Saturday, 6 July 2019

A Green Lib Dem Alliance in England? I Really Hope Not

With the announcement this week that Plaid Cymru has now joined with the Green Party in not standing a candidate in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election in Wales, in favour of the Liberal Democrats, can we expect to see the arrangement spread to England?

Plaid Cymru of course does not stand candidates in England, being the Party of Wales, but an electoral arrangement between the Greens and Lib Dems in England is being talked about by members of both parties, and not just the leaderships. It wouldn’t be a first either.

In 2016, at the by-election in Richmond Park in south west London, the Greens stood down in favour of the Lib Dems, helping them capture the seat, but this wasn’t wholly supported by local Green party members. As it happens the seat was narrowly won back by the Tories in the general election a year later, despite the Green-Lib Dem alliance remaining in place.

In that 2017 general election the Greens and Lib Dems where part of the ‘progressive alliance’ and more local arrangements were entered into, in many constituencies, which benefited mainly the Lib Dems, but also quite a few Labour candidates, even though Labour offered nothing in return. The Lib Dems sole concession was not to stand against the Greens only MP in Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, which the Greens would have held in any case.

And this is thing with these type of arrangements, the Greens do other parties a favour, but get very little, if anything at all in return. The imperative in 2017 was to help deny the Tories, what looked like being a big majority in the House of Commons, and to that end it did contribute to the successful outcome of the Tories losing the small majority they had before the election.

What is currently being discussed is a kind of remain in the EU alliance, since both the Greens and Lib Dems are anti-Brexit, although for quite different reasons. For example, the Lib Dems are a neo-liberal party and have long championed ‘free trade,’ whereas the Greens are not neo-liberal and want to reform the EU into a more strongly social Europe, as well as working cooperatively on environmental policies, especially on climate change.

There are 16 million, perhaps more now, potential voters to be harvested by pro-Remain parties, if we include Scotland and Wales, where the nationalist parties might be brought into any alliance, so the rewards could be high. I have my doubts though that it would lead to many, if any, Parliamentary seats for the Greens, but would very likely be a considerable help to the Lib Dems in rehabilitating the party from the stigma of the austerity coalition with the Tories in 2010-2015.

That coalition’s policies in large part caused people to vote to leave the EU, even though the austerity policies pursued by the Tories-Lib Dems were completely home grown, and nothing to do with the EU. If you give people the opportunity to stick it up the establishment in such circumstances, there is good chance they will, and they did. Can the Greens really trust a party that supported such policies? I say no.

It is easy to see why the arrangement in Brecon and Radnorshire has been made for the by-election, to be held on 1 August. At the 2017 general election the Greens did not stand a candidate and although Plaid Cymru did stand, they received only 3.1% of the vote. The Lib Dems were a fairly distance second with 29.1% to the Tories 48.6%. I’m not against this arrangement and there may more constituencies whereby local Green parties do some kind of deal, but the Greens should be wary of anything too extensive.

The Greens are on about 9 or 10% in opinion polls at the moment, and what with climate change rising up the public’s agenda in the wake of the Extinction Rebellion protests and student's strikes. The Greens need to keep this momentum going, and I suggest that will not be helped by standing down in too many places in favour of the Lib Dems.

The Labour party could yet change its position on Brexit, to an unequivocal remain one, before the next general election, but I don’t think the Greens should be as passively supportive of Labour as they were in 2017. If Labour offer the Greens something worthwhile electorally, that would be a different matter though. But it won’t happen, Labour is not like that, and will just expect Greens to not stand, and bully them with ‘you are letting the Tories in’ type of rhetoric.

The Green party should be wary of any suitors just when we are making progress on our own.   


  1. I voted Labour instead of Green in the 2019 Euro election because of the Greens' increasingly strident support for the Remain position. My own views moved over the last few years from Remain to Lexit, as I see the EU as probably immovably neoliberal and anti-socialist. If the Greens continue in their rather naive expectation that they can push the EU green or left, they will be frustrated. Any party that supports an organisation which allows migrants to drown in the Med or get raped and murdered in Libyan camps is not one I can vote for. I hope there are better futures than that envisaged by Greens hoping for more crumbs from the table of the wealthy corporations. Maybe I am wrong, and I'm willing to listen to counter-arguments.

  2. Sorry to hear that you have moved from voting Green to Labour, but as the opinion polls and recent election results show, many more are moving the other way. So, electorally the Greens stance is working.

    On the wider point, no one is saying the EU is perfect, but I'm not convinced that leaving the EU will be any better, in fact I think it will be worse. The only way the UK could survive would be lower employment and environmental standards, to under cut the EU, which will be bad for most people, though not the 'establishment' that so many leavers rail against.