The stories we need to tell ourselves: Greens at best very distant second in #Manchester elections.

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…


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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9 Responses to The stories we need to tell ourselves: Greens at best very distant second in #Manchester elections.

  1. Dave Bishop says:

    Let’s face it, the whole country has swung to the right. The fact that huge numbers of Mancunians voted Labour is meaningless because Labour is now a centre-right party – any socialist principles it had left now hopelessly corrupted by neo-liberalism. It’s just that the the “I’ve always voted Labour” tribalists in this city haven’t noticed (or choose to be wilfully ignorant). The other day I noticed, in South Manchester, a long road of expensive detached houses, most with several expensive cars on their driveways. In the front gardens of most of these houses was a pole with a ‘Vote Labour’ banner attached to the top. Tells you everything you need to know!

    • gille liath says:

      You’ve contradicted yourself there – they vote Labour because it’s swung to the Right, they vote Labour because they haven’t noticed it’s swung to the Right. And I’m certainly not sure why you think people in detached houses shouldn’t vote Labour! Good on them, I say.

      Maybe the real reason they vote Labour – and this is the lesson people to do with this blog need to learn – is that they feel Labour are still the party that says most to them about their lives.

      No more LibDems in Manchester. Boo hoo!

      Marc, you’re right that the Green party are not a panacea: it’s policy that matters. You really need to stop with this one party state nonsense, though It’s really rather patronising, and is suggestive of fascism: you only accept an election as valid if it’s the outcome you want.

      If anyone here *genuinely* wants change, they need to take those people with them – not act as though they don’t matter.

      • If only you actually *read* and *absorbed* this blog as much as you comment on it Gille!!

        I’ll let Dave respond to your (failed) attempt to engage with him if he likes. Just this a) you have already been “owned” (as the young people say) by Roger on the topic of what is a one party state. You went quiet after that for a bit – it’s troll behaviour, frankly (note – I did not say you are a troll, just that you engaged in troll behaviour).

        b) Where have I ever said Labour don’t matter? I work my ass off on the assumption that they do, attending wretched meetings that their elected politicians dominate (in every sense), responding to their wretched policy documents etc etc. Where you and I differ is in thinking that left to their own devices they will make a difference towards the long (or even medium) term survivability of this civilisation. You think so. I don’t.

        Thanks for all the irrelevant and non-specific advice, by the way, Gille. It really helps…. everyone see that you are, at heart, a Labour-bot with nowt to add.

        PS Some people voted Labour. Most people who voted, voted Labour. A LOT of other people didn’t vote. Probably because they think voting legitimates a tawdry neo-liberal farce. And in a fist past the post (typo intended), they may have a point. Try reading the Financial Times weekend edition 24/5th – there’s a bunch of interesting stories and commentary that would point any rational reader towards that view.

  2. Don Naylor says:

    Scousers have four green councillors in an otherwise one-party state – why is it a bit different over there? Don

    Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________

  3. David Mottram Secretary, Manchester Green Party says:

    Message to Don:

    It’s different in Liverpool electoral politics because the Lib Dems actually controlled the City Council in very recent years and there has been a pattern of real electoral competition; in Manchester in contrast it’s been Labour control without break since 1973 (1971?).

    And three of the four Green Party councillors in Liverpool are in the ward of John Coyne who shifted to Green from LD as a sitting councillor some years ago – that gave us a way in because he was already established with a reputation as an effective local councillor who had some political principles.

    ‘All politics is local’ as the saying goes – Liverpool is different to Manchester.

    Well, it’s part of the answer, anyway.

  4. David Mottram says:

    Oh dear – this site still thought (see previous message) that I was Secretary of the Manchester Green Party and, just for the record, I’m not…

  5. Interesting piece some useful comments in there, thanks.

    “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.”
    Well yes, it does happen to be true.

    “They won’t tell you that in almost every ward they came second…”
    Manchester Green Party achieved 12.6% of the vote, a greater share of the vote that the Libdems in the city, the second largest vote. It is also obvious that we have a long way to go in building our support.

    We’ll be developing plans going forward which involves balancing campaigning with ward work, aspiration with resource, enthusiasm with patience, politics with on the ground engagement.

    You well know the practicalities of working with people, keeping them engaged, resolving differences of opinion in ways that keep everyone on board and moving in the same direction.

    As one of the earlier commentators says, and I agree, the country is turning to the right. I’m not sure I recognize the favourable electoral conditions you are referring to but we work with the resources we have and the circumstances we are in.

    Making the perfect the enemy of the good is of no help.

    On a more personal note

    1) The Manchester programme was my idea and the lack of progress post programme is directly down to myself.
    2) When you/ your venture harangue young activists, you stand a good chance of disengaging them. You often write about keeping people involved in the general movement. You should read those useful comments and find another way of ‘disagreeing’.

    • Good luck.

      Fwiw, what I mostly talk about is how the “movement” runs for the benefit of its incumbents, and (very secondarily) for any “newbies.” There’s a distinction there, perhaps worth pondering.

      I’ve heard all the promises about new leafs and lessons learnt, many many times. As I said, good luck.

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