Dead Men Left

Monday, May 09, 2005

What next? Some thoughts on the aftermath II

Apostate Windbag links to a thoughtful response to the election from the Green Party's election co-ordinator, Peter Cranie. Importantly, he notes that

George Galloway's high profile and remarkable victory over Oona King is the headline of the night, but it is Respect's results in East and West Ham (either side of the 20% mark) that are undoubtedly impressive and have particularly caught my interest. There is certain to be strategic discussion within the Green Party about what this means for Green / Left political relations. I've already started this process on a political newsgroup as a way of finding out the views of grass root activists.

Buried underneath the news of Galloway's victory are a stream of exceptional Respect results, most obviously in East and West Ham, and Poplar and Canning Town in East London, and in Birmingham Sparkbrook. There are creditable results in urban areas like Hackney in North London and Preston, Lancashire. Although Respect, standing in 26 constituencies, gained fewer votes in total than the Greens, who stood in 160, the concentration of our support makes electoral breakthroughs like Galloway's possible, even under First Past the Post.

It is also fairly clear that the two organisations speak, at present, to somewhat different audiences: compare the constituency that produced the Green's best result, an excellent 22% in Brighton Pavillion, to Respect's 39% in Bethnal Green and Bow. The two constituencies are emblematic for our support: Bethnal Green and Bow is a poor, largely non-white, inner-city area; Brighton is a largely white, relatively more affluent south-coast town. This is too crude, obviously: noticeable chunks of BG&B are tremendously wealthy, whilst much of the rest is comfortable, if not rich. Brighton Pavillion has patches of pronounced deprivation, alongside the pleasant shopping streets. A working alliance, even if not much more than an extended non-agression pact, would make great sense for both parties. Whether the sane voices of left Greens like Cranie will be heard over the sectarian barkings of Hugo Charlton and Spencer Fitz-Gibbon remains to be seen.

Environmental issues are likely to dominate Labour's third term. The document leaked on Saturday, revealing the government's thinking on extending nuclear power use - itself a desperate response to prior failures to cut emissions - indicated as much. Respect itself needs make its views on the environment far clearer. Our involvement in a decent, united campaign against nuclear energy, and for sustained investment in renewable energy resources, would be a good step forward.