Saturday, 25 February 2012

Green Party Resignation

I joined the Green Party ten years ago, never having been a member of any political party in my life. I was 45 years old but had been a political and social campaigner all of my life in a range of human rights, social justice and environmental campaigns since I was 17. They ranged from LGBT rights in Ireland, when being gay was illegal, to the peace and anti-nuclear movements as well as defending social housing and others. I had never trusted the Labour Party as a non-radical political movement too wedded to the tenets of the past, such as bureaucracy and their colonialist policies in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. I also did not associate with the far Left sects, with whom I worked in joint campaigns during the Anti Poll Tax movement.

I found the Green Party, although it had pockets of reaction -open, transparent and democratic, and one of the only parties prepared to take on board the importance of ecology , which social movements across Europe were also calling for. I had also found people like Petra Kelly in the German Greens inspirational.
I served on the national Executive as International Coordinator and 4 years representing London on the party’s Regional Council. I have also been Treasurer of the party’s Trade Union Group and the party’s representative to the Stop the War Coalition.

Five and a half years ago, together with a small group of party members, I founded Green Left. Our principles were to ensure that the party remained a radical party of the Left, and above all a party led by its members and not by the leaders and hierarchy found in other parties. To ensure this I had included in the ‘Headcorn Declaration’ an assurance that one of our aims was a “bottom up rather than a top down party”. We also saw that there was a large political space in England to the Left of Labour and wanted to open up to others on the Left to ensure dialogue and joint campaigning on anti-capitalist and social justice issues, as well as on the environment.

As a historian, I could see that when the austerity measures and cuts began in the UK and across Europe, it was going to be a repeat of the crushing economic policies of the 30s – this time with an ideological imperative to crush the welfare state and all the gains of the post-war settlement, returning us to pre-war conditions, which would suit global capital. I immediately became involved in the newly formed anti-cuts organisation, Coalition of Resistance, being on the initial Steering Committee – Green Left was one of the first organisations to be involved.

One year ago in Cardiff at the Green Party conference there was a motion to fight the cuts (which was strongly supported) and became Green Party policy. But there was also an amendment put by Green Left calling for an anti-cuts, illegal budget to be set by Greens when in power, in order to mobilise resistance and to refuse the ‘dented shield’ policy of New Labour. At this point the Greens did not yet control Brighton Council. Virtually every councillor on the Right of the party was mobilised to defeat the amendment and it fell by only 3 votes. From this stage on, the writing was on the wall and many of us on the Left realised that the party was prepared to talk the talk but not to walk the walk.

Ironically the disastrous election results of the Irish Greens in the general election there were coming through at the same time and many speakers at the conference denounced their sell out of Green policies and cuts and bailout policies which they had implemented in government over 3 years. I had been very involved in opposing the policies of the Irish Greens and had written an article in 2009 entitled ‘The Rise and Fall of the IrishGreens’ which predicted their demise and attacked their abandonment of their principles. Many of my friends had left the Irish Green Party in protest and there were many in the party who criticised them.

Now one year later the new Green administration have not only put forward a cuts budget but have voted for an even worse one from Labour, implementing another £3.5 million cuts for the people of Brighton. This from a party which stood in Brighton opposing the cuts. It is a momentous betrayal of their radical base and of many activists in the party who are involved in local anti-cuts movements. It is not sufficient to have policies opposing cuts if Green administrations then introduce them. This is what brings politics and politicians (rightly) into disrepute.

After the disastrous election last year which left the Irish Greens without one seat in the parliament and bankrupted the party, the new Chair, Roderic O’Gorman, said of the party and of its 3 year role in government: “We became part of the consensus and our voters punished us for it.” The party is  now detested in Ireland. How ironic that one year after this election and two days after the Brighton budget, which has put paid to the radical credentials of the Greens, one of the guests at the party conference in Liverpool is Eamon Ryan, the leader of the Irish Greens, who as Energy Minister in the previous government sold out the Shell to Sea campaign in the West of Ireland to Shell Oil

The radical speeches of Caroline Lucas are not enough, she it was who called for “a different sort of politics” at the Occupy Camp on the steps of St Paul’s. As Athens blazes and Europe is in turmoil, many of us, angry and disillusioned with capitalism and business as usual, looked to the Greens for hope. It is now clear that those hopes were misplaced.

It is for all of these reasons that I can no longer remain a member of the Green Party. I salute all of those radical and progressive people who remain in the party, and they will always remain friends and allies. But the party is taking a wrong fork in the road and following the advice of spin doctors and careerists. It is in grave danger of becoming just another ‘grey party’ and part of the setup which has led us to the state we are now in.


  1. Electoral politics and winning elections clearly can bring difficulties as well as huge advantages. You, Joseph, resigning is not the solution. For one thing where are you going? What are you going to do now?


    1. Yes, but we all have our red lines and as I said in my post the attack on the poor and the welfare state etc is of historica proportions. Greens must be radical or they are nothing. I think that Greens need to read more about the history of the Green movement and its original principles. So many Green parties have sold out on them.

      I am very busy as an officer of the Coalition of Resistance fighting the cuts around the country and building links with the anti-austerity movement in Europe. I am also still Chair of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, which keeps me very busy with the NHS and improving patient and public involvement. I am not joining any political group or party if that is what you mean. Initially I will be taking a week's holiday and taking time out to take stock.

  2. I left the Green Party a couple of years ago,I joined as an ex-member of the Labour Party mistaking the greens for a radical altetrnative to Blairism. Although there are some good socialists in the Greens, overall they do not have the perspective to be able to sustain a radical agenda once in power. The lesson of the German and Irish Greens show this to be true.The English Greens have clearly not learned anything from this, and as the cliche says-they who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
    Of course there are those who say that onec in power there is responsibility. The Greens with their programe (or lack of it) will ot be able to take responsibility for the working class people wh will fall victim to their cuts. But that is the crux of the promblem. Most Greens think class does not matter and used the 'we're all in the same boat' arguement long before Cameron did.
    Joseph, you're right to be sceptical about the Labour Party's leadership, however there are working class members who are fighting to change that party so it will serve the people it was intended to serve. More infor on
    What ever you choose to do-best wishes and solidarity to you

    1. I would never joing the Labour Party, although I know that there are good people in it. One of the reasons I left the Greens was that I never wanted to end up like the Labour Left crying over the party's past and hoping for the return of a 'golden period' which never really existed in the Labour Party. I totally support working with the Left in general, and that includes Left Labour members, in the trade union and anti-cuts movements. There is a need for a party to the Left of Labour but Labour is now so much a part of the neo-liberal establishement that I would never consider joining. I have great respect for Left Labour MPs like Jeremy Corbyn but where are their younger counterparts?

  3. Joseph. Thank you for your explanationn why you decided to leave the party. It's sad because we lost one great disabled member! I wonder what next step for you?

    From Simeon.

    1. Thanks Simeon. I will continue as a disabled person who works for a disability organisation campaigning on disability issues. One of the reasons for my anger over Brighton is that I visit disabled and vulnerable people every day at work and see the impact of the cuts - and only a small percentage of those cuts have been implemented so far.

      As for my future plans - I have answered above.

  4. Very sorry to hear about this, Joseph, I appreciate where you are coming from.


    1. Thanks Matt. You were always one of the people in the party whose integrity and willingness to speak out I most admired. I hope that we will remain in contact.

  5. Joseph,
    It is a great loss to the GPEW that you are leaving the party. I did so 3 years ago and I feel that as soon as the party accepted that we needed to become part of the accepted line of having a single leader that the writing was on the wall. I wish you well in joining the ranks of the increasing number of unaligned independent socialists in the UK who are campaigning on many fronts.

    1. Thanks Paul. Yes I remember you in Green Left and we met at several conferences. I agree re the Leader which I strenuously opposed. Although the cuts were the touch paper, there were things happening in the party with which I strongly disagreed - this came to a head six months ago over the appalling treatment of staff and the reaction of the party leadership to that, when the members had the temerity to challenge decisions, and the contempt displayed towards activists was deeply depressing and concerning. It was along the lines of "how dare these people raise their voices." All of this contributed to my feeling of disillusionment about the party.

  6. Hi Joe,

    It's Justin, a black South London activist also not in a political party. Glad you've come round yet organised groups are still needed. Please take a look at South London Community Action Network:

    1. Yes we have met Justin and I am also based in Southwark. Will have a look and get back to you.

  7. Replies
    1. Well Alice, I did not take the decision lightly and I am sure that there are some in the party glad to see the back of me. But I have never been a careerist and always had a reputation in the party for speaking out. In fact I believe that it is essential for Greens to speak truth unto power and not to become part of the power structures - I mean always having a radical stance.

    2. Here here comrade Healy. Alice, people like you are prepared to sink all your principles for a party. We are not! James

    3. Au Contraire my dear James.
      I have from the beginning maintained my view that I can be much more effective outside the Party whilst remaining a PITA within.

      But I'm not sure that your principles (or Joseph's) are the same as mine .... you seem to know what mine are so perhaps you could let me know.

  8. The danger to the Green movement comes from factional in-fighting and power battles. You are right to leave the party as you have an agenda of your own and tunnel vision in pursuit of it.

    Form your protest faction and see it too split into more factions in time.

    What on earth would setting an illegal budget that cannot legally be implemented achieve - besides lost public confidence and their votes?

  9. Hi Joe.

    I would not dream of giving you any "please stay..." bilge, this is clearly something that has been building up and I totally respect and admire your decision.

    Naturally it makes me very sad and The Green Party and Green Left are far worse off now without your brains, effort and excellent reputation.

    I think your analysis is correct, but for me the bigger problem isn't betrayal of principles we might call "left leaning" - it is the apparent lack of political foresight and a very possible trap that people have walked into here.

    I haven't really got to the bottom of what went on, perhaps the reasonings are all too predictable and redolent of the "grey" parties.

    I know too well the lessons of Ireland, not all the parallels are exact, but too many are. Ditto the sort of excuses LD and Labour come out with when they do even fouler ("..but lots of our ideas did get decisions of government...")

    I will remain in the party for now at least because there are still many green things I think it is committed to that are worthwhile (for example some people you have strongly critiqued down the years are very good on animal issues).

    I also think we have candidates worth working for at council elections where I am (no chance of having power) and the Euro Election (the EU is a crock, but at least our MEPs can't do the kind of harm you are citing).

    But I don't think I will be able to use anti cuts arguments as a reason to vote Green, which is a massive shame and obstacle.

    I will continue doing lots of stuff outside the party without especially trumpeting my tribal affiliation.

    I take hope in the fact that some very suprising figures are not at all pleased with what has happened, or how it has happened.

    I hope you can find vehicles at least as useful for your efforts in future months and years, as I hope that your more pessimistic predictions about us prove ill founded.

    I'll leave it there for now, but will be in touch. Thanks so much for all you have done for GPEW and GL, and for passing so much of your knowledge on to me.

    Tiocfaidh ár lá.

    Bob lwch i chi.


    1. Hi Steve, thanks for your kind words. There are certainly many good people working in the party, I have never questioned that. The policies are also good. But a word of caution. I went to conferences of the European Green Party for over 4 years. I saw Green parties change fundamentally in Ireland and the Czech Republic and those who spoke out were sidelined or called 'naive' or 'idealists'. I actually think that the EU is a much stronger force than you think and the position of the Green Group in the Euro Parliament is very significant. The dangers of being sucked into the power machine, a la Brighton, are far more significant at European level.

      I respect much of the work that Jean Lambert MEP has done for migrants and around human rights and LGBT issues in the European Parliament but she has also voted for transnational lists, which the Green Group supports, which signify a very important transfer of power to European level parties away from national ones. We can already see in Greece the impact of what happens when the EU bodies have too much power and seek to sideline the national and local democratic structures.

  10. Joseph,

    We have never met but I will miss your posts on the London List. I am so sorry you have taken the decision to leave the Green Party.

    I missed the Cardiff conference but I totally follow your logic and reasoning. However, because Brighton is the first place we have held any sort of power in the UK I think we have a special need to act responsibly.

    I don't thing you should be too harsh on the Greens, but should look instead at Labour, who have truly disappointed me by opposing our anti-cuts budget.

    I hope you reconsider and we both live in London so if you would like to go for a drink to discuss please get in touch. I doubt if I can change your mind but it would be great to understand your point of view even better.

    Best wishes

    Daniel Goldsmith
    Hounslow Green Party
    tel 07760 287 021

    1. Thanks Daniel, lets meet up. I have nothing but contempt for Labour. I work in Lambeth and have seen how they are decimating local services and the voluntary sector and disciplining those cllrs who resist. I will contact you after I get back from holiday.

  11. While I disagree with your analysis Joseph, I am sorry to see you go from the party. You've worked hard over the years you've been involved and your service does you huge credit. I'm sure you'll continue to be a force for good in whatever campaigning role you will undoubtedly go on to. I hope that we'll have a pint of Guinness in different circumstances at a future time.

    Best wishes

    Peter Cranie

    1. Thanks Peter. I also very much admired your fight against Fascism and xehophobia and for a diverse and multicultural society and party. I think that the Greens have to be very careful about replicating the traditional power structures and there has always been a current in the party which, under the cover of 'professionalising the party' have wanted to sideline and silence those who see the need for a much more non-hierarchical and radical politics, which was the vision of the Green movement in the 70s and 80s. Ireland and the Czech Republic are grim warnings of what can happen.

      Will definitely meet you for a Guinness either in London or Liverpool.

  12. Until you have politicians you can trust, you have nothing.

    Brighton Hove Council doubled council tax over a ten year period (*after* inflation) - raising an extra £60,000,000 per year. Yet the city still has 10,000 kids living in 'poverty'.

    The council has no shortage of money to end poverty - it simply has other priorities.

    Brighton and Hove have an obese public sector and 'voluntary' sector - fat from easy money accumulated in the good years. While the people paid in these areas are making a good living, those who are supposed to be benefiting from the money are still cold, hungry, uneducated and unhealthy.

    If Greens (or Labour or Conservatives) were going to fix this, they would have done so already.

    I hope you find radical political change - and agree you won't find it with the Greens.

  13. Joseph,
    You are a great friend and comrade, along with Andy Hewett and Teresa Delaney; I am sorry that the Green Party has left us but at the end of the day we are stronger together outside that party whatever. I feel upset about my own resignation after 7 years in the party but I also feel it is necessary as they have sold out completely. If the Irish lesson is one that you taught me, it is sad that Brighton have decided to go the same way.
    Solidarity with you as always and I have no doubt that I will work with members of the GP in future on issues that we share, it is sad they have been so deeply betrayed.

  14. Joseph,
    You'll be pleasantly surprised how much life there is outside of a Party, as a hack of a long time it took me a bit of getting use to but I found that suddenly there were no more committee meetings. fundraising meetings, meetings for the sake of meetings and I was free to actually spend time campaigning on issues rather than discussing them.

    It certainly takes a while for the dust to settle, but your friends from the Green Party will still be your friends, and if the're not then they weren't friends in the first place.

    I remember talking to you about the change in leadership structure of the greens, and thinking you may have been over egging the biscuit, but it seems you were right and I was, well wrong- sadly.

    All the best


  15. The problem the Greens have, and its one they admit, is that they are not based around the working class - and as such are building themselves up from faulty foundations. The Labour party no longer represents working people - though in the past it because of the pressure from below that it 'appeared' to be better than it actually was. So where do people go from here??? lots of people in this position turn to single issue campaigns - anti-cuts or anti-rascism, womens/gay/black rights etc. All of which are worthy campaigns but at the end of the day have their limitations as to what they can achieve on a level of 'changing society'. The hard truth as i see it is that the root of the problem is capitalism and like it or not, and as hard a task as it may be, that is what has to change! and the only people who can do that are the working class majority in this country (and beyond).

    I think the 2008 financial crisis has fundmentally changed things in an objective sense. Not everyone will realise this straight away, but gradually we are seeing it - strikes, occupy, arab spring etc etc. as the cuts start to bite. it wont be a straight line - it'll be a winding road - but a generall trend will be an increase in resistance.

    Looking into the future i can see a ressuragance in confidence in the working class and this is where people need to be. I think, at present the best way to promote the radical ideas needed is by starting a new workers party. I think TUSC is, at present, the best way to build for that in an electorale sense - combined with anti-cuts work, trade union and community work etc.