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Being an effective political force is not just about being in office; it’s also about winning people’s hearts and minds. So a vote for the Greens in Brighton, for example, where we engage in politics at a very local level, means, among other things, voting for the conservation of the South Downs, and against the private finance initiative and the closure of secondary schools.
Being a Green Party activist is hard work; it’s continuous: we constantly look at our manifesto to see what we have achieved and what more needs to be done.
We are the Greens, not the Socialist Alliance or Respect. We have a distinct and democratic structure, and policies decided democratically (every major policy gets ratified by conference). And I haven’t come across any left group that seriously addresses resource use and environment issues in its manifesto.
These factors are attracting increasing numbers of people who trust us and see that voting Green does make a real difference – that by voting Green they are voting for the future as they want to see it. We can learn and incorporate from people in Respect and other left parties, but I”m really convinced that the Greens offer the best chance of getting our agenda adopted.
So at present, I see no immediate way forward for a coalition. I can’t see left groups as either being sufficiently different or saying anything sufficiently worthy to warrant going into coalition with them. Most of them have adopted Green Party policies anyway.
And Respect, for example, goes very quiet when it starts talking about gay issues. It also demands that Britain withdraws from Iraq without bothering to consider the implications of withdrawal. For me, the Greens are about delivering a new political order in an established system that is dominated by neo-liberal politics of the grey parties.
If we are going to talk about coalition, then it should be in the context of ideas, and the Greens will work with other people when they share our values. It should not be about building power bases for political factions.
It should be about achieving genuine changes that address the challenges we face this century, not past battles about who owns the means of production. If we enter a coalition we would lose some of our identity and some of our priorities; the Greens need to protect those things.