Issue 242 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published June 2000 Copyright © Socialist Review
The election of three Green Party members to the Greater London Assembly was a powerful expression of the capital's frustration and disgust with Tony Blair. The party fought the election on one of its most left wing manifestos, condemning privatisation, racism, sexism, and the growing gap between rich and poor, as well as pollution and the environment.
Ken Livingstone, who called for a Green vote in the London-wide list and hinted that he might make Darren Johnson, the Green candidate for mayor, his deputy, gave them a tremendous lift. 'I recommend voting for the Green Party in the London-wide list to make sure that protection of the environment is systematically pursued across all fields of the GLA's work,' he said. 'A strong Green contingent in the assembly is vital to clean up London.'
When the votes were counted the Greens could boast 2.2 percent of first preference votes for the mayor and 13.6 percent of the second preferences. In the constituency section of the assembly they polled 10.2 percent and 11.2 percent in the London members top-up vote.
For Livingstone a call to vote Green served two purposes. It offered him the prospect of a counterweight to Blair's cronies on the New Labour slate, and it allowed him to sound radical without endorsing socialist candidates. As a result, in areas like Lambeth & Southwark and the North East constituency, where the London Socialist Alliance had considerable organisation on the ground, the Green vote was twice that of the LSA and the combined vote to the left of Labour topped 20 percent.
Where the LSA had less supporters on the ground, the Greens managed to poll up to four times as much as socialist candidates and the combined left vote was around 10 percent of the electorate.
Now the campaign is over, the Greens face a key test--what do they do in office? Will they meet the hopes of their electorate or will they, like their counterparts across Europe, find themselves absorbed into the blotting paper of government?
Many Green Party activists have already had a sharp lesson in post-election political reality when they saw Livingstone prefer Labour millionaire Nicky Gavron to Darren Johnson as his deputy. Johnson was awarded the environment portfolio in Livingstone's cabinet, but the test of the Greens will be if they fight the appalling racist scapegoating of refugees and help prevent the privatisation of London Underground. There is no doubt that many Green voters can be won to such a fight in the coming months.