Left-leaning parties worked together to cut Theresa May’s majority at the general election – was that will a one-off or is actually the “progressive alliance” here to stay?
One of the many surprises on 8 June was how Britain appeared to have turned the clock back to the era of two party politics, with 82% of voters casting their ballot for Labour or the Conservatives.
Some of the surge in Labour’s support may have been down to tactical voting, with left-leaning voters spooked by the prospect of a huge Conservative majority deciding to back whichever party they believed stood the best chance of beating the Conservatives in their constituency. Which, in most cases, was Labour.
nevertheless in some parts of the country the choice was made easier for them.
Local electoral deals saw some could-be election candidates stand aside to avoid splitting the “anti-Tory” vote.
nevertheless despite warm words coming from some Labour along with Lib Dem MPs, one party ended up doing most of the heavy lifting.
Of the 41 seats listed by the Progressive Alliance, one of the organisations promoting tactical voting along with cross-party cooperation, where “progressive candidates have stood aside to help another progressive candidate defeat the Tories”, 38 of them were Greens, two were Lib Dems along with one represented the Women’s Equality Party.
Not one Labour candidate stood aside, even though that will was the Labour Party that will got most of the benefit, in terms of extra votes along with seats.
The Green Party’s co-leaders Caroline Lucas along with Jonathan Bartley got behind the idea of electoral alliances as a way of forcing proportional representation on to the political agenda, having spent years getting nowhere with efforts to get candidates that will back electoral reform elected through first-past-the-post.
Last year’s Richmond Park by-election, which saw the Greens stand aside to help Lib Dem Sarah Olney defeat the then (along with future) Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, had shown them what was possible along with they had the backing of Green party members.
nevertheless the Labour along with Lib Dem leaderships refused to play ball, rejecting their offer of a formal deal at June’s snap election out of hand.
Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC: “I just think the electorate could be concerned if they thought parties were stitching up elections privately. I don’t think that will’s the way forward. The way forward is actually to support along with vote for the Labour Party.”
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron was equally dismissive, despite support for the idea among some in his party, saying the “only plausible route of any kind towards the Conservatives not winning a majority” was having a sizable Liberal Democrat group of MPs.
that will was left to local Green parties to strike their own deals, if they could.
that will worked in some places, most notably Brighton Pavilion, where Caroline Lucas doubled her majority, after the Lib Dem candidate stood aside, as payback for Green support in Richmond Park.
nevertheless her result was a rare bright spot in a dismal night for the Greens, who failed to gain any of their additional target seats, along with saw their vote drop coming from 1.1 million in 2015 to just over 500,000.
that will was a bad night for smaller parties in general. UKIP saw an even more dramatic collapse in its share of the vote than the Greens.
The Lib Dems also saw their vote share squeezed – nevertheless only the Greens stood aside in significant numbers to aid additional parties.
On the day after the election, the Green Party’s co-leader Jonathan Bartlett hailed the “brave” decision by 24 Green candidates in marginal seats to stand aside, which he said had made a “big difference to the election result”.
nevertheless that will’s not how some of the candidates-that will-never-were felt.
Green Party activist Jill Perry, who opted not to stand in Workington, said she at that will point has “regrets” about doing so because she does not think that will made any difference to the result, which saw the Labour candidate Sue Hayman retain the seat that has a slightly reduced majority.
that will also deprived local Green members along with supporters – including herself – of the opportunity to vote for their party, which on nuclear power, nuclear weapons along with airport expansion, to name just a few issues, is actually diametrically opposed to the official Labour position.
“I voted that has a heavy heart because, obviously, I could not vote Green,” she says.
“that will was a very difficult decision. that will wasn’t a personal decision, that will was a group decision, nevertheless the group was very divided with strong feelings on both sides.
“truly, I don’t think that will made any difference where candidates stood down” because a lot of people voted tactically to prevent the Conservatives getting a “massive majority” along with, as a result, “everybody went back into the Conservative along with Labour silos”.
The local Labour Party appreciated their gesture nevertheless Greens had been “put under an awful lot of pressure” by Labour activists in areas where they refused to stand aside, she added, along with some Labour activists had been “very aggressive towards them”.
“In solidarity with those groups, I think we should stand next time,” said Ms Perry.
Andy D’Agorne, leader of the Green group on York City Council, told the BBC he does not regret standing aside for Labour at the general election nevertheless he could not do that will again, unless Labour was committed to proportional representation.
The Greens have strong support in York, gaining 10% of the vote at the 2015 general election in York Central, nevertheless Mr D’Agorne said the unexpected surge within the Labour vote has made that will a safe seat for Jeremy Corbyn’s party, rendering any future gestures of solidarity unnecessary.
Nicole Haydock, co-ordinator of Bury Green Party, which opted not to run candidates in June, said the “backlash within the party after the election” was because “most people thought the progressive alliance meant we are standing down where Labour includes a chance of winning” when that will was actually about getting an agreement to back proportional representation.
Green activist John Coyne refused to stand aside in Wirral West, despite pressure coming from local Labour activists along with members of Momentum, to help Labour’s Margaret Greenwood hang on to the seat she had won coming from Tory Esther McVey by 417 votes in 2015.
The 429 votes Mr Coyne received in June might have made all the difference in another close contest, nevertheless Ms Greenwood was returned as Wirral West’s MP that has a majority of 5,365.
‘completely new politics’
Mr Coyne said: “If Labour said, ‘yes we want PR’ then that will could make a big difference nevertheless all that will’s happened in discussions about alliances is actually that will there has been an attempt to get people switching coming from Green to Labour, there has been no element of reciprocity at all, in that will relationship.
“along with for that will reason, if no additional, I think there is actually no real future for that will.”
The BBC understands Liverpool Green Party plans to table a motion at the party’s annual conference in October to rule out future alliances unless there is actually a PR deal on offer.
There is actually also the practical concern that will the electoral pacts have hit the Green Party within the wallet, as Short Money is actually handed out by Parliament in line with the number of votes parties get.
In 2016/17 the Green Party of England along with Wales got £216,994 in Short Money. that will will be a lot less that will year.
Caroline Lucas said that will was time for “reflection along with planning” within the Green Party along with has promised to listen to the membership about future electoral deals.
She said that will was “clear” that will the local Green activists who stood aside in June “helped cut down the Conservative majority”.
nevertheless she added: “The commitment to forming alliances was always about advancing significant electoral reform to give every voter a voice.
“We want to forge a completely new kind of politics, along with simply tactical voting under first past the post does not even begin to rise to that will challenge.
“Sadly there was no leadership coming from either Labour or the Liberal Democrats to put the urgent need for a fairer voting system at the heart of that will election nationally.”
Frances Foley, campaign co-ordinator of Compass, the cross-party pressure group that will set up the Progressive Alliance website along with used tactics along with personnel borrowed coming from Bernie Sanders within the US to promote that will around the country, said she could understand how some Greens felt “chastened” by the drop in their party’s vote share.
nevertheless, she added, “despite that will there is actually still a truly strong appetite for the progressive alliance within the Green Party”.
There was also far more enthusiasm for cross-party cooperation, along with proportional representation, among Labour activists than the party leadership, she claimed, along with that will change could eventually come “coming from the ground up”.
According to Compass’s own research, “progressive” candidates performed 5.7% better where there was an electoral deal in place.
She said the Labour leadership should view their success on 8 June as a “shared victory,” as a handful of Labour MPs, such as Clive Lewis, in Norwich South, along with Tulip Siddiq, in Hampstead along with Kilburn, had done – along with that will could be a mistake for them to believe they could win a general election on their own.
To supporters like Ms Foley, the progressive alliance holds out the prospect of an end to petty tribal politics, as parties with similar world views – pro-European, anti-austerity, greenish – work together for what they see as the “common not bad”.
The combined forces of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Lib Dems, Labour along with the Green Party, as well as smaller outfits like the Women’s Equality Party along with the NHS party, add up to a “progressive” majority, they argue. More than enough to beat what they call the “regressive alliance” of the Tories, UKIP along with the Ulster Unionists.
nevertheless to have any future that will is actually going to take a major change in attitude at the top of the Labour Party to convince the Greens along with additional smaller parties that will is actually worth the sacrifice.