There are two ways to have political power. One is to win enough elections to get enough politicians in office so they can form a government. And if they are trying to govern on a radical and transformative platform, they can expect to be undermined by vested interests, the media and the very officers of their “own” bureaucracy.
The other way is to be constantly challenging, monitoring and harrying the politicians who won the elections, holding them to account. And using the social status and expertise gained in doing that to also be creating policies that those in power can/must steal, dilute and claim as their own. It’s not sexy, it’s demoralising, boring and
possibly certainly futile. It’s also, imho, the only option for people who want to see a greener fairer Manchester.
The maths are pretty simple, even for humanities graduates. There are 96 council seats. Labour has had a comfortable majority of those for yonks. After Tony Blair’s attack on Iraq in 2003 for reasons of his own, voters punished Labour by voting Liberal Democrat. After Nick Clegg’s attack on Liberal Democrat beliefs for a limousine of his own, voters punished Liberal Democrat councillors. The process is now complete. The last 9 Liberal Democrats are gone. Labour now has 95 councillors. [The one “Independent” is Henry Cooper, in Moston. He was elected in 2011 as a Labour candidate, but there was a parting of the ways over the FC United stadium. Next year there is at least a theoretical chance – depending on all sorts of factors – that Moston will fall to UKIP. ]
The Greens will tell you that it was the highest ever numerical vote for them, that they came 2nd in more wards than ever before, that their membership is higher than it has been since the 1980s.
They won’t tell you that in almost every ward they came second
a) it was a very very distant second (Ardwick – Labour, 2163, Greens 345; Rusholme Labour 2438, Greens 517. Even Chorlton, the great “success” had Labour at 2675 and Greens on 1002). If the point is to have some target wards for 2015, then it’s hard to see what these would be. Doubtless we will be told.
b) UKIP weren’t standing in those wards (with the exception of Didsbury East and Hulme). Where UKIP stood, with the exception of those two wards, they handily came second. It was UKIP, after all, that came within 150 votes of winning Moston. The closest the Greens got was 638 votes off the pace in the City Centre.
Mostly the Greens came 3rd or 4th, behind UKIP, and sometimes the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives or the British National Party.
Where next for the Greens?
Well, about the most dangerous thing that can happen is that Peter Cranie (full public disclosure: I’ve seen him a bunch of times. He’s not quite Caroline Lucas. But then again, how many of us are?; I winced and voted for him) gets up as North West MEP. Because with the “success” of that, the Manchester Greens will be able to talk about the “success” of 2014.
So, what is to be done?
There’s a question to be asked. Do the Greens think that the transformation of Manchester can afford to wait until electoral conditions are better for them (and seriously- when are they EVER going to be better than this year? Oh, yes, there’ll always be the whine that the mass media are against them/deride them/ignore them.) If that’s the case, then there seems to be a bit of a gap between the Greens rhetoric around the need for rapid decarbonisation and transformation of the economy and society and their plan for getting there.
Are they happy that the Council is continuing to fail in its own carbon reduction goals, and has given up trying to get anyone else to reduce carbon? Are they happy with the dreadful joke that is the Stakeholder Steering Group on Climate Change? Are they happy with the non-existence of ward plans, and the lack of community involvement in disaster preparedness (how far are we from a serious heatwave/coldsnap/power outage/technological disaster? How prepared are we?)
How about some other success metrics besides numbers of people putting “x” on a bit of paper? How about (off the top of my head)
number of training days held on research, media skills (being interviewed, blogging etc), climate science/politics, facilitation skills
numbers of people who attend these days and then use those skills
number of people who move from being “paper members” to becoming regularly involved in ways that fit their lives, up to and including running events and doing things such as lobbying their councillors
numbers of blog posts on the Green Party website that explain Manchester’s dilemmas (a One Party State with a growing Airport and a political-economic elite hopelessly wedded to globalised inward investment) with concrete proposals for how things can change.
number of short youtube videos made explaining local problems and the Green Party’s proposed concrete solutions
numbers of people who have become competent at making those short videos.
numbers of scrutiny committee meetings attended and blogged about
number of Executive meetings attended, making use of the right of members of the public to ask to address the Exec.
numbers of Freedom of Information Act requests submitted and the results reported on
numbers of articles in the Manchester Evening News based on things the Green Party has dug up/exposed/turned into a scandal
numbers of non-party members supported by being helped to exchange skills and knowledge as they take part in campaigns of interest to themselves
numbers of people who come BACK to a second or third Green Party meeting because it is an exciting and welcoming space for sharing ideas and contacts, rather than a dreary emotathon where people are sat in rows suffering ear gout (fun fact – it’s an anagram of “outrage”). Years ago the Manchester Green Party signed up to the “Manchester Way” of holding meetings. And that was the last anyone heard of it…