Brighton, where the Green Party run the council. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The difference between radicalism set in reality, and the Green Party

A vote for Labour in 2015 will bring about a government that will help deliver a progressive economic, social and environmental agenda.

Personal experience tells me that many Green Party voters share the same values as Labour: reducing inequality, saving the NHS, upholding human rights, building homes, creating sustainable jobs and protecting the environment. These are values we share in our attempts to create a fairer society for all. But in reality, the opportunity to put our shared values into practice is put at risk every time the progressive vote is divided.

The last Labour government took the hugely significant step of establishing the minimum wage, but some Green Party voters were concerned that inequality continued to rise. They shared our passion for social justice but questioned our commitment to civil liberties. We recognise that we made mistakes. That’s what Ed Miliband said in his campaign to be leader of the Labour Party in 2010, and why under his leadership, our party has rediscovered its radical spirit – one that drives our policy programme.

We want to build a fairer country and that’s why reducing inequality is the cornerstone of our economic agenda. Taxing bankers’ bonuses to support the next generation of young talent, a mansion tax to fund more doctors and nurses, and the restoration of the 10p income tax rate all show how serious Ed is about creating a more equal society.

We have renewed our belief in social justice. We are fully committed to the European Court of Human Rights, which ensures the protection of the sick, disabled and vulnerable. We also believe in making our political debate more relevant to people’s lives. This means deepening and expanding our democracy and we are proud to support extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds. And we want to devolve more power away from Whitehall and strengthen local government.

We also have an ethical foreign policy we are proud of. The instincts that led Ed to oppose the Iraq War were the same ones that made him stop the rush to war with Syria last year. Just this month, Labour MPs led the vote in Parliament to recognise Palestine as a state.

Ed was the first ever Secretary of State for Climate Change, and his commitment to tackle climate change is crystal clear from his pledge at Labour conference to make the UK a world leader in the green economy by 2025, creating one million new green jobs

This is a truly radical agenda and we will be a government that all progressives can be proud of. Crucially however, it is a radicalism grounded in reality – and a far cry from the Green Party’s approach to office.

You just have to look at my home city, Brighton and Hove, where the Green Party run the council, to see what an unrealistic agenda looks like. Indeed, they have given radicalism a bad name, with unwanted gesture politics and unattainable promises.

Elected on a “No Cuts, No Privatisation” ticket, they’ve delivered cuts totalling 50 per cent with greater private sector involvement than when the Tories were in charge. Recycling rates have not only decreased but are now less reliable than at any point I can remember. They said they would build 1,000 new affordable homes but have not even reached a third of that. Their blinkered approach to education has seen temporary classrooms built on primary school playing fields, and a failure to invest in a new secondary school that will see the city run out of places in three years’ time.

Compare this with the achievements and practical radicalism of Labour-run authorities. Islington’s administration wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo by taking its waste and recycling services back in house, resulting in a more efficient deal for local residents. In Barking and Dagenham, Labour has a £9-an-hour living wage for all council staff. Oldham, meanwhile, is working to fight fuel poverty through the Fair Energy scheme, helping 38,700 households each save over £170.

To those still considering voting for the Green Party next May, and yet to be put off by the Brighton and Hove experience, I have one simple message: Labour has changed. A vote for our party will bring about a government that help will deliver a progressive economic, social and environmental agenda. Join us and be proud of what we achieve together.

Lord Bassam of Brighton is Labour’s Chief Whip in the House of Lords and a former leader of Brighton and Hove council. He is part of Labour’s Green Party strategy group. He tweets at @StevetheQuip

Steve Bassam, Lord Bassam of Brighton is Labour’s chief whip in the House of Lords. He tweets at @StevetheQuip.

Getty
Show Hide image

Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.