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.

Picture: ANDRÉ CARRILHO
Show Hide image

Leader: Boris Johnson, a liar and a charlatan

The Foreign Secretary demeans a great office of state with his carelessness and posturing. 

Boris Johnson is a liar, a charlatan and a narcissist. In 1988, when he was a reporter at the Times, he fabricated a quotation from his godfather, an eminent historian, which duly appeared in a news story on the front page. He was sacked. (We might pause here to acknowledge the advantage to a young journalist of having a godfather whose opinions were deemed worthy of appearing in a national newspaper.) Three decades later, his character has not improved.

On 17 September, Mr Johnson wrote a lengthy, hyperbolic article for the Daily Telegraph laying out his “vision” for Brexit – in terms calculated to provoke and undermine the Prime Minister (who was scheduled to give a speech on Brexit in Florence, Italy, as we went to press). Extracts of his “article”, which reads more like a speech, appeared while a terror suspect was on the loose and the country’s threat level was at “critical”, leading the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, to remark: “On the day of a terror attack where Britons were maimed, just hours after the threat level is raised, our only thoughts should be on service.”

Three other facets of this story are noteworthy. First, the article was published alongside other pieces echoing and praising its conclusions, indicating that the Telegraph is now operating as a subsidiary of the Johnson for PM campaign. Second, Theresa May did not respond by immediately sacking her disloyal Foreign Secretary – a measure of how much the botched election campaign has weakened her authority. Finally, it is remarkable that Mr Johnson’s article repeated the most egregious – and most effective – lie of the EU referendum campaign. “Once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350m per week,” the Foreign Secretary claimed. “It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS.”

This was the promise of Brexit laid out by the official Vote Leave team: we send £350m to Brussels, and after leaving the EU, that money can be spent on public services. Yet the £350m figure includes the rebate secured by Margaret Thatcher – so just under a third of the sum never leaves the country. Also, any plausible deal will involve paying significant amounts to the EU budget in return for continued participation in science and security agreements. To continue to invoke this figure is shameless. That is not a partisan sentiment: the head of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, denounced Mr Johnson’s “clear misuse of official statistics”.

In the days that followed, the chief strategist of Vote Leave, Dominic Cummings – who, as Simon Heffer writes in this week's New Statesman, is widely suspected of involvement in Mr Johnson’s article – added his voice. Brexit was a “shambles” so far, he claimed, because of the ineptitude of the civil service and the government’s decision to invoke Article 50 before outlining its own detailed demands.

There is a fine Yiddish word to describe this – chutzpah. Mr Johnson, like all the other senior members of Vote Leave in parliament, voted to trigger Article 50 in March. If he and his allies had concerns about this process, the time to speak up was then.

It has been clear for some time that Mr Johnson has no ideological attachment to Brexit. (During the referendum campaign, he wrote articles arguing both the Leave and Remain case, before deciding which one to publish – in the Telegraph, naturally.) However, every day brings fresh evidence that he and his allies are not interested in the tough, detailed negotiations required for such an epic undertaking. They will brush aside any concerns about our readiness for such a huge challenge by insisting that Brexit would be a success if only they were in charge of it.

This is unlikely. Constant reports emerge of how lightly Mr Johnson treats his current role. At a summit aiming to tackle the grotesque humanitarian crisis in Yemen, he is said to have astounded diplomats by joking: “With friends like these, who needs Yemenis?” The Foreign Secretary demeans a great office of state with his carelessness and posturing. By extension, he demeans our politics. 

This article first appeared in the 21 September 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The revenge of the left