Dear The Green Party,
Five years ago I wrote this:
… in which I explained to the Green Party why I might be voting for Jeremy Corbyn in 2020. Five years, the Brexit referendum, a local election and two general elections later, this is my apology letter.
The Greens are not a big party in the UK. They’re under-funded and under-reported despite having grown down the years and literally being one of the few parties willing to talk about the single biggest issue of the 21st century – climate change. This doesn’t stop other parties sometimes pinching their policies, mind. The 2017 Labour Manifesto was in many ways a rip-off of the 2015 Green one. But given that the Greens are working on a fraction of the budgets of the other parties, and don’t have any big donors in the same (really rather dodgy) way other parties do, the chances of them winning a general election tomorrow are basically none. Under those circumstances, tired, anxious climate activists look to the next best thing – they look to Labour.
When it comes to action on climate change, the Conservatives have proven themselves if not actively part of the problem – slashing funding to the Environment Agency, raising VAT on renewables, squirming to dodge EU climate standards and just generally being really rather crappy – then at the bare minimum, they’ve been inept. Moreover my flavour of environmentalist politics strongly leans into the idea that to tackle this global problem we need massive state investment, and that means taxing the obscene wealth of the richest in the world. I usually take this time to footnote all my points of view with links to articles and data, but to be honest, this is an apology letter and I’m already knackered, so I’ll remind you of the U.N. report into austerity in the UK and recommend you read The Future We Choose by
The arrival of Corbyn in 2015 seemed to offer some hope. He was a proper leftie, a promise of change after the gutting disappointment of the Blair years. He believed in taxing absurd wealth, supporting state institutions, in climate change. He came across as compassionate and genuinely concerned for the welfare of the poorest in society. I cheered for him. I desperately wanted him to do well.
The years between then and now have not been kind. His performance in parliament was lacklustre; his debating and public persona not much to write home about. I know this shouldn’t be how we measure a politician, but it is – and given that as a Green I’m relying on Labour to win the votes we can’t, the prospect that they might not was terrifying. It also felt like there was disproportionately negative coverage of him versus the Conservatives, which given how much of the UK’s press is owned by Murdoch didn’t feel implausible. Rather than my usual citation, have a three-part documentary:
But as the years ticked by, the disappointments added up. There was no sense that Corbyn wanted to stay in the EU, which was gutting for a remainer such as myself. The internal politics of the Labour Party was an absolute shambles. Then the anti-semitism complaints began to stack up. At first, to my shame, I ignored them. It didn’t help that the Conservatives were making such noise about it while their own Islamaphobia was being swept despicably under the rug. In an act of belligerant reverse psychology, the more the Conservatives talked about Labour’s anti-semitism, the more I found it hard to believe. I wanted Corbyn to be a victim of right-wing lies perpetrated by a political party whose current leader – with his history of deceit and incompetence – didn’t even turn up for election debates or interviews for fear of scrutiny. My Jewish Gran also wanted to believe this, couldn’t fathom not voting Labour, and complained that we had reached a point where to say that you disagreed with the politics of the Israeli government, was to be painted an anti-semite. Maybe that was it, she wondered? Maybe that’s what people meant? This dilemma brought her as near to tears of frustration as I’ve ever seen – how to honour the Jewish community that was her life, her identity and her home – while acknowledging her honest horror at the acts of the Israeli government. In her last years her secret, great pleasure were the gifts she gave to Palestinian refugee charities, and her sorrow was expressed in the lament that the same disregard for humanity and justice that had destroyed her childhood, seemed to be growing again in the world.
All in all it was a stinking mess, and by the time Corbyn quit I was relieved and so, so ready for him to go. I don’t particularly like Starmer, the new Labour leader. My partner printed out the voting records of all the leading Labour candidates during the internal election, and highlighted all the places where Starmer’s voting record seemed less than glowing to both our ideologies. But he can at least hold a room, retain facts and figures, hold the government to account in a clear, public manner – and has accepted the findings of the independent commission into the Labour Party, which clearly describe institutional discrimination and anti-semitism. Corbyn has rejected it, and as I write this social media is raging with shouting voices all trying to drown each other out, the left once again tearing itself apart.
And I am tired. I am sad and disappointed. After the Brexit referendum, I started volunteering more for the Greens, and have stuck with it on the basis that the cause is worth it, even if the fight is hard. But as every year brought more political acts from the Conservatives that made me curl up inside, as Labour floundered and flapped and the dividing lines in this country grow harder, more bitter, more entrenched in the same cruel absolutism that made my Gran cry, it gets harder. We don’t have time to scream at each other. And we don’t have time to pretend that things we don’t like, aren’t real. I want to. I have done. It is a very human instinct. But reality, as they say, bites.
There are many reasons I’m a Green volunteer. One of the biggest still remains this: that climate change is a species-defining problem, and if reality bites hard now, it’s gonna bite us all even harder soon. It’s just hard, sometimes, to remember and be ok with that.
all the best,