Sunday, 31 May 2015

2015 General Election - Looking Back & Looking Forward.

What went wrong in the 2015 General Election? Well pretty much everything.

A Tory Government pursuing a right wing agenda, full of 'near as makes no difference' climate change deniers elected on 37% of the vote with 100% of the power over our lives. They were elected on the basis of fear. Fear of Labour, fear of the SNP, fear of immigants, fear of economic collapse.

A Labour Party that believes that it failed because it wasn't right wing enough! Labour are falling in line with the Tory welfare and big business orientated agenda. Their Leadership candidates are now falling over themselves to be even more right wing as if that was the answer to all their /our problems. This is tragic to watch, even for a non- Labour supporter like me. People who genuinely believe in social justice are being dragged along by a leadership so delusional that you can see 5 years hence that they will fail to win on the basis that they are 'Tory Lite' as opposed to the truly offensive genuine article.

What went wrong in 2015? Ultimately it was the lack of any Party being able to articulate a genuinely inspiring vision of a positive future that enough people would buy into. Negativity ruled. Fear ruled. Without a compelling vision, without a robust distinctive agenda, a stumble off a platform, fear of the SNP or a bacon sandwich eaten awkwardly could and did make all the difference. Hell yes! The trivial can be ignored, set aside, even laughed at, if the vision is good and people can be offered a secure and better future.

There are silver linings. The Lib Dems were all but decimated and deservedly so. I did wonder for a while whether anyone would really buy into the 'we were a steadying influence on the evil Tories' garbage. Any objective commentator can see this was a more a right wing Government than even Margaret Thatcher in her heyday. The Lib Dems utterly wasted the opportunity they had. No reform of the House of Lords, no Proportional Representation, an abysmal and shameful record on addressing Climate Change and propping up the most appalling attacks on social welfare policies that the country has ever seen. If anything they had 8 too many MPs elected. UKIP  went backwards and are left with 1 MP who seems pretty disaffected from the much more unpleasant Farage leadership of the Party. Come 2017, and the result one way or the other of the referendum, that might be the end of UKIP who knows. I would even hazard a guess that UKIP's association with a NO vote in the referendum may work against them.In the same way that the Lib Dems association with the YES vote in the AV refendum had a negative effect on that result.

So we come to the Green Party. There is a good tale to tell and some honest reflections we should make.

The good tale is that we had more Candidates than ever before, we got a larger vote than ever before, we retained Caroline Lucas as our MP for Brighton and we had more coverage in General Election than we are used to and we nearly won Bristol West. We definitely moved forward and a lot of people in the Party deserve credit for that. The Green Party does need to look at where we go from here. The great thing is that we don't have to agonise with ourselves and ask why couldn't we be just more like the Tories because they won after all. We can look at our future on the basis that we have made sme progress. We have had faltering steps and got tripped up as we moved forward but nethertheless we have moved forward.Our membership has grown and continues to grow.

If we were just looking at the General Election then we are planning on a 5 year horizon but we have several rounds of Local Elections up till then. The Green Party needs to play to our strengths and address our challenges. Our strength is the strong message we have for idealistic young people who are more ready than ever for a principled alternative to the status quo. We were right to emphasise our commitment to social justice as it was all but abandoned by others. Criticism that we abandoned environmental issues was overplayed. Objective environmental pressure groups scored our manifesto very highly and Natalie Bennett was one of the few leaders to highlight Climate Change when she got the opportunity. Were there ways we could have highlighted our groundbreaking policies to address climate change more strongly? Very probably and by linking with our natural allies in the green energy sector, almost certainly.

We do need to take the opportunity to re-evaluate the Green Party message. We need to ensure that social justice is at the heart of our message and well grounded and consistent with our strong emphasis on sustainability. Green policies need to be firmly rooted in our core values if they are to be meaningful. We are not Old Labour and we are certainly not New Labour and never will be. The social justice and stability offered by the Green Party has to be one that is consistent with our environmental and economic aims and articulated in a way that everyone in the Green Party can buy into.

We have to continue to demonstrate that we have the practical policies and know how to put cutting edge policies forward in spite of this Government and seek to implement them through Local Councils, regional bodies and devolved governments We need to form alliances with others inside and outside political bodies to show that we do not just speak for ourselves but for a broader consensus of people seeking solutions to climate change , social injustice and a range of policy issues.

There's a lot of work to do. Lets get on with it.

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