Monday, 1 May 2017
People’s Progressive Alliance takes root in UK General Election
An in principle supporter of a progressive alliance of the leftish UK political parties, for the next general election, I have also been sceptical that it would ever happen in any meaningful way. As far back as January the Labour Party’s NEC ruled out participating in any such electoral alliance, and before this insisted on standing a candidate in the Richmond Park by-election at the end of last year. There was quite a bit of support for standing down in Richmond Park, in favour of the Lib Dems, as the Greens did, but Labour centrally threatened to impose a candidate if the local party refused to select one.
The Lib Dems, other than being pleased if Greens stood down their favour, have, centrally, refused to back the idea too. All of which made the possibility of an alliance getting off the ground, extremely unlikely, apart from a patch work of local agreements, which will not be enough to defeat the Tories.
But, maybe, just maybe this idea is getting some serious legs on it, as people on the ground are showing a willingness to cooperate to maximise the chances of beating the Tories, in more and more locations. Allied to this, is a growing movement in favour of tactical voting, to the same end, defeating Tories. People voting with their feet, as the saying goes, and ignoring central party commands to stand come what may.
First off, Ealing Greens decided to stand down in favour of Labour MP Rupa Huq, who beat the Conservatives with a majority of just 274 votes in 2015 in Ealing central and Action, in west London. Rupa Huq commented: ”I’m now the red-green candidate and I’m proud to be so.”
This piece in The Independent also quotes Stephen Clark, the organiser of West London Compass as saying: “Discussions are taking place in a number of the other seats between the Greens and the most likely potential progressive candidate, and we’re hoping something will come from those.”
Next up was the Greens decision to not contest Brighton Kemptown constituency where Tory MP Simon Kirby won in 2015 with a majority of only 690 over Labour. In 2015 the Greens gained over 3,000 votes in the constituency.
Then the Lib Dems decided not to contest Green MP Caroline Lucas’ seat in Brighton Pavilion, where she holds nearly a 8,000 majority (over Labour), but the Lib Dems 1,500 votes or so gained last time will come in useful. Caroline Lucas said of the decision: “In Brighton something amazing is happening. People are putting aside party allegiances and working together so we have the best possible chance of delivering a fairer voting system and beating the Tories at the next election."
So, predictably it is the Labour Party who are dragging their feet on embracing this opportunity to damage the Tories chances, but even in Labour some things are stirring. In Surrey, the local Labour Party want to stand down in favour of the Lib Dems in Tory Health Minister Jeremy Hunt’s seat of South West Surrey, even though they finished above the Lib Dems in 2015. They are obviously mindful that in 2010 the Lib Dems finished a good second place to the Tories, and did cut the Tory majority to just 861 in 2001.
Labour high command has threatened to impose a candidate, but if the local activists don’t support the campaign, it is likely an informal alliance will be created here, whatever the Labour Party leadership say or do.
In the Bristol West constituency, where the Greens are favourite to win the seat from Labour, the Women’s Equality Party have decided not to stand, and to support the Green Party candidate Molly Scott Cato. Jonathan Bartley, Green Party co-leader commented:
“I’m delighted to welcome the WEP’s support for Molly in Bristol West. It is a clear and important recognition that Molly is someone who will bring people together and stand up for everyone with a bold vision to give Bristol the kind of future it both needs and deserves."
It does appear as though what we might call the People’s Progressive Alliance, is becoming a reality, despite what the Labour and Lib Dem leaders are saying. Whether it will be enough to kick the Tories out is debatable, but it does look as though it is the best shot we have got. The people can make this happen.