Most readers here will have voted
Respect and a few may have voted otherwise. If you are reading this
and feeling very depressed about your regionís result, and about the
rise of the hard/far right in Britain, you should know I have the same
feeling. What you are now reading is my personal response, not any
Firstly, a little bit about the Greens. Our share of the vote in
Britain stayed the same as in 1999. We are also delighted to see Jean
Lambert (London) and Caroline Lucas (South East) re-elected as our
MEPs for another five years. In a year with increased turnout, we
managed to hold our seats despite the threshold for getting elected
having gone up. This is an excellent achievement when UKIP have forced
us into 5th place nearly everywhere.
Whatever accusations or feelings have been directed towards the
Greens regarding our lack of co-operation with Respect can now be put
into historical perspective. The starting point for negotiations was
that George Galloway, not Jean Lambert, would have topped any joint
list in London. By campaigning on our own, we retained a Green MEP,
and we would have been unlikely to have done so if Jean had been
second to Galloway.
Secondly, a little bit about Respect. Lindsey German did well in
the mayoral contest and George Galloway gained 4.8% of the vote in the
European elections. These are respectable results but it is clear that
George Gallowayís appeal was overstated, and his inconsistencies on
important issues of social justice (like his views on abortion) showed
the limitations of an over-reliance on him.
Elsewhere, Respect have been hugely disappointing. Despite a lot of
hard work on the ground from committed activists, no other deposits
have been saved. This is a big moral and financial blow for the new
coalition. With no candidates elected from these elections, it will be
difficult for Respect to sustain a national profile after the
departure of Galloway from his parliamentary constituency (possibly as
early as October if the rumours of an early general election are
The Green vote was nearly four times bigger than the vote for
Respect, and more than five times bigger if you take London and the
limited personal Galloway vote out of the equation. Any movement to
bring together the progressive elements in British politics must take
this result into account. Many Greens felt that we were given a list
of demands which must be met (or else!) when we were invited to join
the Respect coalition. Future co-operation must be based on two-way
discussion. It canít be rushed. We are waiting to hear what the
progressive forces on the left can offer to us, rather than talking
about coalitions, mergers and grand schemes.
The Green Party will remain the Green Party for the foreseeable
future. What shape the left is going to take is difficult to predict.
The SWP who appeared to dominate the Respect coalition are in a
difficult financial situation. The Respect coalition itself may well
"owe" money lent on the understanding that deposits may be kept. If
the organisational structures that existed for the Socialist Alliance
still remain, it would be understandable if the left decided to move
back to this structure. Fragmentation and disunity because of
blamemongering is always a concern.
I am both optimistic and pessimistic about the future. I think it
is clear that we should stand as many candidates as possible against
pro-war Labour MPs in a forthcoming general election. In the North
West, I would expect Michael Lavalette to stand as a parliamentary
candidate in Preston (the only place in the North West where Respect
did better than the Greens). Logically, the left should allow Green
candidates to challenge Labour MPs in areas where the Green vote was
stronger. That will mean Liverpool, Lancaster, Manchester and most of
the North West, which may be a very bitter pill for prospective
socialist candidates to swallow, but it may also be the most effective
way of making our point to Labour.
We will not of course, be able to stand candidates everywhere, and
there will be seats we alone canít target. We need the left to help us
to ensure that not one Labour MP with a pro-war record (and a Lib Dem
but not Tory challenger) is left unopposed, if that is a goal that we
agree on. This is a big request but it is not a demand. Greens and
Socialists must sit down and sort these issues out. In some areas we
may come to agreement and in some areas we may not. I think this will
be an important first step to see how far progress or co-operation may
lead us. If the leadership of Respect / SA can provide guidance that
facilitates this, then it is a promising start.
I am somewhat pessimistic right now in wider political terms. The
hard right is growing in strength. In the North West region, even the
combined Green / Respect vote was barely more than the BNP achieved.
We are in a political landscape dominated by a right wing press and
populated by hostile politicians unwilling to listen to us,
particularly as they strain to adjust to the UKIP surge of support.
These are going to be a difficult period for progressive forces in
There are questions that I would like readers in the North West to
consider, and feed back to me on. We Greens are very local in our
approach and I would not presume to speak for other regions. This is
particularly true for the South East and London where emotions are
much stronger because both Jean and Caroline only just managed to get
back in. A Respect campaign (whatever the actual results) in these
regions made the re-election of good MEPs much more difficult and
understandably our activists may still be pretty sore about this.
- We may have as little as four months to prepare for a general
election. Is there an inbuilt scepticism about working with the
Greens on the left, and if so, why? We have been accused of
forwarding our own agenda, which is one of social justice and
environmental improvement. Is this a bad thing?
- Could or should the leadership of Respect / SA allow the Greens
to target parliamentary seats in areas they are strongest to promote
the most effective anti-war vote?
- Could you as an activist actually go out and work for a Green
candidate, or at least support their campaign?
These are questions that need to be asked of grassroots socialists
and not just the hierarchy of organisations on the left. To either
work with (or even join) the Green Party requires that an adherence to
ideology will be sacrificed for a more pragmatic approach. I think the
idea that created Respect was a pragmatic one and in these times it
may be that activists on the left will be best served by working
closely with (or within) the Green movement. We have socialists, light
greens, dark greens and middle class environmentalists all within a
single party which continues to make electoral progress. Activists
from the left can either work within or co-operate from outside of
that party, but they can definitely make a contribution in pushing
forward progressive politics.
The left brings some excellent qualities to campaigning and
activism, and many of us in the Greens admire your commitment to the
cause. We have a chance now to start being open and honest with each
other. Iíd welcome your views.