The following is a statement produced by the SP following correspondence between the Lewisham SP and the Lewisham Green Party after a Green Party candidate was revealed to be on the membership list of the BNP:
ONE of the Green Party candidates who stood in Telegraph Hill ward, south London in the 2006 local elections appears on the list of alleged BNP supporters recently leaked to the media. This ward, in the London borough of Lewisham, is represented by two SP members, Ian Page and Chris Flood, who have been councillors there since 1990 and 2003 respectively.
When the list was published Lewisham SP was asked to comment. Aware that the list, leaked by disgruntled BNP members, did not necessarily imply support for the far-right party, we contacted the individual named, who informed us that he had never been a supporter of the BNP and their racist ideas.
We accepted his assurance but, as there were others on the list who have been Green Party members and who have also been BNP supporters, we also wrote to the Lewisham Greens for their views before we made any public comment.
Darren Johnson, a Lewisham Green councillor and London Assembly member, replied, saying that, “knowing him as I do”, he was convinced that the individual concerned had been “the victim of a malicious prank” and had given “no indication whatsoever that he shared the obnoxious views of the BNP”.
But Darren Johnson also conceded that their ex-candidate, who had no campaigning record in Telegraph Hill, “has had no active involvement in the Green Party for the past two years”, in other words, since the 2006 elections.
This raises a wider question: even if, as it appears, the candidate was not sympathetic to the BNP’s poisonous ideas, why did Lewisham Green Party conclude that he was a better representative of anti-cuts, anti-privatisation and pro-environment policies in Telegraph Hill than the sitting Socialist Party councillors, Ian Page and Chris Flood?
The SP has consistently approached the Green Party to discuss whether we could come to an electoral agreement, at least to not stand candidates against each other where possible. Through the Socialist Green Unity Coalition, for example, we discussed this with the Green Party’s national election officer, who confirmed that such agreements could be made by local parties.
The SP and the Green Party have important differences. The SP believes that fundamental change is necessary to save our environment, which can only be achieved by democratic public ownership of the major companies that dominate the globe.
On Lewisham council the Green councillors have not always backed the Socialist councillors’ proposals to resist the pro-market agenda of the establishment parties – New Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. But there is sufficient agreement, we believe, for us to seriously discuss possibilities for electoral agreements.
Unfortunately that has not been the approach of Lewisham’s Greens. Their strategy in the 2006 elections was to stand as widely as possible, regardless of who they were standing against or the record and commitment of their candidates.
The Greens stood three candidates in the three-seat Telegraph Hill ward in 2006, who each polled around 400 votes – well short of winning but far more than the gap between the New Labour candidate elected as the third ward councillor and the third-placed Socialist Party candidate, Jess Leech. Was it really necessary to stand in Telegraph Hill and allow New Labour to slip in? Especially as there were other, New Labour-held wards, in Lewisham where the Greens only stood one candidate?
Darren Johnson hasn’t accepted our offer to discuss what lessons from all this there may be for the future. But the SP plans to stand more widely in Lewisham in the next local elections in 2010 along with, we hope, local trade unionists and representatives of different campaign groups fighting to save council housing, defend education, and keep our NHS safe from privatisation. They too will expect that Lewisham Green Party would co-operate to maximise the electoral challenge to the establishment parties.
I should emphasise at this point that this is NOT an attack on the Green Party for having an election candidate who has since appeared on the BNP membership list, although it is reasonable to seek clarification from the Greens regarding their knowledge of this person’s politics in response to quires from voters in the area. Nor is the SP trying to dictate to the Green Party who or where they can stand. That is, of course, a decision that must be taken by the members of the Green Party themselves.
What the SP is seeking from the Green Party in Lewisham, and elsewhere in the country, is clarification on their relationship with the rest of the Left on the electoral field. With the new mood of co-operation on the Left following recent setbacks in the quest for a new workers party and with the possibility of a general election in the summer it is vital that the strongest possible challenge is put up to all the establishment parties by socialist, trade unionists, community activists and environmentalists.
Hopefully this can be the beginning of a discussion between socialists and Green Party members on the best way forward to challenging the rule of profit, big business and environmental destruction.