The Blog

Why It's Not a Case of 'Vote Corbyn, Get Green'

Some are now seemingly making the mistake of thinking that Corbyn would not only be a leader who would be preferable to his rivals and predecessors, but would also be good enough to deliver what the world needs. Let me briefly lay out three key reasons why the latter isn't so.

According to YouGov, Jeremy Corbyn is hot favourite to be the next Labour Leader. Like many Greens, this remarkable development delights me. But it also concerns me.

Because some are now seemingly making the mistake of thinking that Corbyn would not only be a leader who would be preferable to his rivals and predecessors, but would also be good enough to deliver what the world needs. Let me briefly lay out three key reasons why the latter isn't so.

Firstly, Greens and Greens alone place front and centre the need for genuine ecological sustainability. There is no flourishing human race without a flourishing living world. This is why, at root, social justice and environmental justice go hand in hand.

What follows from this is that the ideology of economic-growthism is no longer viable: for it is now clear that there is a stark incompatibility between planetary limits - especially the limit imposed by the existential threat that is dangerous anthropogenic climate change - and the push, endorsed by both Cameron and Corbyn, for GDP-growth - growth which every year is reducing ever further our chances of staying within the space of climate-safety.

Thus Greens back a 'Green New Deal' which, as I understand it, aims to prevent an uncontrolled Depression (still very much a possibility today, unfortunately, in a still-basically-unreformed neoliberal financial system) and to seek a just transition to a post-growth society. In this way, Greens challenge the intellectual dominance of endless economic growth - which Corbyn doesn't.

On this crucial terrain, Corbyn is (for all his other virtues) every bit as out-of-date as Cameron ('Vote red, get green' is, in other words, in the end no more true than 'Vote blue get green' ever was). We cannot as a species be caring for our planet if we live as though we have four Earths - rather than, as is actually the case, only the one. We need to be very clear, for instance, that Corbyn's desire to bring back coal-mining in south Wales demonstrates how a Corbyn-led Labour Party could still take us down a dangerous, growth-orientated economic path, without sufficient care for planet (and thus without sufficient care for people: because, once more, without a healthy planetary ecosystem, we're finished).

Next, Greens take the emphasis off wages and put it instead onto a less work-centric future. Corbyn et al want to see a higher minimum wage, a real Living Wage. Now, in the Green Party we're proud to have led the way on backing the Living Wage, long before Labour did. But, in the new political environment of even the Conservatives jumping aboard the Living Wage bandwagon, we need, in my view at least, to start thinking beyond the Living Wage concept.

Corbyn will try to outcompete Osborne on this front, by offering an ever higher living wage. Greens will get nowhere by trying to take part in this competition. The 'Citizen's Income', another trademark Green policy, is the alternative, a visionary alternative, to the Living Wage (See Guy Standing's important analysis on this point, wherein he argues that the Living Wage won't work as a solution in an age of precarity of work). An unconditional Citizen's Income - provided that it is set at a good enough level, thus overcoming the unfair criticisms that were directed at the idea during the recent General Election campaign -- ends the poverty and unemployment traps, ends wage-slavery, and thus addresses in a systematic way the challenge of providing security to those suffering from precarity. The Green Party will ensure that Citizen's Income is set at a level sufficient that the poorest will benefit from it .

Finally, Greens are deadly serious about 'subsidiarity' - making decisions closest to the people they affect. We intend to end neoliberalism - by bringing power back to the people. The Corbynian left-wing of the Labour Party dreams of taking the 'reins of power' and using them to bring in socialism, nationwide. The Green Party favours using the state to fight corporate power and to provide for all when that is how best to do so (think the NHS; think a joined-up rail system; on these key points, we agree with Jeremy). But, unlike some elements of the Labour Left we do not think the state can or should try to do everything.

The Green Party has a radical programme for local autonomy, local democracy. We aim to reduce the power not just of corporate monsters, but of nations/states and super-states too. We are the par-ty not for centralising elites, but for actually giving more power to the people. In concrete terms this means, for example, our vision of an economy and society where mutuals and co-ops thrive (re-placing for example some of the commercial banks that failed in 2008).

For too long, the political 'spectrum' has apparently consisted of state-ownership of the 'commanding heights' of industry (as in the original Labour Clause IV) vs. privatisation of as much as possible (favoured by the Right). The Green Party by contrast favours a more bottom-up approach that boosts non-profits and resists excessive concentrations of power either in corporations or in the state.

Sharing the wealth; sharing work; sharing power. This is the true, radical, Green agenda.

Now don't get me wrong. As I started out this article by stating directly, I very much welcome Corbyn's potential election. It is without a doubt one of the most encouraging things to have happened to this country's politics in the last few years.

In particular, like Caroline Lucas, I would go so far as wanting to see some kind of partial (locally/regionally agreed) series of pacts between Corbyn's Labour and the Green Party in seats in England where, by working together, we could oust the Tories, and elect anti-austerity, pro-Green-New-Deal MPs, and thus (crucially) bring in electoral reform after the next election (though one needs to note here that Corbyn was until very recently an advocate of FPTP, and that he has not yet pledged to back PR for the House of Commons, where it is most needed). Corbyn and Caroline have long worked together on various issues in Parliament. Why not build on this happy experience, across the country?

But working together is one thing; what we should not countenance is any kind of complacent assumption that Corbyn's Labour would be good enough. For the reasons I've given, it won't be.

Now more than ever, the world and the future need the Green Party.