Socialism fever is spreading. This time last year, Ed Miliband looked to be on course for 10 Downing St for the simple reason that the right in Britain had been split (by Ukip) while the left stood united for the first time since 1983. Lefty LibDems had returned to Labour and it seemed that Miliband was the bad leader of a massive block of votes. Now, things have changed. The left is unravelling too: Labour is losing votes to the SNP in the north and the Greens in the south.
That’s why the Greens’ recruitment of a top trade union official is significant. Peter Pinkney, president of the RMT union, says he’s joining the Greens because they are more left-wing than Labour. I’d certainly agree with that: as a leader in the Spectator argued, to call the Greens socialist is an insult to socialism. But not an insult to the far-left RMT, the late Bob Crow’s union, which specialised in holding Londoners to ransom with frequent tube strikes.
The RMT and Labour fell out a decade ago, when it was disaffiliated for supporting the Scottish Socialist Party. So its president joining the Greens is no great shock. But the wider significance lies in the trend this reflects, that so many Labour voters have also defected. And voters (including disaffected LibDems) who might have otherwise have moved to Labour – if you look at the Green support, the largest single block is former LibDems. Ones who no longer believe they have to hold their nose and vote Labour. And then young voters: last month I spoke to kids at a Oasis Academy in Croydon and asked how they would be voting. The Greens were easily the most popular party.
For some, the Greens are the party of radical optimism. For others, they are true custodians of socialism. Here’s what Pinkney has to say:-
‘I spoke at the Green Party Conference in 2013, and I was impressed with the ideas that were being put forward. The ideas of the Greens resonated with a lot of my beliefs. Obviously the Greens commitment to bring railways back into public hands struck a chord, but also policies to invest in the NHS, build social housing, institute higher taxes for those who can afford it, and put forward progressive policies on immigration informed my decision to stand.
As a life long socialist, I could see that most of the policies were what the Labour Party once had, but those days are long gone with Labour.’
It’s ironic: Ed Miliband has taken his party back to the 1970s and lost voters on the centre as a result. But he is now losing voters on the left, by dint of his sheer uselessness. He’s not losing voters to the Greens for policy reasons: he is the greenest leader Labour has ever had. But he’s also one of the worst leaders, hence the voter defections.
The Greens need money to find candidates to stand in more seats, and are using crowdsourcing to raise the cash. Don’t be surprised if Tory donors reach into their pockets and do what they can to ensure that each Labour candidate has a Green candidate eating away at his or her support. Never have the Tories been so happy to see Green politicians doing well.
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