The general election result was a disaster. The poor will get poorer, reliance on food banks will rise, deaths through inadequate medical treatment will increase. The Giant Evils of Want, Disease and Ignorance, identified in the Beveridge Report over 70 years ago, and on which our Welfare State was based, are back on the march. These are the direct result of Tory policies and those of us who oppose the Tories must work tirelessly to remove them as soon as possible.
One could be forgiven for thinking that with so much at stake, and much of society in decline, an extreme right-wing government riddled with incompetence and corruption ought to have been easy pickings for an aspiring opposition worth its salt. Not so: with so many open goals to score, Labour somehow not only failed to make inroads into the Tories, they even went backwards.
There is one lie doing the rounds of the Labour bloggers and that is to blame the Greens for their failure last week. The Greens, they argue, took votes from Labour and allowed the Tories to get back in. The Greens, they argue, should not stand against Labour in the first-past-the-post system.
Such arrogance is truly breathtaking. The Labour party does not have a divine right to attract people’s votes. Indeed, where the Labour party shifts its ground so it occupies the right of centre, they are wilfully abandoning the votes of people who understand that the country’s needs can only be addressed by a left-of-centre agenda. It is no coincidence that the Green Party’s byline is “For the Common Good”. We seek the improvement in the quality of life of everyone: not the richest few, as the Tories do, nor the 35% or so somewhere near the middle, which the Labour party was hoping would see them squeaking over the finishing line with a little bit of help from their friends and a dysfunctional electoral system.
We want to see the quality of life of everyone in this country – indeed, outside this country as well – improve. We recognise that, first and foremost, the environmental crisis of climate change, which is threatening to sweep away great swathes of the habitable planet, and to which the other parties pay occasional lip service, must be our number one priority. The health of the environment is not a single issue: it transcends all human activity and endeavour and the imperative of damage limitation resulting from climate change must override everything we do. That is for the Common Good.
However, we will also tackle problems that, of themselves, are not – yet – directly the product of Climate Change. The greatest of these is Austerity. The Common Good is not served by a policy of austerity. That way, the poorest and most needy are cast off from our democratic process, and that is a race to the bottom. If the Labour Party chooses to go after the votes of the “aspirational middle class”, as Blair and Mandelson have been urging, then by definition that party is neglecting the most needy – people on benefits through no fault of their own, who are just as likely to be in work as out of it. Furthermore, as austerity bites ever deeper, that aspirational middle class will reduce in number and, electorally speaking, won’t be worth chasing. If that is the way Labour wants to go, then where Scotland has led, the rest of the country will surely follow and the Labour Party is destined to oblivion. Scottish independence is not just independence from England, it is also independence from what Tory – and Labour – England has come to represent: the cult of Big Business dictating to government what it can and can’t do. The privileged few apart, we all want independence from that. We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. If we can bail out the banks, then we can surely find our way to alleviate the most pressing needs of the poorest in our society.
The Greens are a democratic party. We will defend absolutely our right to contest elections and attack the Tories on as many fronts as we are able. If the Labour Party chooses to condone Tory policies and adopt them, then we will never stand aside for them and say “After you!”. We will attack them as well. We will act as we will always do – For the Common Good.