Many things hacked me off during the 2017 General Election campaign but I suspect none of them come close to the anger I felt towards the intense and non-stop chatter about progressive alliances. Every single day I saw people talking about how best to work together between parties such as Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens. Instead of finding real ground to take it to the Tories though, activists, local and national parties found more that divided us than uniting us.
For this blog post I want to concentrate on Caroline Lucas. She is number one is my crosshairs for people who pissed me off on this front. The Green Party went into the campaign with one MP and one realistic target seat. That was Bristol West where they opened as odds against favourites to unseat the incumbent Labour MP. As the Labour momentum got going though this became a safe Labour hold and as her own seat was safe, the Green party had no potential to gain any extra seats, All they could realistically do was become a spoiler to help the Tories.
Coming into the debates she had a choice to make, either she wanted to get as many votes as possible for her party (which is a perfectly fair position to take for a leader of a political party) or know who her main political enemies were and go after them. She chose the former and that is all fine and dandy unless she was banging on about working together. Lets look at what she said on her own website after the 2015 General Election…
“The election results have served as a stark reminder that our political system is broken. The time for electoral reform is long overdue. Only proportional representation will deliver a parliament that is truly legitimate, and that better reflects the views of the people it’s meant to represent.”
SHE ADDED: “But we must move forward today. While the campaign for electoral reform gathers momentum, THOSE OF US WANTING TO SEE A FAIRER, MORE COMPASSIONATE AND PROGRESSIVE POLITICS MUST FIND NEW WAYS OF WORKING TOGETHER, A NEW WAY TO DO POLITICS – AND PUT THAT INTO PRACTICE NOW.
“Unless we break free of tribal politics and work together to fight austerity, and promote crucial, common-sense climate policies, we’re faced with an incredibly bleak political future. For the sake of all those who’ll suffer most at the hands of the Tories, we must rethink our relations and recognise the importance of our common ground.
“That should include shared platforms and case-by-case electoral pacts, to build a strong progressive alliance to challenge the Tories over the next five years. Clearly in Wales and Scotland, where there are PR elections for the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, this doesn’t apply, but where First Past the Post continues to distort election results, it should surely be considered.”
I have left in her own emphasis.
During this campaign she tweeted this:
Lib Dems focussing on young people after trebling the cost of university. 🤔https://t.co/LeDhRlsIt8
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) May 17, 2017
During the debates she went after the Lib Dems hard on tuition fees. Arguably going after the party more than any other apart from UKIP. She knows that her party’s vote won’t come from the Tories and with the Corbyn momentum kicking in during the final three weeks of the campaign, the best way to get more Green votes was to hit the Lib Dems hard. Heck hitting the Lib Dems hard may not have converted some soft LDs to Green but may have converted them to Labour or convinced them to stay at home. Smart if she wanted to damage the Lib Dems but not smart if her number one priority was to stop another Conservative government.
She doesn’t want to end tribal politics because if she did then she wouldn’t have campaigned in the manner that she did. It was seemingly mere lip-service to the idea of progressive politics. If only say 10% of the population would consider voting for you and you are fighting with the Lib Dems and Labour for those voters, do you curl up and let those voters choose freely which way to go or do you fight tooth and nail for them? You do the latter.
This is a great example of why a progressive alliance in our parliamentary system just doesn’t work. The voters have shown us that they don’t like coalition politics and are at the stage where they want something more black and white. Good and bad if you like. Right or wrong. It won’t always be that way and as a member and firm believer that the radical centre is the best place politically, I have to believe that.
Yet today people are happy to vote for Jeremy Corbyn even if they don’t agree with his top line Brexit policies because he is the most likely to stop the Tories and as it stands the majority of the electorate identify as Tory or Anti-Tory. This means they’ll vote for the Tories or whoever is most likely to stop them. Even if that means by proxy getting more Tory MPs because they don’t look at the local situation.
The progressive alliance can only work when everyone is genuinely willing to work together. If they are all fighting over the same voters then it was always a fallacy and the way Caroline Lucas acted throughout the 2017 General Election campaign showed us all that progressive alliances are great in theory but in reality it had zero chance of succeeding and the amount of column inches and talking head minutes were dedicated to it was all one giant waste of time.
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