Everyone, regardless of which party they belong to, has an affinity or commitment to a particular policy, something that makes them really proud to belong to that party. In my case, it is the Green Party’s commitment to a national living wage for the lowest-paid earners.
The origins of this aspiration extends right back into the 19th century with Catholic social teaching, enshrined in Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, which contains an early notion of the living wage (“wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner”).
The first, real UK campaign for a living wage started with the London Citizens movement, who launched the London Living Wage Campaign back in 2001. During his 2004 re-election campaign, Ken Livingstone proposed the establishment of a Living Wage Unit to calculate the cost of the real minimum wage needed in London to ensure that London’s lowest paid workers received an annual income above the poverty threshold. This unit was welcomed by the Green London Assembly Members (AMs) and remains a cornerstone of Green Party policy in the capital and beyond.
We must now turn our attention to lobby the Government to establish a National Living Wage Unit to highlight the forgotten issue of poverty pay. Whilst cynics out there will doubt that there is any realistic chance of the Con-Dem Government establishing a National Living Wage Unit, if Greens were to lead on this issue, working alongside community organisations, trade unions and faith groups, then the momentum could certainly get behind the initiative.
If we are looking to put down our flag at Westminster, this is it. But, the campaign can go beyond Westminster and feed directly into our local election campaign right across the country in every unitary, county and district authority, all levels of Government have a duty to combat poverty pay within their own structures, but also in their own locales. We must draw upon the campaign success of London Citizens, and propel the issue to the forefront of British politics.
Whilst the other parties are all talking cuts, we can respond by talking about pay, poverty and the ever-growing wealth gap. By running a campaign as a national party, with Caroline Lucas acting inside Parliament raising the profile of the campaign through questions and other Parliamentary means, we can really get the public to ‘think again’ about the party and our trajectory.