9 August 2013

A Response to Bright Green's Left Unity Post

While I was on holiday, a very interesting article went up on Bright Green about left electoral pacts. I’d suggest reading that first, along with the comments, but then come back here afterwards.

It is deja vu in the North West going into the 2014 European Elections. Labour will stand a full slate of candidates and fully expect to gain 3 seats in the North West after dropping down to just 2 in 2009. That will mean Arlene McCarthy MEP, Theresa Griffin and Afzal Khan. I saw Theresa Griffin at Liverpool Pride as part of the Labour group last weekend, although with a small child with a superhero mask on my shoulders, I didn’t feel I could saunter over to offer congratulations. Afzal Khan I’ve seen in action at the Hope Not Hate training event earlier this year, when I was full of ‘flu. He comes across well and related a good story about how a racist military veteran refused to shake his hand, despite the fact that Afzal’s own family had fought for Britain during World War II. They also have the plain speaking Julie Ward at number 4, who I followed through the selection process as the favoured “left” candidate within Labour. They fully expect to elect 3 MEPs.

I’m selected as number one on the Euro list for the North West Greens. If I get run over by a bus, then Gina Dowding, our County Councillor in Lancashire, would make a superb MEP as number 2. We are currently selecting the rest of our list (see this post). As I indicate in the post, I’m disappointed that we have not been able to offer our North West members the opportunity to select an independent (non Green member) to participate in the campaign on our list this time, and I will be proposing a motion to our national conference after the European Elections to make that possible in future.

The Socialist Labour Party and NO2EU (TUSC are using this as label again) have both declared they will again be standing in the North West, as part of a national strategy to stand everywhere (although someone should maybe let the SLP know that the elections will be in May not June). I’ll summarise very quickly the arguments that have run since 2009. Lots of people criticised both of these groups, arguing that if they had not stood, then the left would not have been split. Indeed if there had been just the two largest left of centre parties, Labour and the Greens standing, then instead of the right of centre ending up with 5 out of 8 regional seats (Tories 3, UKIP 1, BNP 1) with the then centrist Lib Dems gaining 1, it is true that Labour would have gained 3 seats and we would have gained 1. The Tories would have won just 2 and UKIP 1, with no Nick Griffin.

The argument as put above ignores the reality that many SLP and TUSC voters would not have voted for anyone else with any enthusiasm and the very real difficulty for voters on the left is that there are no preference votes in European Elections. I have no doubt that if voters used a proportional system with two preferences, we would have won a seat last time. I also think that the factually incorrect and downright misleading Labour claim “only a vote for Labour can stop the BNP” used in the Euro Elections here in 2009 had an effect. What we can say with certainty is that the SLP and TUSC will be standing in 2014 and both Labour and the Greens have to get on with our own campaigns and ensure that we do well to minimise the right of centre vote and seats. This is now a category into which I’ll include the Lib Dems, even though I accept there are still many left of centre activists who have not yet made a decision to leave, despite three years of coalition.

Last time round, Respect used their voice to urge a vote for the Greens. This was not entirely without controversy last time for us, but I think people understood that despite our differences, the endorsements from Salma Yaqoob and others for Green candidates were intended to help stop Nick Griffin, and were very welcome. More importantly the work done by Respect activists and members in delivering their own leaflets urging a Green vote, is something that I remain very grateful for. I was therefore delighted to be one of those who urged the Birmingham Hall Green Party to ballot their members about standing down in favour of Salma Yaqoob in 2010 for the General Election. She really came close to winning the Westminster seat. I also gave my personal endorsement for Kay Phillips, a GP who stood for Respect in north Manchester at the General Election, as someone who would campaign to protect our NHS.

The new kid on the political block, is the Left Unity movement, a response to a call by Ken Loach for such a thing to happen. As Sean Thompson makes clear in his comment on the Bright Green article,

“there is a strong feeling among many members that it would be ridiculous to stand in the Euro elections next May and some suggestion that the new party should formally support the Green regional lists as leverage to involve the Green Party in discussions about a non-aggression pact n the General Election in 2015”

This is perhaps the smartest move I’ve seen in left politics from a new organisation in some time. To rush into an electoral contest six months after formation leads to disappointment. We’ve seen it time and again on the left. If Left Unity instead takes a more strategic approach as suggested, then I’m certainly ready to listen here in the North West.

I’m a Green member and a Green candidate. If people vote Green that is what they will get in 2014 but the fact remains that Nick Griffin is still an MEP here and UKIP (with the racist language of their “bongo bongo land” MEP) will want to win 2 or 3 seats. I want to stop them and if regional members of Left Unity share that aim, then let’s talk, because I want to work with other people who want to sack Griffin and halt the rise of xenophobia and nationalism that UKIP represents.


scarletharlot69 said...

Good Post. Essential point is that the Euros, local elections and the General Elections are different ball games. For the Euros small parties will continue to chance their arm, just have to see them as a nusiance IMHO. In the General Election there is more scope for co-operation either electorally just staying out of each others hair or more generally. My real despair is that of the tendency to just ignore the Green Party. It is here however critical a view we should indeed take of it.

scarletharlot69 said...

Above all we need Caroline Lucas to retain her seat and a series of 'Bradford Wests' to happen.