Guest post: this post courtesy of Jane Watkinson, a new Green Party member in Leeds.
Alan Johnson’s incompetent and indifferent approach to one of the most important jobs in reconstructing Labour, is a testament to the problems Labour have in terms of reforming and distinctly challenging the government. As it stands, Johnson is looking more like a David Miliband trojan horse, with a pretty damning critique of his performances on the Today programme here. Essentially, Johnson fails to remember Labour’s economic ‘plans’, with him at first arguing Labour would eliminate the structural deficit by 2015-16 – basically the same plans as the Conservatives – later saying he ‘probably’ meant 2016/17 (as though that is any better).
This type of attitude is a massive obstacle preventing Labour’s reform. Johnson’s appointment is a major reason for why many expecting an Ed Miliband turnaround are so disappointed in how lax and pathetic Miliband has turned out. This is where Lucas is right to have said that Labour aren’t offering us a credible alternative, sadly, however, as many of us Greens and other non-Labour lefties/radicals tend to do, Lucas ignored the importance of respecting the need for collaboration in conjuncture with accepting differences between ourselves and Labour. Labour imploded their progressive credentials in power, something we wont obviously forget. But, there needs to be more engagement in assisting Labour’s reform, which, I admit, can be very difficult (I often fall foul of the “Labour are just the same” line).
I therefore agree with some of the sentiments in the replies to Lucas, specifically concerning the need for the Greens to work with Labour to assist their shedding of Blarite skin (but Labour have to remember that they also have to be open to real public debate and critical reform). However, when you hear stupid remarks such as Johnson’s today, Ed Miliband slapping a debate on drugs before it has even begun, Ed Miliband joking about supporting student protests, Ed Miliband distancing and criticising the unions (as well as branding an amazing article from Len McCluskey as ‘irresponsible‘) and witness Ed Miliband trusting Alan Johnson to instate a radical programme – then you can see why the Greens have doubts.
Regardless, we need to grit our teeth, whilst remembering that Labour and the Greens, as I have previously stated, are most certainly not the only route for radical political change. As well as working within the system, stopping damaging cuts, welfare reforms and the like through traditional protocols – we also need to work outside. This is important. We can’t solely rely on party politics to enact the change we need.
Labour are a long way from reforming, in fact, I barely notice a change from their time in power. It is a sad state of affairs, especially given the faith placed. But with them still signed up to cuts, welfare destruction and damaging relations with the labour/anti-cuts movement, there is a long time before they will be re-recognised as a real force of political change. But that doesn’t mean we can’t stop trying to challenge and radically restructure both Labour and the power relations in general through both inside (whether it be the Greens, Labour or whatever) and outside. It is a complementary goal for radical reform.