Greens are conflicted over how to respond to the Labour split

While some Greens view the split as the 'death rattle' of centrism, others believe it may hold the key to political reform.

Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley hit out at the ‘vapid centrism’ of the newly-formed Independent Group of ex-Labour MPs on Monday – but other Greens had different ideas.

In a separate tweet, the co-leader dubbed the group ‘the floundering death rattle of the old system’.

The tweets appeared to criticise those splitting from Labour, sparking a mixed reaction from Green Party members.

But other Greens were more optimistic about the breakaway group.

Deputy leader Amelia Womack was measured in her response, arguing the split was a sign the ‘two party system’ is broken:

One former London Assembly Member, Darren Johnson, commented:

Jonathan neither of us are centrists and we are not going to join or vote for a centrist party but I think it’s fair to say many centre-ground voters’ views are not represented by the current Labour and Tory parties.— Darren Johnson (@DarrenJohnson66) February 18, 2019

He added: “If you want a more pluralist system in British politics but only want parties you agree with that’s not really pluralism is it?”

One official Green Party group appeared to endorse the split, saying ‘the times are changing’:

What if they are in favour of PR ?— Bury Green Party (@BuryGreenParty) February 18, 2019

The divide stems from a key strategic question for Greens over whether the split could ultimately necessitate and enable a change in Westminster’s First Past the Post voting system.

Other Green voters suggested the co-leader’s view suggested an appeal to ‘extreme’ politics:

But former Green Party leader (and LFF writer) Natalie Bennett rallied to Bartley’s defence:

One party activist – who wished to remain anonymous – told Left Foot Forward:

“I don’t blame them one bit for having had enough with what has happened to the party…[Luciana] Berger’s been treated appallingly, Liverpool Labour are absolutely vile. I also don’t blame them for not triggering by-elections – that’s simply holding Labour to consistency, after failing to call for one in Sheffield Hallam.”

And the Independent Group’s rallying cry that ‘politics is broken’ was picked up by Green figures like Molly Scott Cato – using it to call for democratic reform.

Chris Jarvis, co-editor of independent Green Party blog Bright Greenwas incisive in his comments on the new breakaway group:

“These people are not our friends – we should have nothing to do with them. The seven defectors – Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Ann Coffey and Gavin Shuker – are some of the most contemptible members of the Parliamentary Labour Party. The worst of a bad bunch would be a generous description.”

All of which raises the question: is the split an outrageous and divisive attack on the Labour Party…or an inevitable diversification of Britain’s broken party system that could lead to positive reform? The prosaic answer may be…both.

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