Dear Labour supporters…

As a long-time Labour voter who has since joined the Greens, and is still not absolutely certain which way to vote in the General Election, I keep finding myself saying the same thing on Twitter when discussing the election. Rather than repeat myself so many times, I thought I’d put a few of the standard questions and answers down here for reference. Just so you don’t have to ask me again and again, directly….

“Vote Green, get Tory”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told this. Firstly, in my constituency that simply isn’t true. The Tories don’t really have a chance here – and anyway, if they did (and I’ll be watching the polling closely) I would almost certainly vote Labour. Secondly, we can’t just be cynical about this – if we think only in those terms, we’d never get the kinds of changes that brought the Labour Party into existence in the first place. Elections aren’t just about the immediate short-term result. If you want real change – and I would hope most progressive (not to say radical) people do want real change – we have to think in longer terms, and in deeper ways.

Vote Labour, get Tory Policies

Thirdly, this brings up the next argument. Right now, it looks as though – for many of the issues that matter to me – a more accurate statement would be ‘vote Labour, get Tory Policies’. Yes, I know the policies over the NHS are different, and I know the austerity wouldn’t be quite as harsh, and I know the bedroom tax would be repealed, but that’s not enough for me. The appallingly xenophobic immigration policy is near identical, Gove’s ‘reforms’ to education seem to be being embraced by Tristram Hunt, the authoritarian civil liberties policies (not to mention counter-productive puritanism on things like internet filtering/censorship), and the overall acceptance of the false ‘scrounger/striver’ (including regular reference to punitive measures or use of coercion on benefit claimants) dichotomy is tantamount to Toryism.

Yes, I agree on the NHS, but given the amount of apparent denial among Labour ranks about PFI and so forth, I’m not fully convinced. When I see Labour’s unwillingness to be brave in relation to rail renationalisation, and the tentative nature of the opposition to the privatisation of the Royal Mail, I’m even less convinced.

And yes, I know that Labour’s austerity wouldn’t be as ‘bad’ as the current Tory austerity – that just makes Labour ‘ordinary’ Tory, and the current Tories ‘extreme’ Tory. And yes, I know that the lesser of two evils may be the ‘better’ choice in the end, but have we really come to that point? I hope not.

How NOT to get Green voters back…

Overall, my interactions with Labour supporters have reinforced the feelings that made me join the Green Party in the first place. I’m accused of stupidity by some, of being too posh by others, of not understanding how politics works by more – the whole ‘vote Green, get Tory’ idea suggests that I haven’t thought it through. It’s an insult to my intelligence – and to my understanding of politics. I’ve been told Greens are just sandal-wearing middle-class hand-wringers. Again, not true – and insulting. Do you really think that insulting people will make them like you more?

How TO get Green voters back…

Well, a starting point would be an acknowledgment of why people feel abandoned by the Labour Party. For me, there was one pivotal moment – when Liam Byrne effectively supported (by abstaining) the retrospective legislation on Workfare, something which even now does not seem to have been acknowledged to have been a mistake. There have been other ‘facepalm’ moments when I’ve been reminded that the Parliamentary Labour Party is not on the same page as me. I know lots of excellent people in local Labour Party politics, but it’s still very hard to see how local activists get their views into the national arena. It’s hard to see any comprehension of why people might be upset – instead, when there’s a mention of something good, it’s almost always immediately matched by something appalling and retrogressive. An attack on David Cameron for not being nasty enough over immigration. An absurdity like the ‘oath’ for teachers. More support for internet censorship by Helen Goodman.

That’s why I felt the need to go elsewhere. I don’t think Labour wants to listen to people like me. Maybe I’m a dinosaur. Maybe I’m an extremist. Maybe I’m too focused on particular issues. If I felt, however, that there was even a decent chance that Labour might change on some of these things, that they might not feel the need to ape Tory/UKIP xenophobia, that they might be willing to be a touch braver, a touch more radical – then I’d be much more likely to vote Labour, even to rejoin Labour.

If, on the other hand, I get the same, tired arguments and insults, that’s likely to do precisely the opposite. Every time I’m told ‘vote Green, get Tory,’ my heart sinks for Labour – and I’m less likely to vote for them.

Prime Minister Ed?

Don’t get me wrong, I very much want to see Ed Miliband in number 10 – but I want to see an Ed Miliband not shackled to Tory policies, wedded to a Tory agenda. Right now, for me, the best way to do that seems to be, counterintuitively though it may seem, to support the Greens. How else can I tell Labour that I want a more radical, more left wing agenda? I’m very glad there are people within the Labour Party fighting to make Labour more radical – but to me, it feels as though Labour needs pressure from outside as well as inside. If pressure only comes from inside, it’s easy to ignore – and has been ignored, to a great extent, for the last few years. If, however, Labour feels as though it’s losing members, voters and supporters, then it has to react. The question is how it reacts. By insulting and patronising, or by listening and (possibly) changing. I know which one I want – and which one is likely to work on me.


13 thoughts on “Dear Labour supporters…

  1. “Yes, I know the policies over the NHS are different”

    Are they? This is privateer King’s Fund policy:




    Please let me know if you can spot where any of the parties have strayed from the original private sector demands.

  2. Well said. From my experience I’d add a few other points.

    The main thrust of much of Labour’s politics at the moment is ‘we’re not the Tories’. But that seems to me to be an absolute argument for political reform. If there are only two parties which can achieve power in the current system then inevitably, even if Labour is successful in 2015 then we will revert to a Tory government at a future date. Unless anyone is suggesting a one party state? I’d rather see a more rough and ragged democracy with many points of view represented. It would be more difficult to achieve major policy changes, but that is probably a good thing, not a bad one.

    Give us a Parliament with more Independents, more Greens, SNP and Plaid, to represent the major environmental concerns and devolution/local agenda issues. Let’s have some National Health Action to really represent the NHS and Left Unity and TUSC to stand up for the working classes, the unemployed and the disabled. Let’s knock the two party (two sides of the same coin) state on its head.

    I have been accused by many Labour supporters of being against the Party just because I can’t get them to agree to my personal agenda. My ‘personal’ agenda happens to include policies on public services being publicly owned and publicly provided and economic policies based on the country’s social policy and public sector needs (ie protecting the people) rather than on fatuous book balancing and monetarist aims (ie pleasing the corporations). Apparently these aims are inimical to the Labour Party’s current trajectory. I am warned that ‘small steps’ are needed to slowly move the country away from its current condition and that ‘innovative’ ideas for sharing a much smaller state provision will be needed, rather than harking back to the ‘old tax and spend days’. Labour is also in favour of TTIP which is a profoundly undemocratic agreement.

    I would like to vote for a party that has solid core principles. At the moment the Labour Party has substituted ‘compassion’ for social justice. Not the same thing at all. Until – or unless – it regains its senses I hope all left wing voters will opt for getting together behind whichever candidate genuinely best represents their views, regardless of party (although I assume Tory and UKIP are not in the running for those votes in any circumstance whatsoever!!!).

    Vote for change, for a change.

  3. The Greens have not put into The Greens’ 2015 manifesto, two policies that would bring The Greens the 326 MPs that would give The Greens a majority government in London.

    The flat rate pension gives the half of the over 60s in working poor / disabled / chronic sick and 50 per cent unemployment rate of over 60s equally liable to workfare, Bedroom Tax and benefit sanctions,
    NIL STATE PENSION FOR LIFE and bulk of rest LESS NOT MORE state pension

    If The Greens want to win big in 2015 then putting onto The Greens’ election manifesto these two policies, hidden deep inside The Greens’ policy website,
    would pay off national debt and
    end starvation to babies (even ones not yet born as happens to heavily pregnant mothers sanctioned off benefit)
    and grannies alike.

    – The Greens say in policy website to replace the cruel benefits regime that is costing more by the billions in admin and reducing money to penniless starving in the poor (bulk in work), with:

    – universal and automatic Citizen Income, just the same in or out of work, not requiring actively seeking work, up to the level of the basic tax allowance (so why need 750 Jobcentres and much of the 78,000 employees in DWP and the billions wasted on private contracts for welfare admin).

    – Full State Pension to all citizens, irregardless of National Insurance contribution / credit history.

    With these policies The Greens could successfully win the Lib Dem Pensions Minister Steve Webb seat as both Lib Dems and Tories in coalition (and Labour in opposition) is wrongly calling a surplus since 2013 in the National Insurance Fund of the non-paid out state pension, that is vital food and fuel money (as no benefit and no state pension means NIL WINTER FUEL ALLOWANCE).

    So if you might care to ask The Greens’ party members to sign the petition and may more public the biggest con in UK history of the flat rate pension being more pension, when it is more about its abolition, then The Greens could actually form the next government and save the nation from a 4 way coalition and the end of the welfare state and ever greater starvation to millions.

  4. Reblogged this on tantalusredux and commented:
    This is definitely worth a read. It does feel very much as though a number of left wing Labour Party members are fed up of waiting for change within the party. People who want to see public ownership and social policy supporting the people, the NHS and the Welfare State are looking for alternatives. And the time seems to be now.

  5. If you can find the time Paul, register for the green conference March 6-9th. See real people with real values and great democratic policy making.

  6. Reblogged this on TheCritique Archives and commented:
    Some excellent points, with many parallels to experiences of my own, and in fact quite a worthy rebuttal to many recent suggestions I’ve heard that the Green Party is the one supported by fools and yobs.

  7. Reblogged this on The Layman's Terms and commented:
    Well said, I’m not a labour supporter but if I was I’d wonder what on earth they’re doing… If it wasn’t for the logo and red tie you wouldn’t know which party Miliband represents. I’d never vote green though, they’re views on poverty are so out of touch it’s quite shameful. Anyway, vote green, good luck to you.. You won’t get a Tory govt you’ll get a Lab-green-LD coalition. My take here

  8. I gave up waiting for labour to change a few years ago now. It was and still is s relief to belong to a party whose outlook and policies I can believe in. Caroline Lucas is an MP to be proud of, we just need loads more like her.

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