Monbiot in discussions of radical electoral coalition
12 October 2003
The Green Party today revealed that writer and social commentator George Monbiot, best known for his sharp critiques of globalisation and corporatepower, is discussing the possibility of creating a new electoral coalition amongst radicals. The initiative seems to have been originated by a previously unheard-of Birmingham anti-war activist, Salma Yaqoob, who is described as "very smart and dynamic".
Leading figures in Britain's radical movement have been approached, asking them to contribute to a new manifesto for a coalition which might contest next year's European and local elections on a platform believed to be almost identical to that of the Green Party.
A spokesperson for the Green Party's national executive confirmed this morning that at least one senior Green Party spokesperson has been asked to write part of a new manifesto, and has declined, and that "the Green Party remains in cordial dialogue with George Monbiot" and is seeking to clarify the situation regarding possible future elections. An initial approach has been made to Salma Yaqoob, inviting discussion on matters of common concern.
Around the Green Party there has been some surprise at the new turn of events. Responses from leading Greens have included:
Dr Caroline Lucas MEP, (Green Party, South East England):
"The Greens have just had our best ever English local election results and a landslide in Scotland. Next year, for the first time ever, we're defendingseats in the European Parliament and the London Assembly. It's taken thirty years of hard slog to get into that position. There are no short cuts."
Prof John Whitelegg, transport and sustainability expert and Leader of North West Green Party, who is hotly tipped to win a Euro-seat next year:
"The parts of the manifesto we've seen so far read like summaries of Green Party policy. We're confident we can get a good half-dozen Green MEPs elected next year, but a rival party with very similar policies could confuse people into splitting the Green vote, which means more of the neoliberals that George and Salma are strongly opposed to would be elected - or worse, extremists from UKIP or even the BNP could sneak in."
Jenny Jones, the Green Party's deputy mayor of London:
"The Socialist Alliance tried to build a broad coalition a few years ago. It ended up being hijacked by the SWP. Meanwhile the Green Party has made realbreakthroughs with three London Assembly members, two MEPs, seven MSPs and arecord number of local councillors."
David Taylor, who narrowly missed election as a Green MEP for the SW in 1999 and will again lead South West Green Party's Euro-campaign in 2004:
"The Greens have generally enjoyed a very positive relationship with GeorgeMonbiot. I really don't think he'd want to do anything to undermine us. After all, he's just endorsed the Green Party candidates in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections, and he agrees with nearly everything we say."
Cllr Vanessa Hall, who this year made the Green breakthrough onto Manchestercity council in the party's North West target Euro-region:
"Salma Yaqoob says the Greens have benefited from the anti-war protest vote. That could sound quite condescending. What's really happened is that people have heard about Green policies, not least from our own grassroots activity, and liked them enough to vote for us."
Margaret Wright, front-runner in the party's Eastern region Euro-election campaign:
"Why reinvent the wheel? The Green Party already has a very strong policy base on peace, public services, anti-globalisation and all the other things dear to George Monbiot's heart. We're already fighting next year's elections."
Soundings amongst grassroots activists around the Green Party have elicited a mixed response.
Mark Douglas, a leading activist in Hackney Green Party, said: "Political coalitions are extremely difficult to hold together. The Socialist Alliance tried to do it, but it has deteriorated lately, and I wouldn't imagine the prospects for a new electoral alliance being high at all."
Frances Mortimer, a leading light in the Young Greens, said: "We would naturally feel supportive of other people contesting elections on a similar platform to ours, and there's no point being partisan for the sake of it. But I can't help thinking it would be better if they joined us. We've already got the well-developed policies and the recognised brand name."
Christina Hespe, an activist in Sheffield Green Party, the Stop the Warcoalition and GROW (Grassroots Opposition to War), said: "There is already a very comprehensive manifesto available - the Green Party's. Monbiot's manifesto seems to be attempting to reinvent the Green wheel - in fact some of its spokes are clearly lifted from that wheel."