Is it time for the Green Party to affiliate to Labour?

Nearly a month on from the election, talk is growing about the prospect of Labour and the Greens formally uniting.

Since the Green Party’s vote halved last month, debate has been growing as to what the party should do next.

Now that talk has turned to potentially affiliating to the Labour Party.

The main group for left-wing Greens has been seen a lot of talk from people suggesting the party formerly unites with Labour.

The first time we heard this idea was when Jon Lansman, Labour member and one of the founders of Momentum, suggested it last year.

The model that is being talked about is that of the Co-operative Party, which goes back to the roots of the movement in Rochdale, Lancashire, where the first Co-op was formed in 1844, and they became a political party in 1917. As their website says:

“Since 1927, the Party has had an electoral agreement with Labour Party. This enables us to stand joint candidates in elections, recognising our shared values and maximising our impact.’ The Co-operative Party now has 38 MPs and many elected regional and local representatives.”

The Co-operative Party has many co-operative retail businesses as members and promotes this form of economic ownership, within the Labour Party and outside. Co-operative Party branches affiliate to their local Constituency Labour Party (CLP).

This enables them to send delegates to Labour meetings and provides a process for selecting joint Labour & Co-operative Party candidates at elections. And they contribute to the election expenses of Co-operative (and Labour) party candidates.

Members of the Co-operative Party can be solely that, or members of the Labour Party as well, but the Co-operative Party does have an independent structure, separate from the Labour Party. As an independent political party, it maintains its own membership, staff, national executive committee (NEC) and policy platform, all of which are independent of Labour’s.

So the question is – could this type of arrangement be beneficial to the Green Party? The Co-operative website does suggest a (stark) comparison when it says:

“One approach is that of the Green Party, which has stood in elections for over 40 years. In that time, the Party has secured the election of just one MP, control of a single local authority and no policies turned into law.”

The Co-operative Party, although a hundred years old, does have many more elected representatives at all levels of government, including 38 MPs, than the Green Party.

Would the Greens benefit from this situation, in pushing their agenda forward?

It is worth thinking about seriously. But there are also many obstacles.

Firstly, there would be resistance form people in both Labour and the Greens, with Labour fearing a kind of ‘entryism’ which seems to obsess it.

Meanwhile, Greens may worry about the loss of the party’s independent status and fear that (joint) Labour and Green members from the Labour tradition would take over the party.

Under Jeremy Corbyn, there are many similar policies advocated by Labour and Greens. But there are also some quite large differences.

Labour operates under a fiercely centralised structure, whereas the Greens have a de-centralised structure – with no tight control from above. Without a whip – whether Parliamentary or otherwise – Greens are also more free to voice opinions which may differ from the party line. That is something not common in the Labour Party.

That’s on top of huge policy differences over nuclear power and nuclear weapons, where Corbyn is more in tune with the Greens than the majority of his party. And then is the question of economic growth, championed by Labour but seen as the root of our ecological problems by Greens.

But if these hurdles can be overcome by some kind of agreement – which I think is possible – the rewards could significant for both parties.

For the Greens, there’s the chance to gain many more MPs and local councillors, and achieve the kind of political influence that has largely alluded us so far. Time is short. With the climate crisis in full swing, action needs to be taken sooner rather than later, and this idea might just do that.

And ecosocialists like me in the Green Party, might affiliation to Labour help spread ‘green left’ ideas to a wider audience?

For Labour, already eyeing up more Green voters for the future, this set-up could broaden the party’s electoral appeal, bringing it even closer to younger voters.

The time has come for both parties to at least explore this idea, to see how it might work in practice. Given the potential benefits that this type of agreement could bring, it’s an opportunity that can’t be ignored.

Mike Shaughnessy is a Green writer and blogs at London Green Left

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74 Responses to “Is it time for the Green Party to affiliate to Labour?”

  1. Spike25

    I see problems with this

    1) Greens are largely anti-Brexit. In fact Green supporters are the most pro-EU of any party.
    2) Labour have no strong commitment to green ideals, especially in areas like transport, nuclear power, and energy more generally, and nuclear weapons.
    3) Labour have a strong authoritarian streak that goes against most Greens more liberal viewpoints.
    4) Labour are rather conservative in their thinking on many issues where Greens are pushing the boundaries, such as citizens’ income, taxation, and social issues more generally.

    I have a lot of time for some Labour MPs and policies, and think that Labour is foolish and tribal for resisting electoral alliances against the Tories, but as a Green I can’t imagine cooperation beyond electoral alliances, and confidence and supply or a coalition dependent upon policy agreements.

  2. Yog Bear

    Yes – it is a perfect match…

  3. Jo Rostron

    I would love to see the Greens and (Corbyn’s) Labour unite. Natural allies and a new economic structure for all of us in the future.

  4. Sally crow-mathews

    Yes yes yes been saying this for ever

  5. Chris Speedy

    Labour does have it’s issues but then so do the Greens. There seems to be a reluctance on the part of many commenters to acknowledge that there are big differences within Labour on a range of issues. And big changes are happening with more power and influence for the grass roots. At the end of the day, you will continue to be seen as a “wasted” vote by many voters unless PR happens. What are the chances of this?

  6. Nikita Thierry

    As a Green Party member who voted For Jeremy Corbyns Labour , I think we should unit for the good of all. We all want a sustainable fair future .

  7. Richard Heybroek

    Probably not a good idea. I support Greens because they look more strategically into the future and develop policies which turn out to be sensible and workable. Labour needs Greens to help it redefine the centre left as something more democratic socialist than the Blairite rump. Greens are in some respects a litmus test of Labour’s success – I have no doubt that if the neo-lib right wing Labour faction took over the party (as it did disasterously under Blair) the Green Party would do brilliantly. And if Corbyn clears out his Tory-lite MPs and Labour becomes a sensible social democrat party, Greens will be left with just a few visionaries like Lucas.

  8. Steven Durrant

    The Green Left page may be a wonderful place for eco socialist debate but the views there really don’t represent those of GL and very many contributers aren’t Green Party members let alone GL members.

    It’s pretty much a broad left place, which is fine, but exactly the sort of place where this kind of flight of fancy takes place. I really wouldn’t read much into it. As a pluralist, I wish left wing labour candidates well, but we will continue to need a radical green party, not least if Labour get into government. Who else will there be to hold them accountable from the left and drive them to more radicalism such as citizen’s income?

  9. Justine Jones

    There is a problem because the unions who want, for example, expansion of Heathrow for jobs. This will never match up with green objectives. See last year’s TUC conference, it was the only truly controversial vote of the conference where there was a considerable difference of opinion.

  10. pete read

    ” suggesting the party formerly unites with Labour” – formerly – definition in the past; in earlier times.
    Do you mean formally – definition with official authorization?

  11. Col Ben

    Really dangerous this. Super tough for small parties in UK, and look how close alignment with Tories destroyed LibDems. Until not even Corbyn, but the last Labour manifesto, the Labour record on climate action was woeful (though at least it didn’t amount to husky sledding to a glacier and looking sad, total). I want to see pressure to keep environmental issues at the heart of the debate, regardless of the economy, foreign wars, or who is in a leadership role. Labour cannot be trusted with that.

  12. David Davies

    I joined the Green Party precisely because they are different. Blue Labour quislings – still laughingly referred to as `moderates’ – still pollute the party formerly known as labour. They are still plotting in the shadows, without the guts to show themselves. Is Viscount Stansgate ill?

  13. Amanda Susan Adlem

    Piffle!

  14. John

    Not all Greens are actually socially progressive. There are quite a few who would like to see the Green Party dilute some of its social policies in order to appeal to the more ecologically minded members of the Centre-Right. Such a proposal to affiliate will be fiercely resisted by many Greens. Having said that, there is an increasing number of people who see nuclear power as an overly expensive magic bullet which will solve nothing and the GP policy on the EU is actually Remain AND Reform which is hardly a ringing endorsement for the pan national body that still in large part promotes neoliberal economic policies. The issue of nuclear weapons is one where even Tony Blair – in his memoirs – recognised there was no rational reason for keeping them beyond the need to keep the electorate sweet. I think here the political argument needs to be taken to those who see nuclear weapons as a mark of strength and potential leadership even though the main security threats now come from Internet hackers, terrorists and increasingly geopolitical tensions exacerbated by climate change. I think affiliation would both strengthen and green-up social democracy and that has got to be a good thing.

  15. bobinski

    I joined the Labour party after leaving the Green Party just to support Jeremy. My views are more Green than Labour! If Labour was more democratic and local and the NEC wasn’t so powerful that would just be fantastic.

  16. Lynn Lovell

    NO! Much as I love Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. There are two things that immediately spring to mind: firstly, the structure of the Green Party is grass roots led and not centralist; secondly, the Labour Party is all to do with WORK and the Greens put much more emphasis on LIFE. Personally I think we should only need to work two days a week for the community, leaving the other five for us to do whatever work we want to do.

    It may well be that the Labour Party becomes more like the Greens but who knows? Corbyn’s flying high right now and he’s holding the cards but unless he can change the ethos of the Party then it is not appropriate for the Greens to merge. Anyway, he can’t be there for ever and the structure of the Party will probably prevail.

    I’m very sad that they won’t let me vote for Corbyn in the leadership elections but I want to remain a Green Party member, even though we now have a leader – or two. I did prefer the old system of “Speakers” and the old Green Party Council. Caroline Lucas is brilliant but we need to beware of drifting into the political game and becoming just like the others…

  17. Paul Hithersay

    You know when you knock your Ulnar nerve (funny bone)? Well, this question of Labour/Green affiliation is the political equivalent. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. On so many levels it would be both wonderful and terrible at the same time. As a Green party member, I suffered for days with the same sort of sickening and exhilarating mental conflict before I finally voted for Clive Lewis on June 9th. First past the post damns us Greens to electoral oblivion.

  18. Mark Petz

    So let us play fantasy politics and say that Corbyn meets with Caroline and they both say yes lets join together. What happens next –
    i. All Green Party members are automatically Labour Party members
    ii. All those like me that could not join the Labour Party recently and were refused due to being a Green can join with full rights as if we had joined before
    iii. All selected Labour and Green Party MPs have to go through a reselection and it is done in a way that ensures just as there are coop MPs that there are some Green PMs and candidates – no resignation now – BUT in proportion to the Greens being about five to ten percent of the vote so THIRTY – to SIXTY candidates. JUST as women candidates were so favored by the Party.
    iv. all Labour Party jobs and Green Party jobs are evaluated in a similar way
    v. the unions support Green candidates not just Labour ones
    vi. RESPECT, militant and all the different socialist groupings say you do your thing we do ours and do not try and join or sabotage the new arrangement
    vii all the different Green Parties of the UK all agree and join up.
    viii. at the EU level and Global Greens – the Greens stay with the Green groupings and do not join any socialist groupings OR they can be in both. AND all the Green Parties are fine with that.
    ix. on the thorny policy issues of climate change, trident, heathrow, HS two and growth economics, identifying Greens are not bound by the whip in Parliament
    x. several Greens are brought into the shadow cabinet and if elected in the actual cabinet
    xi. nice but not essential – proportional rep is brought in
    DO YOU THINK THAT will all happen or could.
    If not what do you see as a path for this OTHER than the Greens just stand down in a surrender to Labour.

    And my last piece of fantasy politics is that Jeremy COrbyn will reply to the communication I worte to him upon being elected about setting up a working group to explore Labour and Green co-operation. I AM STILL WAITING for an answer on this.

    If there is no desire to even set up such a group then Labour does not desire any kind of cooperation BUT only the cooption of the Green Voice – not a game we Green minded people should play in given what happened when the Labour Party last took over frm the Tory Party. .

  19. David Carr

    Sevenoaks CLP Executive passed the following motion:

    “Labour’s proposed national house building programme should be based on eco council housing where all properties have solar panels and other green technologies.”

    We are strongly opposed to austerity and recognise that it is only by achieving growth; prosperity for all can be achieved. It is clear, though, that the unplanned, market led growth of the past will lead to more environmental destruction and pollution.

    Climate change is becoming an ever increasing threat and pollution, particularly air pollution is a worldwide threat to health. In the UK people are becoming increasingly aware of the threat air pollution poses to health and are demanding that political parties do something.

    Everyone recognises that there is an escalating housing crisis. Homelessness has quadrupled, and young people are facing intolerable problems finding and maintaining accommodation. Even the Tories have given up on private ownership as a solution and are promoting building to rent as the answer.

    Sevenoaks CLP proposed that Labour’s national house building programme should be based on eco council housing. This would include the latest innovations in solar panels, wind turbines, insulations, and water drainage.

    It was recognised that the initial cost of this program would be intensive. It was suggested that it could be paid for through each of the following measures:

    -A Land Tax
    -A Second or more Home tax comparable to the one in Iceland.
    -A pollution Tax on companies that pollute the environment
    -Making National Insurance Progressive

    Each Eco council house built would begin to generate energy, thus being a valuable asset. The clean energy generated would be sufficient for the tenants and would also generate energy for the community. While Eco Houses cost between 10% -20% more to build than a standard house they are an economic as well as environmental asset. In the long run an Eco-Council house would pay for itself and continue to generate clean, free energy for the community.

    Council housing is an integral part of the policy. At present it is those who are able to afford to buy their own home who are able to benefit from solar & other green technologies. It is the poorest who are going cold who are being the most exploited. Eco council will share the benefits of green technologies for all.

    Council housing also provides security of tenure. Many people who are in private rented accommodation are paying huge rents, plunging even those on relatively high incomes into poverty.

    A council tenancy that is warm and modern can provide the tenants with a security that private accommodation can never offer. A secure home is an excellent basis to improve at school, tackle poverty and unemployment, improve physical and psychological health.

    Fuel poverty is a horrific experience. Individuals and families having to choose between eating and going cold. The elderly terrified to turn on the heating, shivering in their rooms and getting sick and dying because of the cold. Eco council housing will ensure that these groups will never experience fuel poverty again. The sun and wind ensuring that they will always be warm at no cost to them or the community.

    To ensure that home owners and others did not feel jealous it is proposed that Eco refurbishment for all homes is part of the package. This means that not only will new eco homes be built, but also public and private accommodation will also be eco refurbished so all can enjoy the benefits.

    In brief the policy would:

    -Tackle the housing crisis, providing secure homes for all
    -A secure home can tackle many social problems
    -Provide employment
    -End fuel poverty
    -Stimulate the growth of green technological revolution
    -Tackle climate change & pollution

    The green industrial revolution that this policy stimulates could lead to overseas aid assistance being truly meaningful. We could build eco homes throughout the developed world, enabling poor countries take advantage of their hot climate and develop clean, renewable energy.

    Greens & Labour could work together on putting this vision to the British public and inspire a Green electoral victory for Labour.

  20. David Carr

    Greens and Labour could unite on the basis that we are both strongly opposed to austerity and recognise that it is only by achieving growth; prosperity for all can be achieved. It is clear, though, that the unplanned, market led growth of the past will lead to more environmental destruction and pollution.

    Climate change is becoming an ever increasing threat and pollution, particularly air pollution is a worldwide threat to health. In the UK people are becoming increasingly aware of the threat air pollution poses to health and are demanding that political parties do something.

    Everyone recognises that there is an escalating housing crisis. Homelessness has quadrupled, and young people are facing intolerable problems finding and maintaining accommodation. Even the Tories have given up on private ownership as a solution and are promoting building to rent as the answer.

    Sevenoaks CLP proposed that Labour’s national house building programme should be based on eco council housing. This would include the latest innovations in solar panels, wind turbines, insulations, and water drainage.

    Greens & Labour could work together on putting this vision to the British public and inspire a Green electoral victory for Labour.

  21. Halima Brewer

    I want to see the Greens 1. acknowledged, 2. invited to have an active part where there is clearly expertise and knowlege – and openly as Greens. 3. for Labour to step down in future elections in places like Brighton and Bristol West, to allow the Greens to win the same way the Greens stepped down in 20 constituencies to allow Labour (and in some cases Lib Dems who were stronger) to win in order to get the Tories out.
    I would like to see a stop to taking the Greens for a given, and thinking the Greens should join Labour rather than be a strong ally to Labour, not its poodle. THEN I would go all out for the alliance.

  22. Nine Ball

    Yeah can’t see any fundamental policy problem with this proposal at all whatsoever.

    *ahem – Scottish Greens – ahem – Stance on Scottish independence*

  23. Neil Rider

    This is really a suggestion of affilliation to ‘Corbyns Labour’ Greens would have to be content that they would be equally happy with [insert name]’s Labour. I think if individual Greens decide they wouod so better in Labour (and vice versa) fine but an affilliation would be opportunistic for wannabe Green MPs and I can’t see whats in it for Labour. Im in the Co Op party and its a whole different relationship. The Greens would be mounting an argument on ‘terms’ of affilliation closer to that of the Communist Party in the years up to WWII than the Co-Op and with as much liklihood of success.

  24. Kirsten de Keyser

    This might be a viable option were the Labour Party to split, forming two new left of centre parties. A Corbyn led party would appeal to many Green Party members, whilst a Chuka Umunna Blairite party is unlikely to curry much favour. The Blairites are still luke-warm on Corbyn, it won’t take much for them to push him over a cliff. And then what? Reform the Green Party?
    A better idea would be to continue with the Progressive Alliance initiative, initiated during the #GE2017 campaign, essentially forming a supply and confidence arrangement in opposition. That would get my vote.

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