Greens continue to prosper where Labour fears to tread

Bravely, four weeks after the event, when he knew which way the tide was running, and taking his lead from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Ed Miliband has come our, unequivocally in favour of the protest campers outside St. Paul’s Cathedral. Well, almost.

Writing in today’s Observer he carefully distances himself from the “long list of diverse and often impractical proposals” of the protesters.

At least he recognises that the Occupy London protest and similar protests around the country and the world as “danger signals” that only “the most reckless will ignore”.

Miliband writes: “the challenges that they reflect a crisis of concern for millions of people about the biggest issue of our time: the gap between their values and the way our country is run ….. I am determined that mainstream politics, and the Labour Party in particular, speaks to that crisis and rises to the challenge”.

Perhaps the first challenge Ed can rise to is to reframe “the way our country is run” to “capitalism”. He should name what we all know. What we are experiencing is the greatest crisis of capitalism EVER. The 99% believe one thing, the 1% – bankers and their supporters in the media and political elite – another. Instead Ed trots out cliche after cliche, carefully choosing his words so not to offend the 1%.

His second challenge is to support the day of action on November 30th. This will be the nearest thing the UK will have to a general strike, pathetic and limited though it is. Imagine if Miliband provided what is known as LEADERSHIP and called for an actual general strike on that day.

But Miliband won’t support this or any other industrial action. No Labour leader ever has. Nationally Miliband’s fence-sitting won’t matter. The unions will have to support Labour. TINA – there is no alternative.

But in Brighton and Hove there is. Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas, was one of the first to visit the Occupy London camp, Ben Duncan emerged from his sick bed to visit the Brighton camp (a sad little gathering, it must be said). Mike Weatherley has been quick to condemn the Brighton camp.

Labour locally has remained quiet. Like their ‘leader’, they are waiting to see where the people are going so that they can lead them. (Can anyone source the quote from the French leader who said “There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them”).

People in Brighton and Hove have a genuine choice. They can support the People’s Mike (Mike Weatherley who would wish to personally evict the campers at St Paul’s), or they can wait and see what ‘decisive’ action Labour takes, or they can support Caroline Lucas and the Greens who are demonstrating which side they are on.

Rumour has it that the trade unions in Brighton are becoming disenchanted with Labour and are privately looking to work more closely with the Greens. It might be expediency given the forthcoming budget. But it might just be that the Greens continue to prosper where Labour fears to tread.

17 Responses

  1. Yes national Ed Miliband fails to show leadership, great to see Caroline at occupylsx.

    We need to continue to build our trade union links.

  2. Shame it was the unions that gave us Ed Miliband – a few Labour MPs and Labour followers have visited and were really impressed. I for one am disappointed with the non leadership of Ed and hope Caroline and her party go from strength to strength. Can only follow #occupy from a distance but admire them greatly.

  3. There are two issues here:

    Protest/occupation generally which Weatherley condemns out of hand – which seems to confirm his generally authoritarian approach to politics.

    And then there are the issues being protested about – with no one (everyone?) ‘in charge’ there is no single message – the addition of pure ‘anti-capitalists’ and ‘ukuncut’ etc all looking to hi-jack the protest doesn’t help.

    The unfortunate truth is that politicians are generally completely useless at creating solutions. So a protest about general dissatisfaction will get the protesters nowhere, as politicians really want pre-packaged proposals for solutions and then simply say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, they aren’t smart enough to do any more than that..

    Weatherly simply doesn’t like people making their views known, Miliband is lost because he just wants something to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to meanwhile Lucas knows a photo opportunity that will go down well with her target demographic… As to the protesters real message? None of the politicians know nor really care.

  4. Shame they won’t go one step further in my opinion and sort all of this out. No normal person likes this capitalist system… Perhaps its the socialists time once more?

  5. The quote you gave was from Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin and is often used in a very selective, and slightly hypocritical way, by politicians.

    Ed Milliband can only countenance the will of the people after understanding the will of the media first, and then seeing where political capital can be gained. He is, after all an opposition leader. I remember that the Blair opposition in the 90s were very good at saying nothing and appearing to be effective, but the skill is the politics of charisma. Mr Milliband clearly struggles here.

    Caroline is in a unique position, she has no party whip (I remember she once told me in an interview how many new MPs were frustrated by their inability to speak with their conscience and wished for a relaxing of the system) without such restraint she can therefore speak with her own conscience.

    Just where does public opinion lay? Perhaps we should ask a different question. Just where does the opinion of those who question the information being handed down to them lay?

    I support the Occupy camps because they are the small start to what will become a bigger movement that has potential- but it is merely potential. It is sad that the articulate individuals in Victoria Gardens cannot attract more support.

    The lack of support however is down to apathy and laziness, as well as relative comfort in an individual’s own circumstance, and not a reflection of opinions in the Argus comments section. I have given up looking this outlet of the Urban Construct, and longer since stopped contributing.

    I believe we are all socialists at heart. It just takes a bit of money and the sweet walls our self-created fortresses to render us immune and unquestioning. This attitude is conditioned into us, and Thatcherism made it worse, our first words on this planet were not “I’m alright Jack”….

    Over the next few months and years we will see the media pushing social opinion to the right yet bizarrely more people will support socialist ideals as they themselves become victims of the economic turmoil. There will be demonstrations, there will be turmoil.

    It is at this point, the point when the usual partnerships within upper echelons of society may have to look out the window and be forced to say ‘Where my people lead I follow’…

  6. Caroline Lucas could lend her voice to a campaign for the moon to be made of rennet-free cheese in the sure and certain knowledge that she won’t live to see a Green national government so it won’t come back to haunt her. Her vocal support for the occupiers, which I’m sure is honourable, nevertheless owes nothing to courage (there’s no risk) and everything to her need to punch above her weight in order to maintain her profile. Labour, conversely, is a party of power, not protest and as leader Ed Miliband has to weigh the consequences of his words and actions for their effects on the overarching need to regain office.

    The achievements of Labour in power, which changed the lives of millions for the better, weren’t brought about by jumping on populist bandwagons, but by persuading a sufficient proportion of the population that Labour was the party that most reflected the way they felt about themselves and the country and therefore deserved their votes.

    I don’t have any figures, but I’m certain one would find a broad majority of Labour members in sympathy with the aims of a significant portion of the occupy movement – and I’ll be happy to bet the customary tenner that our members are also well-represented within their ranks. As Leader of the Opposition Ed’s task is to distill those aims and introduce them into mainstream political discourse – he has no need to man the barricades, indeed it would be harmful for him to do so.

    • But does this not typify Labour’s inherent problem? The belief that all can be solved via Palriamentary democracy and “responsible capitalism.”

      The Occupy protest – direct action – has worked if it has led to Ed Miliband making musings on the subject. I imagine those in the Occupy movement blame Labour as much as the Tories for our present financial situation.

      Labour’s problem is twofold. Ed Miliband cannot apologise for every mistake the previous Labour Government had made, otherwise, if Labour was a bad Government, then what’s the point in asking voters to elect another one? Secondly, Labour knows it cannot win back hearts and minds unless it apologises for its mistakes. Ed Miliband would be shitting on his own record as a Cabinet minister if he was to do that and, by Cabinet collective responsibility, he played a part in some of those errors.

      Like the Tories under Cameron, Labour needs to make a complete break with its past. That means sidelining those Shadow Ministers and MPs who played a role in the previous Government. Labour are still lacking credibility with great swathes of the public and they must address that reason soon.

      • If Labour lose its past ministers etc, who would replace them? It took the conservatives over a decade to get a new generation of front benchers – and are still hobbled with the likes of Ken Clark…

        And labour still have the much hated Kinnock and his clan popping up at key moments… shudder.

      • Well it’s a little worrying that you seem not to share a belief that parliamentary democracy is key to solving political, economic and social problems. Perhaps we should file that one away in case you decide to stand for elected office next time round.

        There is, for sure, a lot to apologise for from the 13 years of Labour government – as there would be from any other – but there’s an awful lot to be proud of too (most of which is now being dismantled by the Tories). To suggest that everyone, no matter their personal record, associated with that government should now gracefully retire is naive at best, Stalinist at worst.

        Miliband himself, incidentally, only rose to the cabinet in 2007, where he was responsible for the passing of some of the toughest emissions targets in the world – something I should have thought would meet with your approval.

        At present he may not be scoring cheap headlines, wandering around urban campsites with the media in tow, but he *is* the only major party leader trying to address exactly the issues raised by the occupy movement with any seriousness. You may, if you want, decry parliamentary democracy as unfit for that purpose and indeed it is the worst possible system for it – apart from all the others.

      • I am not aware of anything that 13 years of labour can be proud of.

        I remember our local vicar in Tooting lamenting that so many rich worshippers of the past showed their devotion by lumbering future generations with huge, expensive-to-maintain churches and buildings that sapped the resources of the church to this day.

        Labour appear pretty much in the same mould as these vain, proud benefactors – presenting us with monuments and white elephants that they take they want to credit for, but our great grand children will still be paying for.

      • You know that’s not true.

        There’s no need to list here the very real achievements of Labour – there are millions of people who have gained much in dignity and opportunity who can attest to them. You might not like Sure Start, EMAs, Future Jobs Fund, Connexions, Building Schools for the Future and all those other attempts at a tiny level of redistribution after decades of trickle-up economics, but we’d be a damn sight worse off (and even more unequal) than we are now had it not been for those attempts.

        You are also aware that our public debt/deficit prior to the financial crash was in the mid-range of European countries.

        You are also aware that future generations have always paid for the developments of their forebears – at least since Kings first extracted taxes and fought wars on credit. Surprisingly our offspring (and theirs) will be paying our pensions too. That’s perfectly reasonable and it’s disingenuous to argue that it was ever, in living memory, otherwise.

        Much of what we and those children will be paying for is worthwhile – hospitals, schools, infrastructure serve many generations and I’m far happier with the idea of paying for those than I am to keep millions on the dole, blighting the futures of those same children and grandchildren (I’m also happier paying into the EU and stomaching a certain loss of sovereignty and a certain level of neoliberal policy than I would be consigning them to the kind of deregulated offshore centre of inequality that the right-wing cheerleaders for EU-exit would like to create).

      • “You know that’s not true.”

        Are you calling me a liar?

      • All I’m saying is that Parliament has its limitations. I would like to see more decision-making devolved to the council level, including more lenient tax-raising powers.

        Parliaments are not the Alpha and Omega of democracy. Its one thing to set emission standards, its another thing to ignore them, as Government’s so often have.

      • Mr. Perrin – there are three possibilities, aren’t there?

        1. You’re not as alert to the data available as your blog and your comments here make you seem, so you’re not aware of the many available analyses showing that, pre-crash, Britain wasn’t exceptional among industrialised nations in its debt or deficit to GDP ratios.

        2. You were aware of the available analyses but have misunderstood them.


        3. While you’re generally known to be kind to animals, on this particular occasion you’ve been spotted kicking the cat.

        Luke – we’d all like to see greater powers devolved locally – but that wasn’t the context as you well know. There is next to nothing Brighton and Hove CC, for instance, could ever possibly do to address the issues which are exercising the occupiers. These are national and global issues which require national governments to take action. The least worst method we have to do that is parliamentary democracy. I support the Occupy movement’s right to protest and I support much of what they say, but to translate those concerns into government action requires patient piecemeal change, not grandstanding by a minor politician with little hope of effecting change and no fear of being called to account for anything she ever says.

        As to emissions regulations – if you have some citeable examples of the last government flouting the legally-binding measures they put in place, please post them. Otherwise your closing comment is just silly.

      • Tim you can rattle off the names of all the programmes and strategies you like and say how excellently they ran. But now we have the evidence around us – just look around.

        Labour took the finest ingredients, had what the claimed were the most skilled chefs, and followed what they claimed were the best recipes – and some cooed and oohed as they displayed their chopping skills.

        But now the dish is out of the oven and it is an unholy mess, unfit for human consumption – and bill for the ingredients will be with us for generations to come.

        Are you honestly telling me that were in May 2010 is where 13 year of constant work by labour is what they had been aiming for?

        It doesn’t matter how sharp the knives were, how polished the work surfaces, or how tender the meat was – it was all to nothing.

        There is one good thing that Blair did – but he has since decried it, so doesn’t even have that to be proud of – the freedom of information act.

        The bills for expensive shiny projects that achieved nothing is labours legacy – our Green led council are working on the same basis, but with steroids.

        Blair is so proud he has left the country, and Brown so proud that he has gone to ground somewhere – anyone who ever supported them would do well to follow their examples.

      • We certainly aren’t where we should have been after 13 years of Labour government and, as I said before, there is much that shouldn’t have been done and much that could have been done better.

        But in case you hadn’t noticed, we are hardly alone in that unholy mess. Was Labour responsible for the Greek meltdown? The US recession and political deadlock? The forthcoming Italian collapse? Iceland’s demise?

        No, of course they weren’t. The single underlying reason that all this has come to pass was an unprecedented crisis of liquidity and credit caused by an out-of-control globalised financial sector.

        Certainly Blair and Brown should have done more to regulate the domestic elements of that sector, but the fact is that the exact same arguments being used on the right against the Tobin tax – that it would damage our international competitiveness – would have been screamed from the rooftops had they attempted to do so. In fact the opposition of the time were baying for less regulation, not more.

        Labour, pre-crash, was already on course to gradually reduce spending (much of which had been undertaken to attempt to redress the effects of the 18 year disaster that was the Thatcher/Major government) over the medium term. It was the sudden need to combine somewhere north of £500 billion in bank recapitalisation with billions more in stimulus spending (which saved hundreds of thousands of jobs and repossessions) which has brought us to this sorry state.

        And now, rather than trying to engender growth and reduce inequality we have a government insisting that the poor and the middle pay the price in austerity while the banks enjoy soaring profits and the rentier class in general see increases to their own wealth and incomes more suited to mafia dons than respectable business people – the point made by the occupy protestors on whose courting by minor politicians this post reports.

        I would like to know exactly which ‘expensive shiny projects that achieved nothing’ you’re referring to, or is that merely a rhetorical device?

  7. @Luke, I’m afraid I find your argument very confused. Are you suggesting that issues such as the global economic crisis could be resolved at local level?

    Parliament may have it’s limitations, but surely if implementing for example, the Tobin (Robin Hood) tax, it would need to done through parliament, not just here in Brighton.

    Caroline Lucas continues to court good publicity by focusing on issues outside the mainstream, may of which have resonance with most people with left-of-centre leanings.

    But, for me this is why the Greens will only ever be a party of protest. Much of what they hold dear is irrelevant to ordinary people. What really matters to voters outside the Brighton Bubble are the NHS, jobs and eduction, not solar panels and meat-free Mondays.

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