The Labour party have looked about them, taken stock of the post-Blair wasteland and identified the enemy. which apparently is those well-known destroyers of democracy and oppressors of the common people in the Scottish Green Party.
At Scottish Labour Conference in Inverness this weekend there will be a fringe event entitled ‘Green Splinters’, staged with the express aim of finding out why some people have realised that they would rather vote Green instead of Labour.
Labour peer Lord Bassam, who I am told by Sooth Folk has a flatteringly obsessive distaste for the Greens, tweeted: ‘In Inverness to discuss countering the Green threat to progressive politics.’. It is hard to think of a more obtuse statement given the situation that many people in England find themselves in. I have no idea how much Lord Bassam knows about Scottish politics or the Scottish Green Party, but I would wager that it is significantly less than he thinks.
The Green vote is not a strictly socialist vote, and it is not an anti-Labour vote. The Green vote is a vote for people actually doing their jobs with competence and enthusiasm, and for an ability to bring new ideas into an intellectually moribund arena. Green politics is socialist in certain aspects, normatively seen it embodies the values and aims of social democracy, but it is marked above all by its ability and tendency to challenge institutions from a citizen-based democratic perspective.
Green politics in Germany is a case in point. The German Green Party as it now exists was born from a coalition of environmental and democratic organisations instrumental in the downfall of the German Democratic Republic, combined with the West German Green Party. After first breaking into German regional parliaments, in the late 1990s it provided crucial support to an SDP government looking to form a parliamentary majority.
In Sweden too the Greens have been able to pick up votes from the intellectual middle class and disillusioned former supporters of agrarian and socially liberal parties where those parties have drifted to the right. They often get a hard time from the officially socialist and social-democratic parties respectively, but for the maths to work it is actually in the interests of the red left to work with the Green left in order to form workable governments, rather than expend resources trying to exterminate them and claim 45 per cent of the vote and a lifetime in opposition.
Now the fact that this event is even taking place caused a squeal of delight amongst many in the SGP because it means that the Greens have gone from being a party nobody in politics cared about to one which is obviously threatening the hegemonies enjoyed by institutionalised Labour and unimaginative nationalism.
It would, however, be sad if the Labour party were to decide that keeping the Greens at bay were more important than trying to build workable alternative governments at Westminster and Holyrood.
There is also the crucial matter of Labour failing to embrace either electoral reform or the environment to any significant degree. And devolution, childcare reform, progressive taxation and urban planning. We need a future democracy which looks quite different from today, and all tomorrow’s parties should try to work together to make it happen. The Greens have the ideas and they need viable partners to make it happen.
We’d rather be friends than enemies, but if Labour want to be enemies they should consider the fact that it is a civil war they might well lose.