The Greens are likely to succeed in chipping away at Labour support

Worryingly, what the Greens have to offer is very appealing to Labour supporters like me

Worryingly, what the Greens have to offer is very appealing to Labour supporters like me

As Sam Fowles on these pages yesterday pointed out, while Ukip has split the right the party will still have a negative impact upon Labour. Nigel Farage wants to be the worst nightmare of both Cameron and Miliband, and this will happen at a local as well as national level, worryingly with Ukip taking Labour votes.

But on the political soul of the Labour party the worry seems to be squarely with the Greens. Today Caroline Lucas goes to her party’s conference with the intention of reminding voters just how weak the Labour party has been at opposing the Tory-led government.

She will say:

“Secret courts as part of the justice and security bill? Labour refused to oppose [them]. On the appallingly illiberal immigration bill, they abstained. They support workfare sanctions. Even on the issue of bringing the railways back into public ownership – a hugely popular policy – Labour has flunked it.”

Natalie Bennett, the Green leader, is expected to tell her conference that the party wants to see the minimum hourly wage increased to £10 for all by 2020, a direct hit at Labour. But why hasn’t Labour been stronger on radically changing the minimum wage?

Perhaps the Greens can say this with the safety of being a relatively small party, but they are growing. She will go on to say at the conference:

“The fact that the Green party are consistently polling at some of our best numbers since 1989 goes to show that our message of the need to reshape our politics and economy to work for the common good is really hitting home.”

The case for massive increases in wages is a strong one. For example, and aside from the fact it will put more money in the pockets of Britons (which is always good), it will have a positive knock on effect on the economy, with more people buying things, which in turn is good for local businesses and job growth.

When James Ball for the Guardian carried out a mini-experiment about how much people spend on their rents alone, he found that in four areas of the country, including Barnsley and Hull, just 13 hours a week of minimum wage work will fund the rent on the average flat, while in London, that average jumps to over 30 hours. In Kensington and Chelsea, it hits 70.

Shelter found in 2013 that Londoners spend 59 per cent of their incomes on rent, while, the company that compiled a rental index in 2011, said asking prices had risen every month of that year, and were up 4.6 per cent in 12 months, adding £468 to the average annual rent bill. British families, the index concluded, could spend up to half their incomes on rent.

While people spend too much on where they live they are not spending on the high streets and their local communities, which in turn puts a strain on jobs in those areas, results in shop closures and affects future local investment.

The inability for government to make sure people are paid more has a huge negative impact on the country as a whole.

While this typically would have been natural Labour turf the Greens are now swooping in and making a good case. In fact this is happening across a range of issues.

The party wants to see a drastic change from austerity to investment in the UK, they want our public utilities in our hands not those of faceless corporations.

As Owen Jones in his new book The Establishment points out, back in November 2013 Ed Miliband had the chance of taking a radical turn with calling for the renationalisation of energy, after a YouGov poll showed nearly seven in 10 voters backed the move. But he didn’t take it.

As Lucas says, Miliband has flunked it.

So while the right is fighting itself the Labour party has a chance to show they are a real party sticking its neck out for working people, to offer a real social democratic alternative to the economic illiteracy of the coalition government.

The trouble is it isn’t pursuing this loud enough, and as the records show the party actually is passing up the opportunity to make those radical changes, so much of which has the backing of the public.

The Greens, however, are – and even to Labour supporters such as myself that is very appealing.

Carl Packman is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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25 Responses to “The Greens are likely to succeed in chipping away at Labour support”

  1. Dave Roberts

    All of the statistics you quote Carl are almost certainly true, you get it right most of the time, the mistake you are making is to think in some convoluted way that they translate into support for the Greens.

    In Brigton and Hove they ave been a disaster. If that is the way they run on council do you seriously think that anyone is going to trust them anywhere else? All of their more sensible policies have been appropriated by the mainstream and they will probably just fade away.

  2. WheresTheEvidence?

    “So while the right is fighting itself the Labour party has a chance to show they are a real party sticking its neck out for working people, to offer a real social democratic alternative to the economic illiteracy of the coalition government.”
    We’re talking about a party which accepts austerity, thinks that “Hardworking Britain better off” is a persuasive slogan, and has nothing to say about too-big-too-fail banks. Social democratic alternative doesn’t really describe the Labour party, does it?

  3. Dave Roberts

    So what are you recommending? Another long suicide note that will keep the party out of power for a generation?

  4. Rorshak

    As opposed to offering nothing, hoping we’ve had enough of the Tories to vote them out and then limp across the line to offer a different hue of Neo liberal ideology. Better to fight on your feet than die on your knees.

  5. Reuben

    One question is where this leaves other left groups, such as newly formed Left Unity.

  6. Guest

    Well of course, there will be fighting for the centre. Shame about anyone standing up for the left, but hey.

  7. Leon Wolfeson

    You seem to prefer putting the Tories back into power one way or another, because either of the “parties” would have the same right wing politics.

    You ignore, of course, the way Labour dropped votes as they moved right over their period in power, and how they drop votes even now when they move right because that does not suit your agenda of utterly disenfranchising even the centralists…

  8. Leon Wolfeson

    LU have managed to marginalise themselves utterly, by insisting on representing a very narrow slice of the left.

  9. Richard Wells

    Best part of a lifetime voting Labour I finally despaired a couple of months ago and joined the Green Party.

  10. Dave Roberts

    This includes you Leon. The centre ground is the only way. If you want to go for a “radical” left manifesto please do and Labour will be out of power for a generation, again. The greens have failed becuase people don’t vote for them as they don’t vote BNP, TUSC, SWP, Monster Raving Loony or Respect. Questions please.

  11. Dave Roberts

    My point exactly Leon. What’s happened? You seem to understand what’s going on for a change.

  12. Julia

    The posts make me sad. It is all about being elected. The centre ground is the only way. Longest suicide note…etc etc

    That approach does make the Greens very attractive.

  13. blarg1987

    Labour only lost power, because the Conservative Government at the time lied (number of mines proposed to be closed more then actually stated) and made people feel richer then they actually were (right to buy, privatisation and North Sea revenue to fund tax cuts).

    Labour’s biggest mistake was to carry on following many of these policies which culminated in the crash of 2007 etc. If Labour went back to its core and principle values, it is more likely we would have coalition governments that were more left wing then the New Labour era and not had such a big problem with the financial crisis.

    Labour would also be a political party to be seen as forward thinking and not be stained with many of the social and economic problems it has been associated with for continuing previous government policy.

    Short term yes Labour may have been out of power, but longer term Labour would be a better political party that would force the Conservative party to move towards the left to retain votes then everyone moving towards the right.

  14. Leon Wolfeson

    I get what’s happening just fine, that you accidentally notice the truth once…

  15. christianguthier

    You don’t win elections by attacking the Sun’s Page 3 girl. You win elections by talking about the economy. Do that and I might consider voting Green.

  16. Naomi Fearon

    Why do people always refer to the far left of the party as justification for its lurch to the right and accept this as okay. I think having the core public services properly nationalised e.g utilities, NHS, schools and railways , a more democratic banking system as suggested by positive money, building social housing, introducing the living wage and not backing austerity is actually what many people not just Labour supporters/members would welcome and quite frankly it is needed. Scrabbling around centre ground is not what the party needs to be doing.

  17. Jordan Lloyd

    People don’t vote for them? Have you seen the polling statistics? Also, on polls where only the policies are shown and not the parties, the Greens have unequivocally the highest support. If they can get their name out more and get more coverage, there is very little limiting them.

  18. Jordan

    Labour are not a left wing party anymore.

  19. Jordan

    Have you seen their manifesto? It’s one of the few that is actually fully costed, where they explain all of their policies and how they would afford each one. (Most of which is about the economy)

  20. Reuben

    In what way does left unity only represent a narrow slice of the people to the left of labour? 🙂

  21. Leon Wolfeson

    Keep seeing me everywhere.

    You are far right, not centralist. You want the right to win by making Labour into a right wing party which does exactly what the Tories do.

    Rather than risk getting elected with a mandate which would actually do any good for this country, rather than for your pocketbook, UKIPer.

  22. Guest

    The cost to the poor of being unable to afford energy…

  23. treborc1

    Jesus why is it your on a site like this when it pretty obvious your from Planet Zog.


  24. free range slave

    the Oxfam report ‘working for the few’ tells us that a tiny minority of people that the government has helped to create and maintains, the good old ruling class, are sitting on massive resources and ever higher piles of stinking greed while millions starve to death, millions more are worked to a slow death, many more are bored to death – our children are starved of knowledge and the ability to think critically has been stagnated by state school – ten pounds an hour! for a human life!someone putting his or her mind, body and spirit into a task for the entirety of the one precious magical, awe inspiring life that we have – how can we continue to support any structures like this? Just ignore the elephant in the room parading around with its I’m better than you face on after hoarding all the time and resources and leaving us hungering for the end of this nonsense. Hmm think I’m in a mood, I wonder why?, pass the SSRI’s i’d like to not care just a little more NICE. No no please CBT me I must not forget thoughts are just thoughts and not facts, and sitting in a room with someone getting them to think that their very painful pain is due to their own C or B error such Twattery while the world bares down on US- rotten play. Is this a joke> are the greens the new marketing tool for the paid for free market – look! this is what you could have won…. now cough up and bend over I want your TAX.

  25. David Stringer

    Plus policies like protection and nationalisation of the NHS, railways, energy etc. tend to be supported by a majority of people, even a slim majority of self-defining Tories.

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