I know, Labour want to cut. But then this comes back to my point. As shown in Brighton, there are constraints placed upon political leaders’ decisions if they are going to stand to become elected in party politics. Reverting back to my dissertation, I argued for a combination of party politics, inside the system change, and non-party political, outside the system action, which I feel I help towards with my involvement as Research and Development Director at SilenceBreakers – but even this progressive social enterprise accepts the need to work within the system to make people’s lives better.
It also nerves me to see that several Green Party members can congratulate the election of Hollande in France, whilst continually bashing Ed Miliband and the Labour Party even though they share similar policies, and despite in reality whilst I also cheer this result, Hollande has a deficit reduction plan close to Sarkozy’s (wanting to have a 0% deficit by 2017); however, this is largely because of the constraints the European Stability and Growth Pact places upon Eurozone countries, something I will be blogging about soon. As someone asked me on Facebook, if I was pleased Hollande won, should I not vote for Labour? Yes, I have criticised Ed Miliband before – I even entered him into the competition by Bright Green Scotland for being the “dick of the year”. As I said above, my political outlook has changed through experience and witnessing the effects of this government and the sheer desperation it is causing for many, many people in society.
In fact, you can go back over my blogs from the last few years and find a heap of quotes where I criticise Labour; I stand by those comments as I said them at the time, but my politics has changed and I no longer feel comfortable being a member of the Green Party for the reasons explained, and feel the energy and effort I can put into political activism is being undermined as my heart isn’t totally for the Greens anymore. It scares me when it gets to the point where I see Green Party members arguing that it’s a good thing Ken Livingston didn’t get elected, so a Tory idiot can control London’s fate, because it apparently helps the Greens as a right wing candidate is more likely to be elected for Labour, so people are less likely to vote for ‘fake’ left-wing candidates. Thus, in practicality promoting right wing ideology and policies for their own personal party benefit, undermining care and consideration of the effects this could have on ordinary people’s lives. Furthermore, Jenny Jones as the Green Party mayoral candidate didn’t want to commit the Green Party to being a left wing party, nor did she even know what neoliberalism meant!
Furthermore, increasingly Labour are supporting more progressive and left leaning policies and rhetoric – Jay Baker’s “What Ed Says” is a good analysis of this, highlighting statements and commitments Ed makes that the media do not choose to pick up on. Importantly, Labour are a party with a base of overwhelmingly good people who through the Blair years were increasingly disconnected from the leadership. I have met and know of many great left radical thinkers within the Labour party, who I respect and admire greatly. This is also true re the Green Party, where I have met many great, lovely, kind and dedicated people/activists and I really, really hope I remain in contact with these even if they do not agree with my decision. After leaving the LibDems I don’t however expect the awful response I received from people I had come to know and campaign alongside there; but at the same time whilst I expect criticism and disagreement, as I said I hope that does not prevent me remaining in contact and fighting for the same thing as those I have got to know in the Green Party: a better society.
I am glad that Caroline Lucas has in resigning placed her energies and focus upon fighting the LibDems. There has been too much attention from the Greens upon the problems of the Labour Party, who are currently the main opposition to the coalition. Sometimes it feels as though there is more attention placed on undermining Labour than the coalition and that’s a dangerous situation to be in.
So there you go, an attempted explanation of my decision. I hope you still read my blog, despite any political decisions, as fundamentally I am still that same person who continues to fight against social injustice but just now have a different view on the best way to do so. I still believe in working towards an ideal, but also recognise real-life practical, context shaped constraints.