The Green Party and the Labour Party have collaborated on cross-party issues and share similar values. With the recent election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour’s new leader, is it time for the two to join forces – and could it lead to electoral success?
The 2015 general election made one thing clear: Britain is no longer a two-party system. An election debate with seven different parties tells us that the Labour Party and the Conservative Party no longer hold the monopoly among the country’s voters. With only 66.1 per cent of the country casting a vote in the 2015 general election, it is evident that many believe the political parties – major or minor – no longer cater for them.
A frequent criticism of politicians nowadays is that they are all the same – so what’s the point in voting at all? But the arrival of Jeremy Corbyn as the new Labour leader has put the two main parties at a parallel, and fans of Mr Corbyn have hailed his honesty and connection with voters. In the 24 hours after Mr Corbyn was elected, 15,000 people signed up as members of the party. The current numbers have gone up by over 100,000 since the election – and soon membership figures will be comparable to those of the Blair era.
Whilst Mr Corbyn’s makes radical policies appeal to ordinary people, the Green Party seems to take this a step further: its entire structure is based around radical, progressive reform which challenges the establishment; environmental and social justice priorities being at its core, with a goal to change the economic system. A rise in membership figures has also occurred in the Green Party – with figures now over 65,000, it has more members than the Liberal Democrats.
Left-wing activists who have been dying for a truly revolutionary Labour Party have been voting Green. Green Party “supporters” who have been pessimistic about its chances of “success” have voted Labour. At the moment, neither party can offer everything needed to change a broken system. But an increasingly multi-party system and tactical politics could change this. The idea of left-wing progressive pacts has been suggested; in an open letter to Mr Corbyn, Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion has suggested that shared values could lead to electoral success. Therefore, if one of the most prominent figures in the Green Party is willing for change, it may be sensible to go a step further: why not the amalgamation of Labour and Greens into a new party?
Of course, many believe that this could put Labour in electoral jeopardy, effectively locking the left out of power for decades or perhaps permanently. But at a time where political apathy is at an all-time high, it is clear that the current system of politics isn’t working. One of the first things that a left wing Labour-Green party could do is advocate proportional representation. As well as being a system that would benefit their chances of getting into power (with a rise in Green seats increasing the chance for collaboration), proportional representation could attract the 33.9 per cent who did not vote last election – allowing them to vote for who they actually wanted in power and giving a chance for a left-wing power to be established. People have previously been put off by more radical or minority parties and have voted for the best option amongst similar parties. Who says this has to continue?
The metaphorical elephant in the room is the economic credibility of the two parties. The Conservatives never miss an opportunity to undermine Labour’s economic credibility and the Green Party is often seen as a one-policy party with no consideration for economic ideas. Yet act quickly, and a revolutionary change from capitalism could be advocated; an economy with the focus on the people (not just capitalism with a few socialist policies thrown in). Jobs created in growing sectors such as the green economy and taxing for the super-rich to create fair social policies – something Labour has advocated to an extent but has been too afraid of big business to go far enough. A move like this could tackle the actual problem of the economic crisis: pandering to the big banks that feel they can act as they please.
The Green Party has a low profile leader, and unlike the Labour Party, has no chance of being in government under the current system. Therefore, convention dictates that this venture would be doomed to fail in an era of personality politics. Ed Miliband, the former leader of the Labour Party was constantly mocked by the press, and on the 7 May voters saw him as a weak leader waiting to be criticised. Perhaps the biggest hurdle here is the position of the leader. We need somebody who could attract people to new policies in a way that would appeal to wide swaths of the electorate. Yet evidently Mr Corbyn isn’t as off-putting to the electorate as first thought: a poll on 19 October showed Labour only four points behind the Conservatives with 36 points (Labour at 32 points) – compared to around a month ago where just after Mr Corbyn’s election the Conservatives boasted a 12 point lead. The political experience and Corbyn’s status could balance the grassroots activism the Greens have used to their advantage as a minority party.
At a time of division in broad church Labour, it might be ridiculous for a major party like Labour to adopt a more radical view. But politics is changing – and so-called major parties will not be powerful forever. A radical Labour-Green partnership could attract socialists and anti-establishment, apathetic voters simultaneously, offering the new alternative to austerity that has a chance of election.