Progressive alliances

The Green Party has publicly called for other progressive parties to join it in an alliance that would seek to end austerity and Tory rule and bring about a more plural politics. Green World asked a few party members for their thoughts on the matter

Rupert Read, UEA Philosopher and Chair of Green House, general election candidate for Cambridge 

What does a ‘progressive alliance’ mean to you?

It implies an electoral pact between political parties who subscribe to at least some key core ‘progressive’ values. It could simply involve a commitment to not campaign in marginal seats, but a more exciting model would involve parties actively standing down and not fielding candidates in some constituencies. An extensive examination of different models of pacts can be found in a new report on Green House think tank’s website.

Do you support the idea?

Yes. The green agenda in the United Kingdom has been decimated by this government and the longer it continues, the more irreversible environmental damage will be done. 

What do you think it would achieve?

Electoral reform (proportional representation must be a red line) and an end to Conservative government.

Who should it be with?

It must involve at the very least Liberal Democrats and Labour to achieve the necessary level of seats to collectively win an election and change our voting system. 

Where would it work best?

If the new boundary changes go through unamended, it is currently looking like Brighton Pavilion will be much harder for Greens under the proposed changes, and so we would expect Labour to cooperate with us there. Another obvious place for cooperation is the Isle of Wight, where Greens secured more votes than both Labour and the Lib Dems. 

What are the challenges and dangers?

In addition to massive challenges in convincing Labour to participate and support PR, it will be a challenge to build up the level of trust necessary to make the pact viable. That said, the real danger is not the barriers to cooperation but the price we will collectively pay by failing to cooperate. 

The Green House report, ‘The Green Case For A Progressive Pact’, is available on the Green House Think Tank website.

 

Amber Goneni, Co-Chair, Young Greens of Colour 

What does a progressive alliance mean to you?

It’s a way for like-minded parties to come together find common ground and make electoral progress to help stop the Conservatives and the asinine policies.

Do you support the idea?

It’s difficult to say as it’s so up in the air what the alliance would actually look and feel like. If it was to be like a flat share, not agreeing on every point, staying individual while working for the common good, then of course. But if it was to resemble a family with larger parties bossing and suppressing the Greens, then no.

Who should it be with?

The parties I would feel most comfortable working with would be Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Lib Dems. I’m more hesitant with Labour – there’s a reason I’m a member of the Greens and I worry that if we work too closely with Labour the values that make our party will be forgotten about.

Where would it work best?

In my constituency of Telford and Wrekin, an alliance would work well. The last general election was the Greens’ first, and it would be difficult for us to make a genuine green difference come election time without a certain level of cross-party cooperation.

What are the challenges and dangers?

Many areas wanting to work with Labour will find it challenging to get past their refusal to work as a team for a greater cause. The dangers we face are the erosion of the policies that make us different, the policies that are the reason I joined the party – I don’t think there’s much point in us being involved if we have to leave our principles at the door. I also fear that going after Labour’s support will become (if it hasn’t already) rather embarrassing for us. At a certain point we will need to accept they do not wish to be our friends. 

 

Samir Jeraj, Co-ordinator of Hackney Green Party and candidate for Hackney Mayor 

What does a ‘progressive alliance’ mean to you?

For me, a progressive alliance means progressive parties working together to collectively win the most seats from the Tories, ending austerity and reforming the voting system. It means a more nuanced and grown-up approach to politics that accepts that we have to cooperate for progressive values to have real impact.

Do you support the idea?

Yes, but it’s Labour’s stance that will make it or break it.

What are the opportunities?

If we succeed, we have an opportunity to bring about lasting progressive change to the UK. For example, we could bring about those progressive reforms supported by the majority of voters, such as rail renationalisation and rent controls. We would also gain a stronger platform for our radical policies on inequality, human rights, and climate change.

What are the challenges and dangers?

The challenge, frankly, is the Labour leadership. To embrace a progressive alliance means showing a degree of leadership and consensus within Labour that has been lacking for many years. They are the ones with potentially the most to lose, as it would mean sacrificing the idea of a majority Labour government. The danger for the Green Party is avoiding the position the Lib Dems found themselves in with the Tories – abandoning their principles and inflicting terrible austerity policies on the UK. 

 

David Malone, general election candidate for Scarborough and Whitby 

Do you support the idea of a progressive alliance?

An electoral pact with the specific and delineated goal of getting PR is not a terrible idea, but I do not think we should be drawn in to a broader alliance with parties who wish to tinker with a system that we must remind people is actually profoundly and irredeemably broken.

What are the challenges and dangers?

The danger is if it is perceived to signal to broader move of the party away from its radical roots to something more, shall we say, ‘progressive’. Why not ‘radical’? Or why not just a PR alliance?

If the alliance is purely to get PR voted through, why not an electoral pact with UKIP? After all, a strictly electoral pact does not signal any cooperation on any other matter. Or would we feel uneasy about being seen to cooperate with a party that has such different ideals to ours? Is the word ‘progressive’ there to signal that it is only for parties we feel otherwise fairly comfortable with? If so, the word ‘progressive’ is a clear and considered choice to tell voters where we stand and what it says is we are not radical but progressive, which sounds reformist. And that is my concern. 

What do you think the Green Party needs to do to bring about an effective alliance?

I think we should either pursue a purely electoral pact with any and all, or if it is to be a broader alliance, let us make sure it is a radical one. PR is not what convinces people to vote. We in the GP have PR and only about a third of our members bothered to vote in the leadership contest. What makes people vote is the clarity and relevance to them of what we have to say.

 

Elise Benjamin, Chair, Association of Green Councillors and Advisory Board Member (cross party), Southern Policy Centre think thank 

What does a ‘progressive alliance’ mean to you?

Different political parties working together for a positive outcome on a common aim. 

Do you support the idea?

Yes, but it would have to be on confidence and supply or a similar model.

What do you think it would achieve?

A more constructive, cooperative, and hopefully caring politics, which this country desperately needs.

Who should it be with?

Any political parties where we share a common aim on a particular policy or issue.

Where would it work best?

It has to work at any level of government.

What are the opportunities?

Democracy! The opportunity to get PR and to shift priorities towards a more socially, environmentally, and economically just society.

What are the challenges and dangers?

The biggest challenge is persuading Labour that even without parliamentary boundary changes, the maths don’t stack up for them to win a parliamentary majority in 2020. The other challenge is changing a confrontational, tribal culture in UK politics. The danger is that other parties will try to gain advantage from any arrangement.

What do you think the Green Party needs to do to bring about an effective progressive alliance?

We need to use our experience of consensus building, our ability to think and plan beyond a five-year parliamentary term, and our ability to think both locally and globally as negotiating tools.