Thursday, 31 May 2012

Democratise the money supply to save the planet

It seems like nowadays that every person and every country in the world is in debt. Ever since the financial crisis in 2007-8 which began with the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers, world leaders have been frantically trying to save other private banks and financial institutions from failing by pumping trillions of dollars onto their balance sheets and the wider economy. In the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown spent a total of over £1 trillion, which was the same as 31% of GDP in March 2010. In the United States of America, the government at the time committed an incredible £9 trillion to support Wall Street (source New York Times). By socialising the losses of the private finance sector, there are now sovereign debt crisis across Europe, which threatens the membership of the Euro currency and even the European Union itself.

Which begs the question - why did we have to spend all this money, which would have been better used on preventing the looming catastrophes of peak oil and runaway climate change? What makes private banks so special?

To cut a long story short, we are in this debt crisis because of our deeply flawed banking and monetary system. In 2012, private banks create 97% of the money in the economy as debt, whilst the government only creates 3% in the form of coins and paper money. Until this system is fixed, we will continue to spiral further and further into a debt crisis, instead of focusing on fixing the environmental crisis and other problems facing our country.

In the United Kingdom, the publicly owned Bank of England has a monopoly on creating coin and paper money, which it prints each year and circulates into the economy. This is good news, as the Bank of England, and by extension the Treasury, earns 'seigniorage', the profit difference between the cost of the paper and its value (i.e. twenty pounds for twenty pound note). In 2008, the profit to the Treasury from this was £2.33 billion, money which gets spent on public services or reducing tax. 

However, the Bank of England does not have a monopoly on creating electronic money, which private banks can legally create every time a customer opens a current account with them or applies for a mortgage. As Martin Wolf, the chief economics editor at the Financial Times puts it, 'The essence of the contemporary monetary system is the creation of money, out of nothing, by private banks’ often foolish lending.'

This is bad news! Private banks are owned by private shareholders, and are run for profit. It isn't in their interests to make sure that money is spent on productive businesses, good jobs, environmentally friendly projects, etc. It's in their interests to create as much money as they can and invest it in the most profitable sectors they can, which tend to be property (hence the housing bubble and subsequent crash) and environmentally destructive but very lucrative projects such as coal power plants, oil rigs, the tar sands projects in Canada and other nefarious schemes. As customers, we have no say over where our savings, or what should be *our* money supply, is invested.

Luckily, there is a solution. The monetary reform campaigning group Positive Money have been raising this issue for several years, and have even drafted legislation which would take the creation of money away from private banks and put it back under the democratic control of the government. You can learn more about this issue on their website, as well as on this one hour documentary called '97% Owned'.

Even better, as you are (hopefully!) a member of the most democratic political party in England & Wales, you can make it Green Party policy today to reform this system. I have submitted a motion to SOC to amend current Green Party policy EC661 to the following motion:


97% of all money in the UK is created by banks. Our government prints bank notes and coins, but private banks create electronic deposit accounts. This state of affairs drives unsustainable growth and is the root of our debt crisis. This is damaging and unnecessary, and should be changed.

Amend Policies for a Sustainable Society EC661 in its entirety with the following motion:


The Green Party will remove the ability of banks to create money and lodge the power and responsibility of creating new money solely with the state. New money will be created when necessary by the Bank of England, as determined by the politically-independent Monetary Policy Committee, and credited to the Government for use as Parliament sees fit (see EC676). Banks will not be able to lend money in customer's current accounts, effectively moving to a full reserve banking system. Customers current account money will be 100% safe, as opposed to the current fractional reserve banking system where we have to bail out banks. Banks will be permitted to lend money in savings accounts that they hold on deposit for a fixed term, but only for the duration of that fixed term or notice period. The emphasis in monetary policy will be to control and redirect the creation of money towards socially and environmentally sound areas of the economy, and away from unsustainable and consumption-driven areas.

If you want to support this motion, please email today and write something like:

"I would like to support the motion below proposed by Daniel Key. 

Text of motion (above)

Local Party:
Membership Number (if you have it)"

Please do this ASAP and ask your colleagues/friends to do this, and together we can regain control of our money.

Please use the comments box below to ask any questions you may have about this issue or the policy motion.

Written by Daniel Key
Haringey Green Party

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The English Civil War, Republicanism and Green Socialism

In these days of royal jubilee celebrations, my mind has turned towards thinking about republicanism in this country. We did have a de facto republic in England (and Scotland, Wales and Ireland) for ten years between 1649 and 1659, after the English Civil War(s) ended, and up until the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660. His father King Charles I was executed for high treason by Parliamentary forces in 1649 after years of dispute and then war with Parliamentary supporters.

These times must have been incredibly exciting politically with debates going on about the future governance of the country, the most famous of which were the Putney Debates at St Mary’s Church near Putney bridge in south west London. A group emerged who became known as The Levellers, with their support drawn mainly from rank and file soldiers in the Parliamentary army, although they had support amongst the people, particularly in the City of London where one of third of the population signed a petition supporting them.

They set out their demands in An Agreement of the People which espoused a republican and democratic agenda, calling for voting rights for most men and for Parliament to be elected every two years, for religious freedom, and for an end to imprisonment for debt. The heads of the army had other ideas though and wanted the King to approve of some improvements in social justice. In the end Leveller leaders were arrested and some executed by the ruling army elite.

One sub sect of the Leveller’s was the Diggers, or True Levellers, who not only called for an extension in the voting franchise and extended liberties, but who actually took pre figurative direct action in setting up collective communities on common land, ploughing the land to grow crops to share amongst the cooperative, hence the name Diggers. Like all thinking in those days, it was based upon the Bible, and a Quaker interpretation of the text.

The Diggers set up a small number of settlements on common land mainly in southern England, but probably numbered only a couple of thousand people in total. The most famous settlement was at St George’s Hill in Weybridge in Surrey. It was all pretty radical stuff at the time, but looking back their demands were typically English and conservative. At the time, over one third of the country was common land, and gave plenty of room for their experiment, of the other nearly two thirds of enclosed land, they were happy to leave with its ‘owners’. They also renounced all violence and petitioned Parliament to protect their communities.

Parliament didn’t pay much attention to the situation and local land owners, who must have feared that they wouldn’t be able to attract workers onto their land to work, used the local courts and armed thugs to evict the Diggers from their blossoming ecosocialist communities, and there the experiment ended.

The Restoration of Charles II saw the beginning of the wholesale enclosure of much of what was left of the common land, as the establishment could see the threat of allowing people to live communally like this would undermine their wealth and privilege.

And so it goes on today. I have met people in Tanzania who farm common land clearings in the forest illegally, and spoken to fishermen in Senegal, whose families have fished sustainably for centuries and are now threatened with starvation by factory fishing boats from Europe, Japan and Russia, over fishing their commons for profits at home and internationally.

So, whilst all this royalist rubbish is going on in the coming days, let’s instead reflect on our English radical tradition and how that interconnects with the political challenges we have today.

There is a republican protest by City Hall in London, where you can jeer the Queen as she sails up the Thames, if you should so wish. Details here.

The above video/song is ‘English Civil War’ by The Clash.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Work Capability Assessment Survival Tips

Raymondo, member of Kilburn Unemployed Worker’s Group and Social Work Action Network London, shares with us his Work Capability Assessment Survival Tips…

The Work Capability Assessment is the test by which people claiming the out of waged work benefit Employment and Support Allowance are gauged as qualifying for Employment and Support Allowance or ‘fit for work’.

“The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has three stages. Firstly, the Limited Capability for Work Test determines whether or not you remain on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), secondly, the Limited Capability for Work Related Activity Test determines whether you join the ‘support group’ of claimants or the ‘work-related activity group’ and thirdly, the Work Focused Health Related Assessment provides a report that can be used in any work-focused interviews that you may be required to attend later on.” (i)

Atos Origin are the company profiting from carrying out the much criticised Work Capability Assessments.

WCA Survival Tips

(Some of these tips are repetitions or further defining of others. This is to add emphasis.)

 1)    Never answer a question without understanding what it means. (ii)

 2)    Wise up on the ESA eligibility ‘descriptors’. (iii)

 3)    From the moment you first apply for Employment & Support Allowance, consider

 4) who will be best suited to accompany you to the ‘medical’ interview and

 5) who to approach for evidence to back your case.
 The person to accompany you will be your McKenzie Friend. (iv)

 6)    Realise that shame and embarrassment in relation to your condition may be the biggest barriers to your successful form completion. In the world of claiming ESA what was previously regarded as a ‘mark of shame’ often becomes a ‘badge of honour’.

 7)    Picture yourself on a really bad day, because otherwise the inconsistency of ‘it varies’ answers will too easily be interpreted as, “This descriptor is insignificant to this claimant’s eligibility.” Beware also of the inconsistent ordering of some of the answers in the ESA50, and recognise the relevance of minimum 24 hour working week realities to what makes your condition worse.

 8)    Realise that the ESA50 form content sets the scene for how you will be assessed.

 9)    Consider the possibility of a relevant helping professional completing the ESA50 on your behalf, but be the final arbiter on this. A relevant helping professional’s authoritative input may be especially helpful if yours is an invisible disability or mental health condition, but if they take a rushed approach to your form’s completion while you may be inclined to attempt to avoid embarrassment in stating how bad your condition really is/can be, their input may well weaken your case.

 10)    Never attend the Work Capability Assessment ‘medical’ alone. This is something you must factor in when completing the ESA50.

 11)    Make optimum use of the ‘lead time’ from receiving the ESA50 application form to the deadline for form completion and return, bearing in mind that the ESA50 will be redirected to a different address than that given on the reply envelope before it reaches the Atos team who will be conducting your individual assessment.

 12)    Quote any documented evidence as much as possible in the body of the form, rather than relying on a covering letter and/or other attachments that are all too commonly ‘lost in the post’.

 13)    Keep copies of all your form content and documentation. Electronic copies of your form content can make editing form content easier for repeated testing situations.

 14)    Check out the building accessibility of the ‘Medical Examination Centre’ (MEC), realising that elevator access may not be operating at the times that the adjoining jobcentre closes. (Some MECs are open on Sundays, and when jobcentre staff go home at 4:30pm, elevator access may be denied.)

 15)    Realise that the ‘suggested route’ details/advice that Atos Healthcare admin issue of how to get from your home to the MEC may be unnecessarily complicated in order for you to be intimidated out of attending.

 16)    Don’t allow yourself to be bullied and intimidated by the inflexibility of ‘we’re only following orders’ Atos call-centre staff. In the event of your not being able to attend the MEC as a consequence of any ‘last-minute emergencies’, say, arising from the weather denying your McKenzie friend access to a car ride from home to the MEC, realise that a call to the relevant Disability Benefit Centre can trump such inflexibility. Remember, without someone to attend the medical, it will be assumed not only that you have no trouble getting to appointments alone, but also that you will be a less reliable witness than someone who can corroborate your version of what happened or did not happen at the medical.

 17)    Consider the ‘medical’ as more of an observation activity with you as the one being observed from the time you enter the waiting room, rather than an exhaustive and thorough medical examination.

 18)    Seek out, join, or form a support group for benefit claimants. This will help make your life feel more relevant between WCAs and help to counter the isolating influences of the reassessment process.

 19)    Keep abreast of changes to the law as it relates to your ESA entitlement.


(ii) Dorothy Leeds (1998) Secrets of Successful Interviews. The fact that the vast majority of ESA claimants who win their tribunals do so with advocacy support indicates that those without advocacy are not sufficiently resourced with the relevant information and interpretative guidance.

(iii) Beyond a Yahoo! Search for “ESA descriptor points”, you might consider subscribing to the services provided by Benefits & Work Publishing. A year’s individual person subscription to Benefits & Work Publishing costs currently less than £20 per year and allows you unlimited access to their guides written by legal professionals into how the ESA descriptors might be interpreted.

Friday, 25 May 2012

God Save the Queen, the Fascist Regime

With the Queen’s diamond Jubilee fast approaching, the UK media has gone into overdrive with lavish praise of our monarch’s selfless devotion to duty and public service etc etc. The BBC always goes into a somewhat comic routine, of reporting any news of the royal family in hushed tones, as though raising one’s voice to even normal levels of acoustics when describing Her Majesty and family, is the very height of vulgarity.

 The Guardian even reports on a survey where 69% of Britons say that the country would be worse off without the monarchy. Of course, depending on what the exact question is and how it is asked will often get you the answer that you are looking for, with only 22% of people thinking we would be better off. These results do surprise me little though, as when the recent royal marriage was taking place between Prince William and Kate Middleton, there was only the odd isolated union flag or bunting where I live in north London. It seemed to me that no one was really very interested in the event, though they were happy to spend the extra bank holiday in supermarkets, pubs and DIY stores.

Again we have been granted an extra day’s bank holiday, which when it is combined with the delayed late spring bank holiday and the weekend, forms a four day block of celebration from 2nd June to 5th June. No doubt people are happy to have an extra day off and will again find ways of using the time, without taking more than a cursory interest in the Jubilee itself.

I remember the Queen’s silver Jubilee in 1977, and proudly displaying my ‘Stuff the Jubilee’ badge, much to the shock of many people I came into contact with, who mostly labelled me a communist, which I suppose wasn’t too far from the truth. And who can forget the hit song ‘God Save the Queen’ by the Sex Pistols from the same year (featured above)? A brilliantly vibrant piss take of our rather dreary national anthem. The BBC banned the song from being played on Radio 1, by far the most influential radio station at the time for selling records, which of course increased its appeal, and it went straight to number 1.

I must confess, I have obtained a ‘Stuff the Jubilee’ badge again, but don’t expect wearing it will illicit anything like the opprobrium it did in 1977. People don’t just seem to identify with the monarchy in the same deep rooted way they used to. For example, virtually the whole nation would watch the Queen’s Christmas address in those days, but now what proportion of the population watches it? Probably less than half, by some way.

I think the present Queen holds some measure of respect amongst her subjects, mainly because she has been around for so long, and to be fair, hasn’t done anything majorly embarrassing to the nation, unlike other members of ‘The Firm’. But surely, this is the least we can expect, from someone who in return has led a life of luxury at the tax payer’s expense? It would be an appropriate response to the austerity agenda of the present for the Queen to have a celebration on the cheap, but oh no, millions of pounds will be wasted on this event. The authorities are even stealing the Sex Pistols idea, and sailing the monarch up and down the Thames on a boat.

So, will we have a republic anytime soon? Well, not until Queen Elizabeth’s reign is over to be sure. The same Guardian survey mentioned above though, does indicate that her likely successor Prince Charles has nothing like as much support as his mother amongst the public. Given his meddling in politics and lobbying of ministers, which we are not allowed to see the full details of, since the royal household is exempted from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, he may become even more unpopular. Unfortunately, that window may not be open for very long, as the Queen looks to have a good few years left in her yet, and the crown may pass quite quickly on to the next generation, and so conjure up the people’s ambivalence once again.

If only Cromwell hadn’t fucked it up, banning dancing and all that, we may now never be rid of them.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

DWP Rules Severely Disabled People Fit to Work

Written by Nicky Clarke. A longer version of this article on Nicky's blog here

First Published at Liberal Conspiracy
A blind, deaf, tube-fed, non verbal, disabled man from Scotland has been deemed fit for work by the DWP. As a result of not completing the form correctly, his benefits will be stopped on 7th June and he will have to access the appeal process to have this decision over-turned.

This man has to have 24 hour care and the person who had completed his form for him as his disability prevents him had not included something in the 30 page form which meant that due to that error his money will stop.

These forms are very lengthy, complicated and ask many intimate and intrusive questions very much like the Disability benefit forms I complete on behalf of my children.

The problem isn’t the fact that you have to ask for help; it isn’t the time it takes to complete them; it isn’t the caring that you have to do at the same time; it isn’t the humiliation that you feel as you complete them; it isn’t the shame culture which has grown up in recent years around those legitimately asking for help.

It isn’t the fear of hate crime which vulnerable people face; it isn’t the lack of disability access which greet many disabled people called to an assessment with untrained staff; it isn’t the tabloid press who brand genuinely disabled people as “scroungers” and “scum”.
It isn’t any one of those things. It’s all of them.

The mistake regarding his forms will take weeks to rectify. And if you still feel this is a justifiable process in order to weed out the liars and fakes living in mansions and driving luxury cars, I ask you to think again. More money is lost in DWP error than is lost through benefits granted to liars and fakes.

The fact that you feel this is a justification at all simply means that you have been desensitised by effective propaganda because disabled people are the new scapegoats de jour.

My thoughts are with those without a support network, those who are killing themselves because they have lost, or fear losing their benefits.

The battle against disabled people shames us all.

Monday, 21 May 2012

UK Voters Attracted to Small Parties

The Independent on Sunday reports on a ComRes opinion poll which indicates potential support for small parties in Britain is on the rise. Although the report highlights the possible rise in support for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and a rise in Euroscepticism amongst the British public, with the resultant difficulties this could cause David Cameron and the Conservative party, it also looks just as favourable to other small parties.

One third of people who voted Conservative at the last general election now say they have now switched or are ready to switch to voting UKIP. With the current problems in the Eurozone, it is no great surprise that Euroscepticism is gaining ground and so too UKIP with its xenophobic stance on all things European. Indeed, I think UKIP would have won at least one seat on the London Assembly had they not for some reason changed their name on the ballot paper to ‘First Choice for London’.

But the report goes on to say:

‘The ComRes/IoS poll reveals deep dissatisfaction with the mainstream parties, with 37 per cent of their supporters seriously considering switching to smaller parties. Among all voters polled, 13 per cent are pondering backing Ukip, with the same proportion poised to vote Green. Four per cent are considering supporting the BNP, and 3 per cent could vote for George Galloway's Respect party. Only 38 per cent are not considering changing their allegiance.’

‘Among Labour voters, the disaffected are most likely to be looking to the Green Party (19 per cent), Ukip (11 per cent) or the Lib Dems (10 per cent). Of Lib Dem supporters, 28 per cent are considering switching to the Greens, 27 per cent to the Conservatives, 21 per cent to Labour and 14 per cent to Ukip.’

All of which means that for the Green party there is a quite large pool of potential voters, who are clearly not all that impressed with the big parties, and could well switch to us if we can show that we are a credible alternative. The British electoral landscape has never been so open as this poll indicates. Although Labour did well in the recent London Assembly elections, this poll shows that their support is far from rock solid and voters on the left are thinking about choosing the Green party to represent their views.

The Green party needs to win more seats at all levels of government to cement this position, but also, just as UKIP puts pressure on the Conservatives to be more right wing, the Green party can do the same job on the Labour party, although obviously pulling them to the left in our case.

This drop in support for the main established parties is echoed all across Europe with pro austerity parties paying the price for the failed laissez faire economic policies that have brought us to this sorry pass. People seem more open to listen to an alternative now, than at any time in the last thirty years, which presents the Green party with a unique opportunity to advance.  

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Lib Dem Vote Meltdown in Haringey – Losing Here!

The detailed ward by ward data has now been released by London Elects for the GLA elections on 3rd May. I reported on this blog here previously that the Green party finished in third place in Enfield and Haringey (London Member list) pushing the Lib Dems in to fourth place. This more detailed data shows the full scale of the collapse of the Lib Dem vote in Haringey, and it is truly staggering.

The share of the vote for the main parties in Haringey was as follows:

Conservative 16.0%
Green 13.4%
Labour 53.0%
Lib Dem 10.4%

On these results the Lib Dems would lose all of their 22 seats on Haringey council, and Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, would also lose her seat. Labour beat the Lib Dems comfortably in every ward in Haringey. Indeed, of the 19 wards in Haringey, the Green party beat the Lib Dems in all but one ward (come on Muswell Hill ward, you don’t want to get a reputation for this sort of thing!).

Let’s take just one ward as an example of the catastrophe that has just hit the Lib Dems in Haringey (and across London generally). This is the result of the London Member ballot from the Haringey ward of Stroud Green:

Conservative 10.4%
Greens 22.2%
Labour 47.5%
Lib Dem 13.9%

This ward currently has three Lib Dem councillors, including the leader of the Lib Dem group, Richard Wilson, who are all clearly in peril at the next council elections in 2014.    

Of course, people do vote differently in different elections, and there are two years to go until the London council elections, and probably three to the general election, but the Lib Dems must be very worried by these results.

It was entirely predictable that this sort of thing would happen from the day the Lib Dems nationally decided to enter a coalition government with the Tories. Much of Lib Dem support in London came from disaffected Labour voters in recent years, and they are horrified that by voting Lib Dem, it has led to a Tory government, following a right wing, pander to rich and stuff everyone else, agenda.

The Lib Dems could well return to their numbers of elected representatives that they had in the 1970’s, when you had to be some sort of celebrity like Cyril Smith or Clement Freud, to get elected as a Liberal MP. They can only hope that something turns up to change their fortunes, but as it stands, they are on death row in Haringey and much of the rest of the country.  

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Why I'm stepping down as leader of the Green party

In September, I will reach the end of my second term as the first national leader of the Green party of England and Wales – and I've decided not to seek re-election for another two-year term.
When I first joined the party back in 1986, it was a core article of faith for many members that we should not have a conventional leader in the traditional mould. It's true that formal leadership carries risks.

Presenting one image as the "face" of a party can attract some people, but put off others. At a deeper level, if leadership is about concentrating power in the hands of a single person or an inner circle, it is damaging to the cause and can lead to poor decision-making.

But leadership is also a powerful tool that can draw people in and inspire them. Trying to sell abstract ideas to the public rarely works. People want to see the human face of an organisation, to help them understand what it is there for and to judge if they trust it. So when the decision was finally made in 2007 to establish the roles of leader and deputy leader of the Green party, it wasn't about sacrificing a principle to gain some votes. It was about changing the way we worked to help communicate our passion and principles in a more effective way. It is an example of how we found the right balance between principles and pragmatism, and how the party had become more self-confident.

It was always my view that leadership, for the Greens, did not have to be about seizing power and holding on to it at all costs. Leaders must have confidence in their abilities as well as their cause. But to ensure that every individual in the movement feels a personal responsibility, they should also be eager to share out the responsibilities of leadership with others, from shaping policy to maintaining morale. In other Green parties around the world, leaders have often been the first to recognise that the time has come for others to take up that responsibility; a healthy contrast to seeing traditional politicians clawing at their desks in a vain attempt to hang on to power.

I am hugely honoured to have served my party in this role, and proud that during the four years of my term, we've moved Green politics forward to a higher level, with the party by far the most influential it has ever been. We have seen significant breakthroughs, not only in Brighton & Hove, winning our first seat at Westminster and our first ever local council, but also nationally, with further breakthroughs on to new councils in the recent local elections, as well as establishing ourselves as the third party, ahead of the Liberal Democrats, in the elections for London mayor and the London Assembly.

Green politics has shifted from the margins to the mainstream of British political life. As the party grows, buoyed by a new generation of activists and underpinned by the achievements of our outstanding elected members, now is the time to make space for other talented Greens to come through and take us even further forward. For me, this decision is about staying true to green principles. We're lucky to have a wealth of capability and experience in our ranks, and taking a strategic approach to leadership is a natural step in maturing as a party and nurturing future electoral aspirations. I'm confident that the next leader, whoever they may be, will be able to build on our momentum.

Now I look forward to channelling even more of my energy into representing the people of Brighton Pavilion, speaking out in parliament on behalf of my constituents and doing all I can to defend them against the coalition government's disastrous economic policies. I will continue to be a lead advocate for the party, and will hold the government to account on its environmental and social responsibilities.

The Greens have a clear vision of how we must now move away from our broken economic system – which for too long has kept us dangerously dependent on the bankers' gambles, toxic debt and on the plundering of natural resources – and towards a fairer, more sustainable economy. People are increasingly recognising that we are a credible alternative to the three main Westminster parties, and as communities up and down the country feel the consequences of savage yet self-defeating austerity – paying the price for a crisis they did not create – that Green alternative has never been more necessary.

Written by Caroline Lucas, MP
First published in The Guardian here

Monday, 14 May 2012

SYRIZA Offers Hope to Greek and European Peoples – No to Austerity

The graph above illustrates the spread of seats in the Greek Parliament following the recent general election in the country. Leaders of the three largest parties, New Democracy, SYRIZA and PASOK have all in turn been asked by the Greek President, Karolos Papoulias to try to form a coalition government, but to no avail. In a last ditch attempt by the President to form a government, he has now approached the leader of the Democratic Left party for his support. It looks unlikely that the Democratic Left will join any coalition that does not include Syriza, and fresh elections in June now look to be inevitable.

New Democracy with PASOK failed only narrowly to reach the 151 seats needed for a majority in the Greek Parliament, but this was largely down to the idiosyncrasies of the Greek electoral system, whereby the largest party after the election are rewarded with a 50 seat ‘bonus’. In reality New Democracy and PASOK, the two coalition partners who are responsible for accepting European Union (EU) austerity policies, only garnered about 30% of the vote, with the rest going to anti-austerity parties.

The electoral impasse is caused by SYRIZA not agreeing to be part of a government that is committed to the ‘Memorandum’ deal on austerity policies for Greece with the EU. This is a perfectly reasonable stance from a party that stood in the election as against the austerity measures and opinion polls suggest that their popularity is increasing, with three polls showing they are likely to be the largest party after a new election, with support perhaps as high as 27%.

SYRIZA is a coalition of left wing radicals and greens, covering some fifteen different political parties and groupings and has clearly been the main beneficiary of anti-austerity sentiment in Greece. An ecosocialist source inside SYRIZA, Tasos Pantazidis, predicts that after new elections SYRIZA will be able to form a government with other left forces, including the KKE (Stalinist Communist Party) who have resisted all talk of coalition so far. Other smaller parties that did not gain the required 3% of the vote to qualify for seats in Parliament, such as the Greens, ANTARSYA and the PASOK breakaway Social Agreement party may also be brought into the SYRIZA coalition. The opinion polls indicate that their voters are voting with their feet anyway and throwing their lot in with SYRIZA.

SYRIZA say that they want to remain in the Euro (opinion polls show something like 70% of Greeks want to remain inside the Euro), which is the popular view, and to renegotiate the bail-out deal with the EU and IMF. This is a game of high brinkmanship, where SYRIZA are gambling that the EU will be more worried about the effect on the Euro itself caused by a Greek default, than offering Greece a better deal. SYRIZA would be wise to have a plan B, because it looks as though Greece will need to leave the single currency, to begin to sort out their problems in the medium term.

Of course all of this electoral uncertainty has led to a fall in the value of the Euro, and the political earthquake it has unleashed in Greece has sent shock waves all through Europe, coinciding with the election of Socialist party candidate Francois Hollande to the French presidency on a largely anti-austerity platform, if it is somewhat vague about actual detail.

But what seems to be clear is that for the first time in 30 odd years the neo liberal political/economic consensus is being challenged in Europe which is likely to have an effect on attitudes in the UK, where austerity policies have been promoted with some relish by the right wing coalition government of Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. The Labour party, as is its want these days, has suggested only an ‘austerity light’ approach to the UK’s debt problems, with only the Greens and far left parties opposed to austerity full stop. Labour may now feel they have more cover for a more radical stance, with events in Greece and France (and to a lesser extent Spain and Italy) moving the debate from a dogmatic no alternative to austerity policies to a more expansive strategy for economic growth.

The shock waves have even reached Germany, where the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have suffered big losses in regional elections in the country’s largest region, North Rhine Westphalia. The CDU vote fell by 9% with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Green party expected to form a new coalition government in the region.

Are we about to see a new epoch emerge in European politics, where the crazy casino capitalism of recent times is thrown into the rubbish bin of history? I do hope so, but let’s not get carried away just yet, there is long way to go, but at least now there is chink of light at the end of this long dark tunnel.       

Graph illustration above from the BBC.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Greens are the Third Party in London

Jenny Jones, the Green party candidate for mayor of London, finished third in the ballot, beating the Lib Dem candidate, Brian Paddick into fourth place. The result of the first preference vote was as follows:

Boris Johnson CON 971,931 44.01%
Ken Livingstone LAB 889,918 40.30% 
Jenny Jones GRN 98,913 4.48%   
Brian Paddick LD 91,774 4.16%   
Siobhan Benita IND 83,914 3.80%   
Lawrence Webb UKIP 43,274 1.96%   
Carlos Cortiglia BNP 28,751 1.30%   

After second preference votes were counted, Boris Johnson, the Conservative party candidate was confirmed as mayor of London, winning by 3% points.

The Greens also finished as the third party on the London Assembly, again beating the Lib Dems into fourth place. And the same was true in the local constituency of Enfield and Haringey, where the Green party candidate Peter Krakowiak who gained 8.5% against the Lib Dems 9.4%, but in the London wide Member ballot we beat the Lib Dems 9.4% to us and 6.8% to them.

In the London wide additional member ballot the Greens achieved 8.5% of the vote across Greater London, with the Lib Dems managing only 6.79%.

As more detailed information becomes available, more analysis will be published on this blog, but for now it is clear that the Lib Dems have taken a battering in London and the rest of the country. This was predictable, since many people who voted for them at the last General Election are aghast that that has led to the Lib Dems propping up an uncaring Tory government, hell bent on wrecking the welfare state.

Labour overall have had a good election, although they failed to retake the London mayoralty, and there does appear to be a reluctance amongst some of the voters to back Labour, which leaves a gap for the Green party to exploit. With the Lib Dems discredited and unpopular, voters may turn to the Greens now in London, if they are unwilling to support either of the big parties.