Time up for the 'progressive alliance'?

In the aftermath of the election, opinions differ on where we go from here. Rupert Read, University of East Anglia Philosopher and Chair of Green House, has changed his mind about progressive alliances, and says the party should abandon the idea

The progressive alliance concept has proven to be calamitous for the Green Party. Obviously, I don’t write this with any joy; not least because I myself was until recently one of the most vocal cheerleaders of the concept. 

The 2017 general election results are disastrous for the Green Party and for the country, which needs more than ever a strong voice highlighting ecological concerns. Jeremy Corbyn is secure in his leadership of the Labour Party; it’s clearly no longer at all feasible to position ourselves as the ‘left-wing’ option. Instead, we need to return to highlighting what makes us truly distinct: our ecologist, localising, anti- materialist and democratic principles (including, obviously, proportional representation (PR) – it’s absurd for us to even contemplate backing Labour given that they are still opposed to PR). 

This does not mean abandoning ‘left-wing’ policies, but it does mean no longer making them the central plank of our pitch to the electorate. Crucially, we must now stop calling ourselves a ‘left’ party, for, every time you say the word ‘left’, you entrench in voters’ minds the frame suggesting that we are fine with voting Labour rather than Green. 

A large part of the reason our election results were so poor comes from our failure to adapt to the new political terrain ushered in by Corbyn, a terrain requiring us to focus on what differentiates us from Labour: crucially, our post-growth economics, as contrasted with their utterly reckless insistence upon faster economic growth, pursued via HS2, airport expansion, road building and trashing of the green belt. 

In any case, there was literally zero take-up of the ‘progressive alliance’ idea by Labour, beyond a few lone voices in the party. There will be less than zero now that we’ve been thoroughly marginalised, and now that Labour scents an absolute majority. 

And, crucially, even if, incredibly, there were to be ‘progressive alliance’ negotiations now, what would be our concrete ‘asks’? We have no second places any more, we are not ahead of Labour anymore – anywhere. A ‘progressive alliance’ now would simply involve us standing down everywhere except in Brighton Pavilion.  

I trust it is obvious how absurd that would be for us to consider. 

Rupert Read is a former Green councillor and parliamentary candidate, and Chair of Green House. This article is written in a personal capacity.