June’s general election sent shockwaves through the British political system. Not only was the result a surprise to many people, but a marked and unexpected return to the old ‘two- party’ politics too. Of course, we always knew that this election would be tough. We went into the campaign with significantly fewer resources than the other parties, with little time to organise, and with the media focusing almost exclusively on the personalities of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. And of course, like every other general election we’ve fought, we had to contend with an outdated first-past-the-post electoral system that encourages tactical voting.
I’m proud of the campaign that we ran – and grateful to the thousands of members who invested so much time and energy in their local areas. Though this was the Green Party’s second best general election result of all time, I had hoped we would do better. But the truth is that the odds were stacked against us as Labour positioned itself as anti-austerity and the final days of campaign were dominated by a very prime ministerial battle.
I know that some members felt disappointed by the electoral alliances we pursued – just as some think it was the right tactic [see articles by Rupert Read and Derek Wall in this issue for some alternative views]. The idea of forming electoral alliances to advance proportional representation has been talked about for a long time, and was recently almost unanimously endorsed by Green Party conference. Twenty-four local Green parties entered into independent agreements, all very different in nature, or stood aside. It’s clear that those local Green parties helped cut down the Conservative majority, but the commitment to forming alliances was always about advancing significant electoral reform to give every voter a voice. We want to forge a new kind of politics, and simply tactical voting under first-past-the-post does not even begin to rise to that challenge. Sadly, there was no leadership from either Labour or the Liberal Democrats to put the urgent need for a fairer voting system at the heart of this election nationally.
Now is of course time for reflection and planning. What is unique about the Green Party is that we are a member-led party with policies and major decisions debated and voted on at conference. I’m looking forward to continuing to talk with members as we carry on growing, and working towards the confident and caring future that we want for Britain. This will not be easy; raising enough money to make up for the reduced level of parliamentary funds we are due to receive and allow us to contest as many seats as possible at the next election, whenever that may be, is a significant challenge, but one we are ready for.
I think this election really did show just how important Green voices are in our politics. We consistently highlighted threats to our environment, when the other parties remained silent on the issue. We made a positive case for freedom of movement, when other politicians boxed themselves in with migration myths and false facts. And we put forward a positive vision of a different kind of economy, demanding not just tweaks to the existing system but an overhaul which puts people and planet at its core. Our calls for a shorter working week and a pilot of a basic income really cut through – and it was heartening to hear these issues being brought up on the doorstep.
I’d like to pay particular tribute to Vix Lowthian, Molly Scott Cato, Eleanor Field and Natalie Bennett who ran brilliant campaigns in our target constituencies – and the hundreds of members who went to the Isle of Wight, Bristol, Bath and Sheffield to support them.
As Greens, we know that our battle is a long one – and that the odds are stacked against us. But we’re also committed to keeping on fighting. For the sake of our planet, for an economy that truly works for everyone and for a real democracy, our distinctive voice and ways of doing politics are needed now more than ever.