Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Search for New Answers: The Green Turn in British Politics.

Natalie Bennett Green Party leader was speaking at Leeds Taking Soundings meeting on the 23rd April 2013 at Broadcasting Place on:

 

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Natalie Bennett is the new leader of the Green Party, elected in 2012. She has a scientific background in Australia and has since worked with the National Commission on Womens Affairs on its report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

 

 Natalie also worked as a consultant with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on child labour issues and World Health Organization (WHO) on womens health. She has also had a strong engagement with feminist politics in Britain, and she is a trustee of the Fawcett Society and the founding chair of Green Party Women.

 

Natalie stood for the Greens in the 2010 general election for the seat of Holborn and St Pancras, and was selected for the London Assembly list in May 2012 on the London-wide list for The Green Party

 

There were over 40 people at the meeting from different left political traditions.

 

Natalie Bennett’s talk was a refreshing description of the main points of the Green Party’s opposition to the government’s programme of privatisation and austerity.  It was made in language largely free from the cliches of the left.

 

She argued for defence of the NHS, the re-nationalisation of the railways, against zero-hour contracts, for the scrapping of trident, the removal of tuition fees, against benefit reforms and the bedroom tax: and that she would support a general strike against government policies.  Clearly standing to the left of Labour in a significant way.  One person at the meeting commented that the Greens talk about every issue other than environment!

 

The discussion was interesting: with the question of the Green’s position towards the idea of socialism being one of the key points of debate.  The experience of Green’s in government in Ireland, Germany and Holland was broached where they have ended up in supporting neo-liberal government policies.  Our own UK experience of the Greens in power in Brighton where the council have ended implementing severe cuts rather than to resign and fight them.  In Leeds we have seen Green councillors supporting a Tory/Lib-Dem administration.

 

Natalie Bennett’s response to these questions was to explain that because of the lack of any organisation to the left of an essentially neo-liberal Labour Party; that the UK Greens would avoid the pitalls of their other european green parties.  The question of the experience in Brighton was largely left unanswered

 

Natalie questioned the need for an organisation such as Left Unity: suggesting that the Green Party is an adequate left-wing political representation of the opposition to government policies.  Urging people to consider the Green Party prior to embarking on the Left Unity project.

 

What is apparent is that the Greens are a mix of politics.  Many of their best members identify themselves as left wing and as socialists. They are active opponents of cuts and operate within the mileu of the local trades unions and the left.  Natalie Bennett herself is an excellent spokesperson against austerity and the night after this meeting her appearance on BBC Question Time illustrated this. The Brighton Green MP Caroline Lucas has been one of the most consistent opponents of the war.

 

There are obvious key points of difference in the politics of ‘red or green’ but there is also a clear need for engagement.  We cannot ignore the experience of European Green Parties in government or indeed the Green Party adminstration in Brighton; but this should not be used as a means to score sectarian points.  Within the context of trying to acheive left unity we need to continue these discussions and maintain our work along side our Green Party colleagues in opposition to austerity wherever we can.


Left Unity Leeds Meeting Report (17.4.13)

Really good first full meeting of the Leeds Left Unity group. Twenty-three in attendance, would have had thirty plus but for apologies for absence and a little unfortunate misdirection which strikes me as a great start with a good turnout, I think possibly a damn sight better than many of us might have expected so that’s a win!

Fairly mixed bunch drawn from a number of disparate groups / traditions: trade unions, single issue campaigns like Hands Off Our Homes, Keep Our NHS Public, current and ex-members of the usual suspects as far as activist parties of the left are concerned, and those with no real or recent history of activism but perhaps feeling that desperate times call for desperate measures like myself, the emphasis being very much on the formation of a new, inclusive, broad coalition with no particular ties to, or priveleging of any one of them. Key concept I think was the recognition that we need to start over on the left to an extent and work once more from the ground up, reaching out and engaging at grass roots, local community level in a properly meaningful and constructive way with campaigning that has a real chance of changing people’s lives for the better.

Some lively discussion with input from I think pretty much everyone there to a greater or lesser degree, covered some important ground once the agenda had been decided on and further discussed. Some of the things we decided we wanted to support for example were sending the two members we elected between us down to the Left Unity Delegates Meeting in London in May, providing what help and funding we could, the Hands Off Our Homes bedroom tax protest in Leeds this Saturday, the May Day event in Leeds city centre and the UAF anti-EDL rally in North Leeds that same day, and the Band Together to Save the NHS event in June.

On the whole a most encouraging meeting for me personally as someone whose activist days were fleeting to begin with and long in my student past, and hoping to find a clear direction in which to focus my frustration, anger and absolute disgust with the state of politics in our so-called ‘democracy’. It felt good to be there and be a part of it, I’d strongly encourage those who didn’t attend but are maybe thinking about it to try and make the next one. Very much looking forward to the next planning meeting in preparation for the official 22nd May launch of Leeds Left Unity with guest speaker children’s author, teacher and libraries campaigner Alan Gibbons.

Neil Barber


UAF Protest Report

On Saturday 4th May the English Defence League will be protesting against the building of a mosque on the Lingfield Estate in Moortown, North Leeds. They will be meeting at 1pm in the Penny Fun pub in the Moor Allerton Centre on King Lane. UAF will be protesting from 12pm, opposite the Moor Allerton Centre, on the grass next to the flats. Leeds University students will be meeting at Parkinson Steps at 10.45am then heading to the protest. There will be UAF leafletting this Sunday (21st April), meeting 11am at the Park and Ride next to Allerton High. There is also a UAF meeting at the Civic Hall on Tuesday 23rd, 7.30pm while 9pm, and at Leeds 5pm while 6pm.
The EDL are using this issue to attempt to stoke up racial tensions within a working class community. In the first instance they are being dishonest in claiming a mosque is even being built – the site is being bought by UKIM, an Islamic organisation, but will be a Community Centre, open to the whole community. Secondly, they are misguiding people as to who the real enemy are – the problem is not the Muslim community, but the council not building community centres, youth centres etc. or cutting the ones that already exist, leaving the field open to community organisations to pick up the slack. To oppose the onslaught from the Tory Government and Labour Council, our communities need unity and working class solidarity, not racial division. Left Unity fights for the unity of all our class in the fight against Tory austerity.