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

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Leader: Trump and an age of disorder

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions.

The US presidency has not always been held by men of distinction and honour, but Donald Trump is by some distance its least qualified occupant. The leader of the world’s sole superpower has no record of political or military service and is ignorant of foreign affairs. Throughout his campaign, he repeatedly showed himself to be a racist, a misogynist, a braggart and a narcissist.

The naive hope that Mr Trump’s victory would herald a great moderation was dispelled by his conduct during the transition. He compared his country’s intelligence services to those of Nazi Germany and repeatedly denied Russian interference in the election. He derided Nato as “obsolete” and predicted the demise of the European Union. He reaffirmed his commitment to dismantling Obamacare and to overturning Roe v Wade. He doled out jobs to white nationalists, protectionists and family members. He denounced US citizens for demonstrating against him. Asked whether he regretted any part of his vulgar campaign, he replied: “No, I won.”

Of all his predilections, Mr Trump’s affection for Vladimir Putin is perhaps the most troubling. When the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, warned that Russia was the “number one geopolitical foe” of the US, he was mocked by Barack Obama. Yet his remark proved prescient. Rather than regarding Mr Putin as a foe, however, Mr Trump fetes him as a friend. The Russian president aims to use the US president’s goodwill to secure the removal of American sanctions, recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and respect for the murderous reign of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. He has a worryingly high chance of success.

Whether or not Mr Trump has personal motives for his fealty (as a lurid security dossier alleges), he and Mr Putin share a political outlook. Both men desire a world in which “strongmen” are free to abuse their citizens’ human rights without fear of external rebuke. Mr Trump’s refusal to commit to Nato’s principle of collective defence provides Mr Putin with every incentive to pursue his expansionist desires. The historic achievement of peace and stability in eastern Europe is in danger.

As he seeks reconciliation with Russia, Mr Trump is simultaneously pursuing conflict with China. He broke with precedent by speaking on the telephone with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and used Twitter to berate the Chinese government. Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump’s secretary of state nominee, has threatened an American blockade of the South China Sea islands.

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions. The US constitution, with its separation of powers, was designed to restrain autocrats such as the new president. Yet, in addition to the White House, the Republicans also control Congress and two-thirds of governorships and state houses. Mr Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment will ensure a conservative judicial majority. The decline of established print titles and the growth of “fake news” weaken another source of accountability.

In these circumstances, there is a heightened responsibility on the US’s allies to challenge, rather than to indulge, Mr Trump. Angela Merkel’s warning that co-operation was conditional on his respect for liberal and democratic values was a model of the former. Michael Gove’s obsequious interview with Mr Trump was a dismal example of the latter.

Theresa May has rightly rebuked the president for his treatment of women and has toughened Britain’s stance against Russian revanchism. Yet, although the UK must maintain working relations with the US, she should not allow the prospect of a future trade deal to skew her attitude towards Mr Trump. Any agreement is years away and the president’s protectionist proclivities could yet thwart British hopes of a beneficial outcome.

The diplomatic and political conventions embodied by the “special relationship” have endured for more than seven decades. However, Mr Trump’s election may necessitate their demise. It was the belief that the UK must stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US that led Tony Blair into the ruinous Iraq War. In this new age of disorder, Western leaders must avoid being willing accomplices to Mr Trump’s agenda. Intense scepticism, rather than sycophancy, should define their response.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era