We need an alternative to neo-liberalism

This article was first published in Shifting Grounds.

With less than six months to go before the most wide-open General Election of our time, a true insurgent party is on the rise, and – despite what the media tell you – it’s not the one you are thinking of.

The Green Party’s membership has been skyrocketing (growing proportionately faster in Scotland than has the SNP’s since the referendum), and the Greens have caught up or overtaken the governing Lib Dems in several polls.

People are waking up to the reality that the old politics is dead. Ever since Tony Blair repositioned the Labour party towards “Thatcherism with a human face”, they, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, have held Westminster in the grip of an all-pervasive neo-liberal ideology.

As Richard Murphy has pointed out in his book, The Courageous State, neo-liberalism is all about the state adopting a position of cowardly subservience towards business elites. The ideology of cowardice refuses to challenge corporate dominance, it refuses to face up to the environmental crisis, refuses to facilitate a green transformation of our economy and society, refuses to say anything that will offend the masters in big business, and refuses even to try to build a more just society. We have to reject this cowardice.

We need an alternative to the bankrupt neo-liberal narrative. The levels of inequality in this country are now so great that they threaten to undermine the very idea of a unified society. The power of the super-rich, the influence of the banks and big business is making a mockery of democracy and alienating us from political life. The unending drive for continuous ‘growth’ will never produce a fair settlement. Instead, it will lead to the devastation of the world our children will inherit. That is, unless we have the guts to take a bold new path.

By looking beyond the ideology of growth, Greens are able to offer something new; a renewed vision that puts people, not profit first. The ecological crisis is the greatest challenge we have ever faced, but the blind logic of the neo-liberals blinkers us to the limits to our growth, and forces us to overstep them. Meanwhile, they use any means they can – Europe-bashing, political point-scoring, the scapegoating of immigrants – to distract us from the reality that they themselves are the problem.

Tragically, the party doing best out of the loss of faith in “business as usual politics” is Ukip. Like a long line of hard-Right (and far-Right) parties before them, they have convinced a justifiably angry public that they side with them against the elite. In fact, they are its standard-bearers.

Ukip demand we throw off the yolk of European bureaucracy. Why? So that they can attach heavier chains: complete control by US multinationals, the dismantling of our public services, including the NHS, and the devastation of our environment. Their close ties with ALEC, the hard-libertarian juggernaut US lobby group, show the interests of the majority could not be further from their minds, no matter how many pints of bitter Nigel drinks for the cameras.

People are waking up to the cowardice of the neo-liberal consensus. The #Greensurge marks the beginning of a courageous new trend in politics.

And that brings us to this week, a significant one in the political calendar. For this Thursday, the media hype about UKIP will go up another notch, when they beat the Conservatives and gain their second MP, in the Rochester and Strood by-election. This will rock the Conservatives, and Labour. Further down in the results, watch for a strong performance by the Greens: we are set to beat the Liberal Democrats in a by-election again, and hopefully this time to save our deposit and maybe more. Away from any media spotlight, the Green vote is rising.

Watch for the possibility this Thursday night that the combined vote for Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats drops below 50%. That would be a massive, extraordinary result.

And it would concentrate minds on the choice facing those who are determined to upturn the Establishment apple-cart. Does it really make sense to vote for a hard-Right Party of climate-deniers and xenophobes, a party lacking any courage to face the real challenges of our time? Or does it make more sense to vote the real insurgent party, a party that actually would change Britain and the future for the better?