The people that really lost out to the legacy of Margaret Thatcher were left-wing voters. Resuscitated back to life by Tony Blair in its horrific neoliberal guise, and starved of direction and courage under the leadership of Brown and Miliband, Labour may have recovered electorally since the days of Thatcher, but it is no longer a comfortable home for left-wing voters. It has allowed itself to become a slightly muted version of the Tories, rather than a strong, progressive voice of change. By pandering to populist rhetoric it has not only done irreparable damage to itself, but to British politics as a whole.
There’s no point in voting if there are no alternatives, and sadly Labour ceased to be that some time ago. Tuition fees and privatising the NHS? Labour introduced them. Benefits caps and spending cuts? Labour will match them. Environmental concerns? No, Labour doesn’t have a clue either…
The fall-out from Labours lurch to the Right has been a dishevelled and disorientated Left, comprised mainly of small, bickering, and constantly fragmenting parties that have ‘socialist’ or ‘workers’ in the title somewhere (or both). The Left quite frankly has been left crippled- but not any longer.
The Green Party conference this year has a peculiar feel to it for a party of such a relatively humble position in British politics. It is an air of hope. The Greens have arrived in the run up to next May with an impressive range and depth of policy, carefully costed, democratically decided, and audaciously alternative. Natalie Bennett was very clear in her conference-opening speech- the Greens are positioning themselves firmly as THE party of the left, directly challenging Labour. Stating that ‘inequality is economically unsustainable’ their leader has made it clear that the Greens scope has flourished far beyond just environmental concerns.
Shahrar Ali’s (the Greens new Deputy Leader with enough charisma to make Boris and Farage look about as popular as a Union Jack in Holyrood) speech on prejudice and the direction of the party was met with astounding applause. His “you don’t need to be black to fight prejudice, just Green” approach clearly places the Green Party at the heart of the fight for liberating minority groups and making politics and society work for everyone, not just a privileged few.
Amelia Womack, the second newly elected Deputy Leader, is perhaps the first politician in decades that seems to have a hope at combatting the yawning chasm that has opened up between young people and politics. Being a Young Green herself, she is a shining example that the Greens are committed to empowering younger generations, rather than hold them at arms-length. The Green Party understand that (in Amelia’s words) ‘young people are central to any vision of the future’. By seeking to remove the burden of tuition fees, ensuring there is fair pay on campus’, and encouraging young people to get unionised, the Greens are clearly fighting for a demographic that has been consistently ignored and betrayed by politics.
They refuse to allow the mistakes of the past perpetrated by the financial and political elite be paid for by the poor- instead they are providing a bold vision of restructuring society so that it works for the 99% instead of the 1%. Policies such as a wealth tax, a £10 an hour minimum wage (for ALL ages) and supporting the ‘Robin Hood’ financial tax send out a clear message- enough is enough. For too long has inequality and protected privilege been allowed to run rampant in our society, like a bull in a china shop. The time for change is here and British politics finally has a party with the courage to fight for it.
This is a party that is refusing to succumb to the all-pervasive dogma that is neo-liberalism- a dogma that has disenfranchised generations, stripped bare the once varied ideologies of British politics, and eroded notions of compassion and inclusivity. It is precisely by providing an antidote to the sickness that has infected British politics since Thatcher that the Greens are experiencing a huge and sustained swell of support.
There is an acute and profound awareness in the Green Party, evidenced in its manifesto, that political issues should not, cannot be treated in isolation. Providing alternatives to neoliberalism can impact political engagement. A focus on redistribution of wealth, rather than an obsession with infinite growth, can not only limit our impact on the environment but create a fairer society at the same time. Free access to education and treating workers fairly can actually help, rather than hinder, the vitality of the economy.
Youth membership has doubled since the European elections. National membership is up 28% since the start of the year, at a time when Labour and the Tories memberships are declining. Polling close to a junior member of government…
For too long there has been a void in British politics, but it is now filled. The British Left has just come roaring back, and politics is about to get interesting.
NOTE: This piece originally appeared in The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/bradley-allsop/left-wing-britain_b_5788898.html
Many of the facts and figures are outdated- GP membership is now up by over 100% and we’re regularly beating the Lib Dems in polls