15. 09. 2016

Movement on the ‘Progressive Alliance’ front

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A lot of buzz around the Green Party Conference about the notion of a Progressive Alliance. Not least because the Green Party, of all the political parties engaged so far, has been making much of the running up until now about the overall desirability of such an Alliance, and about some of the actual practicalities that will have to be addressed.

The plenary session at the Green Party Conference was riveting! Up there on the platform were Caroline Lucas (Green Party), Lisa Nandy (Labour Party), Chris Bowers (Lib Dems) and Neal Lawson, Chair of an organisation called Compass, which has been at the heart of cross-party efforts to build a progressive alliance narrative for many years. 

In other words, they were all keen progressive alliance advocates! Indeed, Caroline, Lisa and Chris have just co-edited a book (‘The Alternative’) featuring a whole host of contributors elaborating on different aspects of progressive alliance politics.

The lack of a sceptic (or possibly even an outright hostile) was a bit of a problem – not least as there are inevitably quite a few of them in the Green Party. They just don’t buy the idea that the only way of preventing Tory rule stretching indefinitely into the future is by progressive parties ‘joining forces’ (in some as yet ill-defined way). And they’re convinced that the Green Party would lose out in any agreed deal between the major parties.

But this does seem to me to be somewhat naïve. Until we secure a change in our wretched ‘first past the post’ electoral system, all the Tories need to do is to go on winning a few more seats than all the other parties put together, and hey presto, on they go, as dogmatically and destructively as ever, notionally ruling on behalf of 100% of us having secured the support of no more than 25% of those actually voting!

Let’s assume for a moment that Teresa May chooses to go all the way through to 2020. Soon after her appointment as party leader, she declared that she had no intention of calling a ‘snap Election’. Personally, I’m not sure that she will go all the way through to 2020. (Does ‘snap’ really mean ‘snap’, Prime Minister?!), but there’s no doubt she will be pretty keen to see the latest proposals from the Boundaries Commission fully implemented, given the massive advantage that the Tories gain from these proposed changes.

So what could happen between now and 2020? The Labour Party pulling itself together to become a party of serious opposition with a view to becoming a party of government? I don’t think so. The Lib Dems rising from the dead to win more than a handful of seats at the next Election? I don’t think so. The Greens cloning Caroline to extend its influence beyond Brighton? Sadly not.

We all have a simple choice, therefore. Sit back and suck it up from now through to 2025; or get stuck in to build some kind of progressive alliance as the only way of getting to change our electoral system – and shift the balance of political power back towards a more progressive and inclusive baseline.

I have more than a passing interest in this, as a founding Convenor of the More United initiative, which is already out there in the public domain advocating actively for cross-party collaboration around a set of core principles.

And I’ll be returning to More United next week.
 

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