‘Political tectonic plates are shifting’: Greens aim to gain from Labour’s pain | Politics

0
1

Labour and the Conservatives are widely expected to pay a heavy price for the Brexit impasse in next week’s European elections, and the Green party hopes to take advantage. Normally best known for environmental policies, the Greens aim to attract pro-EU voters with their “clear pro-remain” position.

The difficulty is that the competition for that segment of the vote is crowded, with the Lib Dems and Change UK equally keen to take a share. Still, the Greens are optimistic. In London they hope to double their number of MEPs, to two, and they believe they can pick up a significant number of protest votes from people who want to send a clear message to Jeremy Corbyn over Labour’s Brexit position, even in his own backyard.

Out canvassing in Corbyn’s constituency in Islington, Caroline Russell, a Green member of the London assembly, said the party was seeing a new wave of enthusiasm. “We’ve got voters joining us who have never joined a party before, despairing longtime Labour members who have reached the point where they can’t vote for Labour in these elections; people who are very sad but who do not want to risk their vote being mistaken for a pro-Brexit vote,” she said.

“We are glad to be picking up votes but it’s sad seeing what is happening to a big and long-established party. It does feel like an interesting moment, like the political tectonic plates are shifting.”

As she canvassed outside the Nag’s Head shopping centre on Holloway Road, a woman bounded up with a large green plastic toy in her arms. It transpired the two women had known each other for years. Barbara Sidnell, 63, was a Labour councillor from Finsbury Park for 16 years, but she said she could no longer vote for Corbyn, who was first elected as her MP in 1983. So where would she place her X next week?

Barbara Sidnell and Caroline Russell



Barbara Sidnell and Caroline Russell. ‘We’re all going to vote Green,’ Sidnell said of her family. Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian

“Caroline has always been the best of the non-Labour people around here. What I like is the Green party are open, honest and caring about the community,” Sidnell said. “Jeremy Corbyn is not standing by the things he said. I’ve had a discussion with my boys and we’ve agreed we’re all going to vote Green. My oldest, 45, says he can’t vote for Jeremy because he is against a second referendum and [the Labour} conference agreed that.”

A passerby, Lee Willett, 61, said she would probably vote for the Brexit party, having voted leave in the EU referendum and Tory in the last general election. She was fed up with Westminster politicians. “They are all fighting with one another. When they’re on telly they sound like children.”

Russell took the time to explain what the Green party was about – not just the environment but the local community too. She told Lee she was the only non-Labour party councillor on Islington council and she understood why people had voted Brexit. At the end of the conversation, Willett said she would support the Greens.

Across the river in Bermondsey, Peter Elliott, Lambeth councillor, said the Greens were now doing the kind of community work long associated with Labour. He lives on one of six estates that Lambeth council has earmarked for demolition and he sees effects of years of neglect on people’s mental health.

He said in the last week he had helped a 90-year-old woman whose flat had been flooding from upstairs for months. “Her bedroom was swamped, she was sleeping on her sofa,” he said. After he intervened, it transpired the flat upstairs had been vacant for four years.

This sort of daily community work reaped rewards, said Gulnar Hasnain, one of the party’s eight European election candidates. While the heightened awareness of environment issues and Labour’s muddled Brexit position might combine to create a perfect storm for the Green party, Hasnain said Europe was not high on the list of conversations when canvassing.

“The media are framing it that way but in canvassing it isn’t coming up. The main thing is that people feel they are not being listened to,” she said.

Perhaps surprisingly, given their strong environmental credentials, support from younger voters is not automatic. Liza Loginova, 20, student, told Hasnain she had voted Labour in 2017 and was considering them again, though she was “not really sure” because of Brexit.

Guinar Hasnain and Liza Loginova



The Green party candidate Guinar Hasnain, left, talks to a voter, Liza Loginova. Photograph: Lisa O’Carroll/Lisa O’Carroll for the Guardian

She had taken part in the Extinction Rebellion protests in London and was unimpressed with politicians who had criticised the protests. “I felt a lot of people missed the point. This wasn’t about causing disruption,” Loginova said. She said she would make up her mind after reading up about the candidates in the coming days.

“That’s very typical,” said Hasnain, referring to younger voters who care about the environment. “They don’t want to be associated with any particular party.”

Guide to the Greens

Slogan “No to Brexit. Yes to Europe”.

Campaign issues Freedom of movement, environmental protection, real democracy.

Candidates 64 across the nine English regions and Wales, one in Northern Ireland and six in Scotland.

Current representation Three MEPs.

Notable candidates Molly Scott Cato, MEP for the south-west and the party’s Brexit spokesperson; Magid Magid, outgoing lord mayor of Sheffield; Gina Dowding, Lancashire councillor and anti-fracking campaigner; Alex Phillips, deputy mayor of Brighton and Hove.

They say A vote for Greens is a vote to remain in the EU, recharge the fight for wildlife and the environment, rebuild communities from the bottom up and give people a voice.

Source link