In recent months, Labour figures have become increasingly concerned by the electoral threat posed by the Greens. The growth of the party, which has polled as high as 8 per cent in some polls and has increased its membership by 45 per cent this year to 26,000, is in danger of creating a split on the left to match that on the right.
Alongside their traditional environmentalist platform, the Greens are promoting policies with strong appeal to Labour voters such as a £10 minimum wage by 2020, a wealth tax on the top 1 per cent and the renationalisation of the railways, branding themselves as “the only anti-austerity party”. In close contests with the Tories and the Lib Dems, most notably in London, the level of the Green vote could make the difference between winning and losing.
In response, I can reveal that Labour’s election strategy chair Douglas Alexander has appointed shadow justice secretary and shadow London minister Sadiq Khan to lead a unit on addressing the threat. Khan, a leading figure on the left of the party (he ran Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign) and a former chair of Liberty, is regarded by party sources as a figure well placed to reach out to a group of voters who lie to the left of most of the public and who were alienated during the New Labour years.
That the party has taken the step of creating this role shows just how seriously it is taking the Green challenge (avoiding the complacency that some Tories demonstrated towards Ukip). After being excluded from the broadcasters’ TV debates proposal, party leader Natalie Bennett and her colleagues will cite this as further evidence that they deserve a platform alongside Ukip. The Tories, as I noted yesterday, will certainly hope they are successful.