Britain Needs Fresh Political Leadership – But The Independent Group Isn't It

The trouble is, they stand for the same vapid centrist politics which helped leave Britain so damaged in the first place.

In 2016, the people of Britain gave the establishment a kicking as they voted to take the UK out of the European Union. It was, in part, a reaction against the inequality, austerity and sense of powerlessness which successive Governments – including New Labour – have overseen and entrenched across Britain.

This week, seven MPs lined up to tell the nation why they had quit Labour. The Independent Group billed their breakaway as a principled decision to stand alone when they no longer felt their party stood for them. The trouble is, they stand for the vapid centrist politics which helped leave Britain so damaged in the first place.

Far from learning the lessons of the past three years, the Independent Group pinned their colours to the mast of yet another form of the old-school politics the British people are so sick of.

Yes, Brexit Britain is crying out for political leadership – but this isn’t it. Too many politicians in Westminster seem to have forgotten that to lead, you first need a real vision for this country. People want politicians with passion, who are willing to stand by the courage of their conviction. But they also want to be heard – to have a stake, and a say.

As is so often the case, it has been Caroline Lucas, Parliament’s only Green MP, showing Westminster how leadership should and could be done. Caroline has recently visited Leave-voting constituencies to listen to what they care and are concerned about – and learn what they want politicians to do about it. Caroline is modelling how politics could help heal our divided country. With areport this week finding more than half the population think politics is broken, and that the far right is getting more extreme and, worryingly, younger, it’s time her colleagues in Westminster took note.

Of course, there will be no point oiling the cogs in the Westminster machine unless we face the fact the whole thing needs remaking from the bottom up. The Independent Group said they no longer feel at home in Labour. They blame Corbyn. We blame our broken political system. It’s been clear for decades that Britain’s binary system of two-party politics can never represent the wide range of values and opinions held not just by MPs, but by the British people.

The Green Party has long believed no one has the monopoly on wisdom, and that the only way to blow politics open and create space for a broader range of opinions is to rethink the way we do politics. That means moving away from the current winner takes all democracy. We could open up politics so everyone can take part by introducing things like citizens assemblies, and shifting power to the regions so local people make local decisions.

Currently, Parliament doesn’t reflect the way people vote. The First Past the Post system means that the Conservatives and DUP currently share a majority of seats in Parliament, even though they only won 43% of the votes – while the Green Party, Liberal Democrats and UKIP received 11% of votes, yet share just 2% of the seats. This isn’t democracy. If we want to make people to feel like they have a stake, we need a system of Proportional Representation so every vote matters.

But while the biggest parties drag their self-interested feet, the Green Party will continue to mobilise a fiercer resistance to politics as usual than ever before. Every Green vote sends a message to Westminster about the type of change we need, because our principles and values don’t change with the political tide. We are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with activists and campaigners putting their bodies on the line in the fight for what is right – whether that’s for real action on climate change and welfare reform, or against austerity or the inhumanity of indefinite detention and the forced removals of refugees and migrants.

When it comes to the EU, we are the only party people can trust to oppose Brexit, demand the public have the final say and offer policies which will genuinely fix the very real problems in this country that led to the Brexit vote in the first place. Of course we will always campaign with others to achieve a People’s Vote and achieve democratic reform. But the Green Party will never be part of any attempt to return Britain to the vapid centrism that has so utterly failed our people and our environment.


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