Tag Archives: campaign

Candidate statement: celebrate freedom of movement

Screenshot 2019-03-12 at 20.02.23

2016 London elections and EU referendum campaign, Southwark

I’m a Londoner, an EU citizen, a Dutch national, who arrived here more than a decade ago, with bags of curiosity and a heavy Dutch bicycle. Already an active Green, having chaired the GroenLinks national Europe working group and having helped foster cross-border links between Green activists, I was immediately drawn into the 2008 London elections campaign, and have felt at home in London and in our Green Party ever since.

Activist without borders

Over the past 15 years, as an activist and delegate in the European Green Party I have built links and friendships with politicians and campaigners of green parties from across Europe, and together we have strengthened and deepened our radical politics: it is now completely normal that as European Greens we go into the EP elections with a common manifesto and with our jointly elected Spitzenkandidaten.

When the 2016 EU Referendum came along, as a through-and-through European, I campaigned my socks off for Remain: I volunteered to coordinate the ‘Greens for an Better Europe’ campaign for the London region and an hour before the close of the polls on the 23rd of June, I was still handing out our leaflets in the South Bermondsey rain. And no matter how the result and the aftermath have affected EU nationals like me, I’ve continued to be active in campaigns for a People’s Vote and a citizens’ assembly.

Climate action triggers radical reform

Look up, Brussels and Strasbourg: a Green wave is coming. It’s coming from Germany, France, and the Benelux, where Green parties are surging in the polls because people know that climate breakdown needs a serious political response.

And it will come from London: I look forward to campaigning together with the excellent other candidates on our list to increase our numbers. We can take great inspiration from campaigns like the school strikes, Extinction Rebellion, and the Green New Deal – and we will take the fight to the centre of European politics.

Climate action also holds the key to badly needed economic and democratic reforms. I will work with Green colleagues and other progressives to force a break from an economic system that prescribes that GDP growth is good and inequality inevitable, and campaign for a universal basic income and taxes that encourage social and environmental justice.

All of this can only succeed if we do it with people and communities, and I will use my professional experience of deliberative democracy to make the case for citizens’ assemblies, collaborative action and cross-border initiatives.

The beauty of free movement

At a time that Brexit and right-wing populism are appealing to nationalist instincts, we Greens continue to defend the human rights of refugees and migrants and to celebrate freedom of movement. We are clear that free movement is not a condition for a competitive single market, but a way for people to be open and free, to learn, and to meet amazing people from different countries – every Londoner can relate to that.

As a migrant myself, I stand proudly for these values. Without freedom of movement we cannot be truly European citizens, able to see beyond the artificial boundaries that national borders represent. With my fellow Green MEPs, I will tirelessly rebuke those who want to withdraw into intolerance, and every time they propose a measure to erode free movement, we will respond with two proposals to help more citizens experience the beauty of a Europe without borders.

This article was published on BrightGreen.org on 12 March 2019.

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GroenLinks: a big win against a bleak backdrop

The Dutch Greens should celebrate their win, but not the overall result

Left-leaning media in the UK and elsewhere have been teeming with jubilant headlines hailing the success of GroenLinks in the Dutch parliamentary elections on 15 March. Without doubt, their progress was remarkable and well-deserved. However, it would be wishful thinking to see in the Green gains, and in the smaller-than-projected increase of the right-wing populist vote, a definitive turn from bigotry to progressive politics in The Netherlands.

Klaver_2012

Jesse Klaver led GroenLinks to its best ever parliamentary election result.

Green success

The story of GroenLinks, the Dutch Green Party, certainly is an optimism-inspiring one: under the leadership of 30-year-old Jesse Klaver, they went from four seats to 14 in the 150-seat national parliament, making them the largest party on the left, a position they share with the Socialists.

The renaissance of green politics in the Netherlands was further emboldened by gains for the Partij voor de Dieren, a party originally dedicated to animal rights but today campaigning on a broader environmental justice platform, and for other – centrist – parties embracing climate action. It also appears that GroenLinks’ pitch to younger voters was successful, which will have contributed to the unusually high turnout of 80 percent.

Obama-style campaign

GroenLinks ran a near-flawless campaign, making the most of the charisma of its young leader in a style heavily inspired by the Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012. The campaign was bold in its mission, billing GroenLinks as a party for everyone, not just the traditional niche of well-off environmentally conscious city dwellers.

For the first time (as this is not a common campaign instrument in The Netherlands), large numbers of members and supporters went out to knock on doors, even where support was likely to be modest. Meanwhile, leader Jesse Klaver was omnipresent in the media, and held slick rallies, the final one in the country’s biggest concert hall. It was sold out.

During the final weeks of the campaign, some polls had GroenLinks on 20 seats, which would have made it the second-largest party. In the end, they had to settle for shared fifth place, but could still boast having the biggest net gain of all. The mood at GroenLinks’ election results gathering in Amsterdam was euphoric, while national media indulged in speculation about Green participation in a new coalition government.

Right rhetorics and left losses

Yet, as Jesse Klaver was making his ‘victory’ speech to Green campaigners, he must have known that GroenLinks’ result was a double-edged sword. Two miles away, the Social Democrats of the PvdA were reflecting on their biggest-ever defeat, losing three-quarters of their vote share, and 29 of their 38 seats. Yet again, the Dutch left finds itself weakened overall. Some polls suggest that of GroenLinks’ ten new seats, as many as six were gained at the PvdA’s expense.

The election result will pave the way for a centre-right coalition, which may or may not include GroenLinks. Two of the parties almost certain to govern, VVD and CDA, are portrayed in international media as part of the response to rising populism, while Dutch analysts rightly point out that these traditional right-wing parties have in effect espoused much of the anti-immigration rhetoric of the extreme right. They do not make natural coalition partners for the Dutch Greens, whose narrative was the very opposite.

What on the surface may seem a clear rejection of right-wing populism and a boost for green and progressive politics, hides the reality of a divided nation, where the agenda of the likes of Trump and Le Pen has made gradual progress for more than 15 years, leaving the left perpetually on the back foot.

Whether as junior coalition partners or as opposition leaders, GroenLinks must continue to present an appealing alternative to nationalist bigotry. They have never been in a better position to do so.

This piece was first published on Bright Green, 21 March 2017.