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
    http://www.clivelord.wordpress.com
    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!

  6. Trevor Easton

    The right will continue to hold power whilst the democratic socialist left remains divided amongst themselves.
    There are many for whom the struggle for justice, equality and fairness is more than an just an academic debate about principles and values, it is about their and their family’s very survival.
    We owe it to them, and ourselves, to bring real and lasting hope for a better future.

  7. James Abbott

    No chance. Labour are a pro-high growth party, support airport expansion and nukes. They also impose top-down control of their MPs as we saw recently. Then there is their lack of commitment to proportional representation and their complete failure to engage in the “progressive alliance” that could have stopped May from being able to form a Government. Labour have moved to an extent under Corbyn, but they remain a tribal party with major areas of policy difference to the Greens.

  8. Jim Matheson

    If agreement could be reached that would see the Green Party join the Labour Party this could take the labour movement into an untouchable political position amongst all voters. Well, everyone except Tory, liberal and DUP.

  9. Tom Widdicombe

    I left the Green Party when Jeremy Corbin became leader of the Labour Party. I am not wedded to any party. I believe we should support whoever/whatever has the best chance of improving the situation for humanity at the time.
    Of course the Greens should join Labour. Most likely over time the Labour Party will become more democratic and all the top down stuff will get phased out. Generally speaking Cronyn is a good guy – it makes sense to get behind him right now.

  10. Mark Ewington

    I think that would be excellent for the labour left and the green left. It will certainly be the best way of opposing the tories moving forwards.

  11. Keith White

    There are clearly lots of difficulties and barriers to a merger. However, just because it might be hard to achieve does not invalidate the correctness of anything. In my opinion it is a highly desirable aim and we should try our utmost to get it done. Imagine having Caroline Lucas in the cabinet…..what a wonderful prospect.

  12. Alun

    Not gonna happen I can assure you.

  13. Paul Metsers

    As a life-long Green voter I have joined Labour because of Jermemy Corbyn, his vision, his policies, the kind of man he is, and I really do believe there is more in common now with these 2 parties than divides them…..we all need to work together to build a better future for our children and our planet so I hope they will consider this – strength in numbers!!

  14. Anthony Summers

    The Green party should be in alliance with the Labour Party together we can go forward.

  15. Shiva

    Surely! It would benefit to both Labour and Green parties

  16. Martyn Wood-Bevan

    I’d be up for it: this could be beneficial to both and aid greater democracy in the Labour Party.

  17. Ken Dodsworth

    Interesting concept, it could pssibly work.

  18. Peter Walsh

    A good idea. If you are a true socialist ,then you have to be Green and if you are truly Green then you have to be socialist. No ifs or buts , logic dictates this. May be some problems but they are very minor. Been a socialist for 47 years but had to vote Green when Blair was around. This is win win.

  19. Mike Shone

    It is time for the Green Party to show how much more it is needed than the Labour Party is.

    As someone who was decades in the Labour Party I escaped to the Greens because the Labour Party is grossly inadequate as regards : sustainabilty , having a clear sense of radical values, and has a very conservative vision of what being human could be.
    Though it is having a bit of a reprieve the Labour Party like similar parties on the continent of Europe is on the wane whilst Green Parties have increasing relevance.

  20. Isabel Cooke

    This is a great approach. It’s time to debate and renew our political structures. Surely it’s good to pool ideas? We need to make a practical programme for government, in the spirit of solving problems rather than fighting political positions. It’s interesting, for example, to contemplate the effect of Labour introducing investment banks and supporting the growth of co-operatives. Communities would take control of their own capital; the sort of everyday say in your own working life that people crave. This could fit well with a Green agenda. Renewable energy co-cops, green housing co-ops, building co-ops, co-operative beehives…

  21. Edna

    I’m always torn as my heart says Green but my head says Labour at elections purely because of the chance of a Green candidate winning a seat. Whilst Corbyn is bringing Labour into the direction I want to see there are still people who are pro war pro nuclear power that I fundamentally disagree with and they still have a big influence over Labour which in turn dilutes the Green message. On the other hand no MPs = no power or influence which makes an affiliation sound tempting. I think like every thing the devil is in the detail.

  22. Vince Hotten

    I think both Parties would benefit by some sort of merger. Labour needs to be seen to take environmental issues more seriously and it would increase our local presence. The politics of ‘for the people not for profit’ is one that both parties could sign up to.

  23. Sheelah Goldsmith

    I support both parties and find VERY LITTLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM EXCEPT THE GREENS ARE MUCH WISER AND MORE URGENT ABOUT FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE THAN LABOUR PRESENTLY IS. LABOUR NEEDS TO EMBRACE THE GREEN’S ENVIRONMENT EMPHASIS. WE DEFINITELY AND IMMEDIATELY NEED THE TWO IDEALOGIES TO COALESCE AND STOP OPPOSING EACHOTHER IN ELECTIONS.

  24. How about no

    “with Labour fearing a kind of ‘entryism’ which seems to obsess it.”

    Love how this is tossed in there as if it’s an eccentric or irrational fear rather than a perfectly reasonable reaction to repeated historical entryism incidents.
    My CLP exec already has an ex-Green, 2 former Respect members, an SWP cultist and someone who stood for Left Unity less than 2 years ago. Can we try recruiting people who haven’t spent the last 10 years slating us instead?

  25. Margot Williams

    I would very much welcome this. We need to demonstrate a much better ability to work more broadly and to show the limits of, and damage caused by, the adversarial system we have at the moment. This would be grown up politics.

  26. Alan Harwood

    As a labour supporter and a green advocate, and having voted Green (ecology) in the past in the local elections and labour in the general elections, i would more than welcome the joining of both parties. It is an idea I have supported for more than 30 years yet this is the first time I have seen it in print.

  27. Ben Groom

    It would be such a relief. What we really lack in the Green Party is that sort of corruption that sees the groundwork for Grenfell II happening in Haringey, where Labour has just sold the poor down the river by giving away £2bn of public housing to a foreign property developer. Like Sheffield where Labour are looking to prosecute a Green councillor for daring to stand up to their cosy relationship with AMEY, a private construction company. Or my own Sandwell where Labour’s councillors have spent public money trying to stop a judicial review into their selling off of public land to their own family members.

    If we join Labour I can rob poor and black peeps AND NEVER GET PROSECUTED #winning #woejeremycorbyn

  28. Metiria Turei

    As the coleader of the NZ Green Party, and an MP for 15 years, I respectfully suggest this is not the solution. In NZ we have MMP, proportional representation, which has improved both Greens representation and our relationship with the NZ Labour Party. I’d argue that progressive voters everywhere should instead be fierce and unrelenting campaigners for PR to enhance representation and prevent single party governments. That’s how our collective progressive values will best be served in Parliament.

  29. Carol Evans

    I think it would be good if Labour and the Green Party could reach an agreement and join forces.

  30. Jerry

    I think the Green Party values are totally in accord with those of Labour, apart from the obvious issue of Brexit. It is the Green Party policy to hold a new Referendum. This cannot be allowed to happen or there will be no end to it. If the vote were to go the same way again they would just want another, and another until they get the result they want. The people gave a definitive answer the first time & must be adhered to. If they can accept this much, then I can see no reason for them not to ally with Labour. After all, If my local Labour candidate had not been a Labour supporter, then I think Green would have had my vote.

  31. Peter Allen

    I seem to be almost alone in thinking that discussions such as this should take place within Green Party forums rather than in the public domain.

    Accepting that I have lost that arguement I would contend that the alternatives are not between affiliating to Labour and regarding them as, in all circumstances, electoral opponents.

    The Green Party has an important role to play in trying to ensure that the recent growth of radical/anti-austerity sentiment has ecology ( Eco socialism ) at its core.

    This neither means that we should feel compelled to stand against Labour in FPTP elections or that we should never do so.

    It does mean that we should recognise that the election of a Corbyn ( or similar) Labour led government provides the best immediate prospect of making progress towards a more equal and more ecologically sustainable UK and that we should do our best to assist such a government coming to power and refrain from electoral activity ( ie standing against Labour in marginal seats )that makes it less likely.

    The recent election shows that there are more ‘marginal’ seats than the experts would have us believe. My own constituency of High Peak was regarded by many Greens as not being marginal, one of the reasons given for objecting to the decision of High Peak Green Party to stand our candidate down and campaign for the Labour candidate, who overturned a Tory majority of nearly 5,000.

    The above approach can and should be combined with independent campaigning to try and ensure that the growing challenge to neo liberalism is green as well as red and needs to include political reform, including PR.

  32. greg

    The problem is that Labour are pro-growth.

    But, I have also never understood a Green party being an advocate for unlimited immigration, when that will entail building houses, roads, and airports.

    I have never been convinced on the CO2 hypothesis, but I can believe in the ‘urban heat islands’, created by development, contributing to global warming.

    And every field dug up or tree pulled down for housing deprives this planet of a little more of its natural and ecological systems – overpopulation is the problem.

  33. Peter HIxon

    I am also a “floating voter” with regard to the Labour and the Green party. I am also a believer in staying in the EU. The problem, as I see it is not how to distribute the wealth of the world equally alone, but also to recognise that the manner in which we live our lives has to be infinitely more parsimonious in regard to the use of the power available. Without the use of fossil fuel the world will be a different place and our “freedom” as we see it will, to a degree be curtailed. Given the nature of Humanity, I cannot see this happening. The Labour party has a possible chance of making the world a better place but only if it allies with other anti austerity parties around Europe and the democratic world. The Green party, without a degree of hypocrisy, will alienate many people when push comes to shove. To change the world, we have to change the culture of consumerism and, I doubt that we can do that. It reminds me of the Seventies when ” Green” was the buzz word of using lead free petrol, (perhaps a parallel of what we feel today about diesel) it was not unusual to see a large, safe? Volvo disgorging children outside of the school gates with a sticker on it stating that “I drive Green”. The problem of exponential growth is not going to be addressed by politicians of any hue who hope to keep their job, only society as a whole can suggest that consumerism is an ill! To just look around at the amount of plastic rubbish we generate is to provide an answer to the idea of being green. To look at the amount of varying products that we feel we need on supermarket shops is, similarly a comment on the idea of being a “green society”. Everything that we do is driven by our feeling that we have a right to use as much power as we can pay for and until we can get society to feel that this is not the case the idea of Green is riven with inconsistancies

  34. David Walsh

    I suppose the story (a sad one, from the perspective of a deep green) of the German Die Grune is salutary, both for what it did to that party but also in the way in which some of the Green leaders there went into ministerial power on a prospectus far to the right of UK Labour,like ducks into water.

  35. Alma

    What is this turn around attitude? Are they going together and agree with the concept?

  36. Paula Clare Williams

    I see the two great problems to be solved as SOCIAL and ECOLOGICAL.If our political system is going to be effective (and this is a matter of survival) the knowledge base from both of these parties needs to merge.In other words I think it is vital that Labour and Green Party are working together.In spite of some differences they they represent the core policies necessary for the future.

  37. Greg

    No – we just need PR!

  38. John Farrar

    I support much better co-operation between the parties at whatever level each is comfortable with , they key issue is PR which Labour needs to embrace to help continue the positive changes in politics that it has begun in the last election campaign

  39. Jock Lonsdale

    No the greens voted with the s n p for India 2.

  40. Jo Prior

    I disagree entirely. This is my blog on a similar subject written just after the general election in which I was a Green Party candidate. Voting reform is the answer. https://medium.com/@joprior/how-labour-let-us-down-50da4411134d

  41. Gary Kandinsky

    Federal structures would allow greater democracy and adding the Green Vote to a Left LP would help it to power. so what that we do not all agree. I don’t agree with Fabian Co-opism, but they are still there, stopping me (via there proxies) from rejoining the LP , because i stood for TUSC 2 -3 years ago.

  42. John

    In a two party system a vote for Labour is a vote for the Conservatives and the Greens know this. We need proportional representation if the green movement is to stay intact, and we can have a progressive alliance that better represents the people. Besides, most everyone in Labour is still Tory-lite except the party leader!

  43. Ursula Metselaar

    I think it’s a great idea, if the two parties can reach an agreement.
    I was a green voter until I realised that they were never going to win an election.
    This Labour party has some sound green policies, and have an excellent chance of getting into government, which is one of the reasons that I joined them.

  44. Barbara Stead

    Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party (not New Labour as we all know about the Tory lite element of the party) would make for a strong ethical party of the people.

  45. Ron Laborde

    SUCH a good idea! The Corby-Lucas photo conveying well its emotional seriousness – new policy; new approach; new government.

    For early discussion by such an alignment…

    First Past The Post – Proportional Representation (FPTP-PR).

    Proportional representation is embedded in our existing FPTP electoral system that has its merits. Nothing, NOTHING, changes bar a trivial clerical adjustment…

    Each elected MP arrives at the house of commons not with one vote (to be cast at parliamentary divisions) but with an equal share of the party vote gathered at the election. Full-PR at a stroke; at no cost; with no gerrymandering.

  46. Simon Pickering

    I one of the small number of Green Politician actually running a priciple authority in a progressive cooperation with Labour and Libdem I would suggest that Labour will have to move along way politically to make this work. The are however some very significant advnatges to Labour working with a significantly more progressive and forward thinking party than parts of Labour. There would have however need to keep gaps and clear water between the two to allow Greens to have a clear run and local and parlaimentary seats that Labour would never win as we have demonstrated here in Gloucestershire

  47. Malcolm Cinnamond

    Strange that a “green writer” should ignore/forget that there are three (arguably four) Green parties in the UK. In Scotland it seems highly unlikely that there would be any agreement between the Scottish Green Party and Scottish Labour while the current Blairite leadership continue to try to compete with the Tories on who has the hardest line on independence. As an SGP member with a high regard for Jeremy Corbyn’s achievements I would welcome co-operation between the parties, but Scottish Labour have to change their rhetoric pronto.

  48. Martin Corney

    This is an issue for the Labour Party. Green Party rules already allow joint candidates – like Labour currently do with the Co-operative Party. Labour just need to extend their rules to include Greens.

  49. Ian Carus

    Amazing to hear people on here saying the two parties have the same policy. Proportional representation still exists thanks to Labour. We’ll be spending billions on nuclear weapons thanks to Labour. If Labour – yes even the Messiah aka Jeremy – had made just a little effort we wouldn’t now be facing the ridiculous Brexit. Speaking as someone living in Scotland, we’ve seen how Labour have had no qualms in getting into bed with the Tories. How committed are Labour to the environment and sustainability? Maybe, if or when Labour splits between left and centre right then it might be a possibility. Helping to win elections and losing your soul is surely not what true Greens want.

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