I was in the Green Party once but, it feels like a lifetime ago. Just about all the socialists in the Green Party left to support the Corbyn movement in Labour – it seemed the best opportunity in our lifetime to bring both socialism and environmentalism into our government. Unfortunately, that failed. Many of the “red greens” like me are now working with local groups or their unions rather than with any political party because we feel that after Corbyn, Labour let us down and the Green Party have gone back to that old “Tories on bikes” style of thinking.
I’m sure most Greens would angrily insist that they’re not like the Tories but then why do so many Green Councillors behave like Tories? Perhaps it is political naivety – there’s certainly plenty of that about.
I’ve seen anguished conversations in other parts of the country about how badly we need some climate-conscious politicians. They wonder why the Greens in other countries are doing so much better than the UK Greens. Well here in Hastings, we are finding out why.
As the May election campaigns swing into action, local Greens have been wailing that Labour are running a “smear campaign”. That surprised me because a fair bit of the Green activity in the town in the last year or two has looked to me like an evidence-free slander campaign against any councillor they think they have a chance of replacing – but according to the Greens, Labour have smeared them – they have “accused” them of voting with the Tories.
The strange thing is, the Greens did vote with the Tories — *four times* — and are now vociferously defending their action. The one that really took me by surprise was the one about cleaners. We have a Labour council, and our councillors have for some years been very interested in the Preston model. Despite the vicious defunding by this government, the Preston council have sought opportunities to localise their spending, ensuring local jobs for local people, on terms that allow the council to be direct employers, and have greater control over all the factors that allow environmentally friendly working.
In this most recent case in Hastings, Labour councillors wanted to bring building-cleaning back in house, because they saw an opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint. It would have cost more initially, because it involved buying a low-emission vehicle. Yes, our council are living near the edge doing things like that, because the government won’t fund them – but in the long run, bringing services under council control is green (not Green, clearly), good for staff, and likely to be economical.
But the two Greens on our council voted with the Tories to keep the contractors. They reckoned the wages and conditions the contractors give their staff would do, and that the immediate saving was more important than any ethical issues. That is pure Thatcherite, short-termist kitchen-sink economics.
The local Labour Party’s claim that if you vote Green you get Tories was not a smear, but an important warning to the people of this country. Greens are not necessarily socialists, don’t necessarily have good political vision, and now it seems, they are not necessarily green.
I don’t know about you but, come the May elections, I won’t be following any party line – I’ll be looking for a decent, trustworthy candidate who understands that councils need to at least try to swim against the government tide.
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