This article first appeared on Green World here.
Wow! What an absolutely incredible, record-breaking day of results. All across England the Green Party made gains, and everyone who stood, campaigned, leafletted and/or voted to help the Green Party get to this point should be immensely proud of themselves. We have once again – and more than ever – proved that we are a force to be reckoned with at the local level.
This election will be remembered in history as the night the Greens won our first-ever local Council outright. It was a pleasure to campaign in Mid-Suffolk on Polling Day. It was obvious that the Conservatives were going to be out on their ear. And there was such enthusiasm for getting Greens elected.
A great day. What happens now? Well, the most obvious thing that happens is that hundreds of local communities have additional Greens in seats of power where they can and will introduce initiatives to make those communities more sustainable and fairer. In places like mid-Suffolk (but also others), Greens will be taking (and sharing) power locally, and showing what having Greens in power means.
This is a very very good thing… but quite soon the question is going to shift to this: can the Green Party replicate their local election success in a general election?
The next general election will probably be next year. We have just had our best-ever local election results, and we may well be on track for our best performance at the next general election. We should all do everything in our power to get as many Green MPs elected as possible; which will mean ruthless targeting. If we do manage to get more than one in next time, it will be a tremendous achievement! One place where that is particularly likely to happen is the new seat of Waveney Valley, where our Co-Leader Adrian Ramsay is standing. That seat is formed mainly from East Suffolk (where Greens have done very very well at this election, now being the largest Party) and Mid-Suffolk. Greens won every single ward in Suffolk that is part of the Waveney Valley seat!
This constituency now looks clearly the Party’s strongest prospect for a gain next year at the General Election. Because it is far easier at present to gain at scale off Conservatives than off Labour.
Nevertheless; with a general election in 2024 (or 2025) and the following one being around the 2028/29/30 mark, the Green Party obviously does not have long to make as many gains as possible before 2030 dawns, and the ‘critical decade’ on climate comes to an end. Basically, the General Election next year is our last chance to make advances that can make a meaningful difference, this decade.
Therefore, even with record-breaking turnouts, huge bottom-up campaigns, and poor and shambolic opposition, can the Green Party reasonably hope for more than two or conceivably three MPs by the time the end of the decade comes in sight?
And if not, can we honestly say that a handful of MPs is going to be able to protect us and the planet sufficiently from the deepening ecological and climate crisis?
If the answers to these questions are ‘no’ – and it is pretty obvious that they are – then it becomes obvious that what we now need is a more-than-merely-electoral route to protecting the planet. The standard parliamentary path is not going to be enough. However, it remains the primary strategy of the Green Party. . .
It must be becoming clear that the Green Party must adapt to the new reality that its central aim, to safeguard a planet for future generations, can only be achieved if it expands its tactics.
To this end, we at GreensCAN have outlined what this new strategy could look like.
First suggestion: It involves being active in the local community to bring about real, observable change (a tactic that will no doubt be bolstered in many places by our fantastic local election performance) that includes an increased focus on building community resilience so we can face up to the growing dangers of human-triggered climate change which are already baked-in. When we put endeavour into such transformative adaptation, then we set off a slow bomb in the minds of citizens. They wake up; they realise this is all real, and that no one is riding to the rescue. It’s up to us, ourselves.
Second suggestion: It involves engaging in intelligent, well thought through, targeted non-violent direct action (NVDA) that makes sense and will add strength to our words by showing by our deeds that we mean what we say. This is something that has always been present in our Philosophical Basis; it now becomes more pertinent than ever. Engaging in NVDA makes clear that we realise that the electoral process by itself is no longer enough, definitely now not fast enough.
Third and most important suggestion: It involves drawing on our superpower: that we are trusted as the electoral/political voice of ecology and climate consciousness. If we call it more truly than we have done so far – if we admit the terrible truth, that our gains are not fast enough, that citizens and power alike have left it too late to avoid terrible eco-degradation and climate decline, that (for example) the 1.5 degrees C ‘safe guardrail’ is now, let’s be honest, bound to be breached – then people will listen. If we dare to be authentic enough to admit that our fantastic progress is very clearly way too slow to be able to stop this civilisation from painfully ending, then we will become more powerful than we ever dreamed of. By owning up to our own incapacity, through the pain and shock that this will release, paradoxically we will suddenly drastically gain in capacity.
I don’t have any illusions that the Party will be bold enough to take up the GreensCAN strategy this side of the coming general election. But: Sooner or later the Green Party will adopt a strategy broadly similar to the one laid out above; quite frankly it will have no choice but to, since the conventional electoral path is palpably not going to be enough.
If the Party choses sooner, then our collective ability to protect our communities against the worst impacts of climate change will be greater. Response-time matters.
So… congratulations to the Green Party for a phenomenal, historically record-breaking performance, with more Councillors gained than ever before. Let’s use this as a platform to do better than ever before at the next general election, but let’s also be aware that incremental electoralism alone is not going to be enough.
We must be active and practical in making real steps towards sustain-ability. We must not let bad laws stand in our way as we do so (because this is about survival), and obviously, we must not just wait until the polling stations are next open. Above all, we must be brave enough to tell the truth: that our current or any credible rate of progress is not enough. This very admission of incapacity will be our route to an incalculable power.
And so there is something bittersweet about our victories last Thursday. They do not yet take us anywhere near close to where we so badly need to be, where we ought to be. They are an overdue fragment of reward for our years of having called the emerging crisis right. They are a bit of justice. A bit.
Like a number of other ‘veteran’ Party members, I have been feeling quite emotional these past few days. Looking back over the past thirty, forty years, it is so hard to understand why people didn’t support us sooner. If only they had.
But they didn’t. And so we are where we are: deep into the age of consequences. A scary place (Look at the mad temperatures gripping east Asia, and Canada; and it’s not even summer yet). A place requiring a concomitant deep determination, and tough truthfulness. Requiring, that is, something like the GreensCAN strategy.
Our superpower beckons. Our true moment is coming: the moment when we tell it true… that the public can no longer outsource to us the hope of saving them through the ballot box alone. And then, paradoxically, we can truly succeed as much as is possible (including at the ballot box!).
…Are you in?
Thanks to Joe Eastoe for invaluable research- and editorial- assistance.