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

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

  1. Peter Garbutt

    I see this as the most pernicious line in Green Left. There are enormous differences between Green policies and Labours, enormous differences in the organisation of the two parties. And from what I have gleaned about what it’s like to be a Labour member, I for one will not go down that route. I wish to retain my independence of thought. Corbyn’s view of what Labour is, and the reality in councils up and down the country, are light years apart.

    Labour have rejected PR, because they see themselves as one of the beneficiaries of FPTP. This leaves huge swathes of people without a voice.

    Labour don’t understand the way money is created by banks, with next to nothing the government can do to regulate it. Without reforming that, all their talk of “for the many, not the few” is so much hot air.

    And Labour just don’t get the seriousness of climate change. With their insistence on growth, their policies supporting road-building and runway-building, they’ll fail to meet their target of 50% CO2 reduction by 2030, a target which is itself insufficiently urgent.

    I will strongly resist any potential move to affiliate, and will work to ensure The Green Party puts clear green water between ourselves and Labour.

  2. Mark Blackburn

    And what about Europe? No mention of it here, but the Remain attitude of the Greens is starkly different to the Labour stance on Brexit. In fact, the Greens and Lib Dems are the closer parties in this respect.

  3. Clive Lord

    A seriously backward step.
    See my blog
    for details, but here is a sumamry of where we are and how we got here
    1973 (What became the) Green Party formed, and I joined
    To the alarm of the founders, I told them (one a former Tory councillor) that they had just formed what could not help but be a socialist party, because keeping economic activity within a susttainable ecological footprint would involove rfedistribution, posssibly drastic.
    Up to and including the 1989 European Election (2.3million votes), we did far better in Conservative heartlands. Nobody had told them about the redistribution – they just wanted what the Ecology Party said it was about.
    Caroline Lucas got publicity, and told them we were a socialist party.
    1994 Euros – 494,000 votes.
    1996 Blair takes over the Labour party. The GreenParty grows steadily from socialists who did not like his changes. We became a socialist party.
    2015. we make little or no reference to our eco-roots, but we have avastly superior socialist programme to the pathetic one offered by Ed Miliband. Result (0nly) 1.1million socialist, not eco votes
    2017 back to our current core Green vote – 525,371. It would have been at least 700k if we had stood in all seats.
    Suggested remedy, however, unpalatable: persuade the missing millions who will never vote Labour, Labour Co-op, or Greenish Labour, that higher taxes is a price worth paying to save the ecosphere.

  4. Mike Shaughnessy

    Not all Greens were for Remain, though most were, and I think that most Labour members are closer to the Greens official position on Brexit than they are with the rather fudged Labour official position. Anyway, Brexit is not the only issue, breaking with neo-liberal orthodoxy is more important.

  5. Paul Hutchens

    Caroline Lucas for environment secretary!!! I reluctantly left the Green party to join Corbyn’s Labour – would love us to unite!

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