I'd be lying if I said I hadn't seriously considered all options since the election results came in. Let's not beat around the bush. The Green Party had a poor election and lost support throughout the country (Barring Brighton and a couple of other places we slightly gained in votes). I believe we did badly as a result of a confusing national strategy and message. Not to mention the "Green Guarantee" manifesto which was small on detail but high on rhetoric. In my local party, we stood aside in one seat, Ilford North. Wes Streeting ended up getting re-elected with our help. Many Green Parties stood aside and helped Labour and Lib Dems get elected. And as a result, people voted tactically throughout the country even where the Green Party were standing. Having said that, Green Party volunteers throughout the country worked very hard to get good election results. I think sadly for us the positive and inspiring campaign Corbyn ran was also simply too much for us to compete with.
Labour had a much better than expected result and gained seats but like the Tories, fell short of a majority government. Given we have a weak Tory minority government right now that could fall apart at any minute, it would be easy to just join Labour and push for another general election so they can get a majority right?
Except people keep forgetting that Jeremy Corbyn isn't the Labour Party. And even Jeremy Corbyn isn't good enough himself on issues like electoral reform. Whilst it seems most of the parliamentary party are uniting behind him now, there are Labour councils up and down the country making poor decisions for their local community. It's good that Labour have stronger numbers in parliament to oppose and hopefully bring down the minority government but who is going to be the progressive opposition to the Labour councils? This is where the Green Party come in. Whether it is Sian Berry in Camden or Caroline Russell in Islington, we are holding those Labour councils feet to the fire. My local party itself is holding Redbridge Council to account over their decision to build on Oakfield Playing Fields.
Some Green Party members will argue that we should focus on the environment now given that Labour are standing for a lot of the progressive economic and social issues we were pushing for in 2015 like re-nationalising the railways and opposing austerity. However I don't believe that will gain us support again. There is clearly an appetite for radical policies and we are more radical than Labour on certain issues. Whether it is the Citizens Income idea that guarantees income to everybody or publicly creating money rather allowing the banks to do it. Also we are the only party not pushing for economic growth as a barometer for the country's success and instead we believe there needs to be focus on building a sustainable economy that will help rather than harm the various species on this planet.
One other thing in which we differ with Labour on is education. Whilst their idea of a National Education Service is a commendable one, we are still the only party to openly oppose free schools and academies and would like every state school to be a comprehensive locally accountable to their community. We also believe children are over-tested and we would like to see SATs abolished as well as school league tables as we see the only way to improve education overall is for schools to collaborate and share best practice rather than compete. And of course, where Labour still back the broken voting system which sees them 56 seats behind the Tories yet only 3% of the vote behind, we have always stuck to backing a proportional voting system.
It will be challenging trying to differentiate ourselves from the Labour Party given where they are now, but it is very possible with the right strategy in place. Yes, the Green Party have suffered a setback and have had the worst result since 2010. Yes, the leadership of the Green Party do have to be held to account for our electoral failures but we've also helped move the country in a more progressive direction. Jonathan Bartley stated in this election campaign "UKIP said jump and the Tories said how high." Well when we in 2015 stood on a very progressive platform and got over a million votes, the Labour Party afterwards jumped to the left and a lot of those policies we've stood on for a long time are now more popular than they ever have been. That's surely something to be proud of as a Green.