The Green Party is often criticised from the more traditional far left parties for not being consistent enough in opposing austerity in local government. To be clear here in Bristol the Green Group of Councillors has opposed every ‘austerity’ cuts budget, and the majority of our Councillors have voted against almost every budget. However, in previous years our Green Councillor Gus Hoyt when serving on the mayor’s cabinet has voted (as an individual) for a cuts budget; as he had personally overseen a lot of the work trying to minimise the impact of said cuts. Having done so much work on the budget Gus felt it would have been silly to vote against it; whilst the rest of the Green group voted against it on principle. These cuts budgets are centrally imposed by Westminster leaving local politicians with few options. They can either attempt to mitigate their impact on local services as much as possible, or refuse to set a legal budget and force central government to do the dirty work themselves. There are legitimate arguments for and against both courses of action. Whilst we would debate criticisms based around these decisions, they are at least valid in that they actually happened.
This is not the criticism TUSC through the Socialist Party is making. Instead they are resorting to outright lies and deception to try and smear the local Green party. In an article from the 25th of February entitled ‘Bristol Greens back ‘shocking’ austerity policies’ they contrast our strong anti-austerity message with increasingly contentious claims (that partially distort reality) that they believe show we do the opposite. These then descend into outright fantasy in the finally paragraph:
“At last week’s budget-setting meeting – which is a year into a three-year cuts package of another £83 million – the Green councillors once again stayed silent while voting for it. Their behaviour continues to be a shocking slap in the face to those who looked to them to bring a fresh approach to local government.
TUSC will contest every seat this year, going head to head with Green councillors in some cases. Our message to Bristolians yearning for an alternative is: a vote for the Greens is a vote for the same old tired status quo that has decapitated jobs and services.”
Once again all of the Green councillors present at the budget-setting meeting voted against the ‘austerity’ cuts budget. Far from ‘once again stay[ing] silent while voting for it’ Green councillors gave compelling speeches condemning the austerity budget in no uncertain terms, and then (along with some Lib Dems – but for very different reasons) were the only councillors to vote against it. Not a single Green Councillor voted for the budget this year (cabinet member or otherwise). As austerity is supported by all the other parties the budget still passed, but this is not our fault; and is obviously the complete opposite to how TUSC are reporting the meeting.
Here’s a flavour of the speech from Green Group leader Charlie Bolton:
‘The cuts are not an act of necessity: they are an act of ideology. They victimise those who did not cause the crisis in the first place, and discriminate disproportionately against the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Some cuts are quite simply vicious: 55% of recipients of Disability Living Allowance have either had their benefit cut, or seen it entirely removed.’
The full speeches have been reproduced here http://www.bristolgreenparty.org.uk/news/green-group-statement-on-bristol-councils-austerity-budget
Surely TUSC should be able to differentiate themselves from the Green Party without resorting to outright lies and deception. That they can’t speaks volumes for the state of their party. This kind of outright lying and distorting the truth for personal gain is exactly the worst kind of politics, of the type that fuels general disengagement. I can understand that some local people opposed to austerity are reticent to support the Green Party, but I implore you not to lend your support to a party that would resort to such dirty, cheap and underhanded negative politics in the promotion of their own self-interest. All parties and papers will colour their reporting with their own bias, but to completely fabricate events like this is the kind of thing we’d only expect form the likes of the Daily Mail, or the Sun or Express, etc. Politics doesn’t have to be done this way, as is demonstrated by the extremely positive recent announcement by Left Unity that it seeks to work with all candidates (be they Green, Left Labour, SNP or Plaid Cymru, etc) opposed to austerity in the general election. If we want to end socially destructive and economically illiterate austerity we need to work together, not resort to petty back stabbing and lying like TUSC have decided to do.
Here’s the bile TUSC and the Socliast Party are spewing if you can stomach it (I wonder if they’ll change it) http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/845/20161/25-02-2015/bristol-greens-back-shocking-austerity-policies