Last night something remarkable happened in Brighton. Local party members from the Liberal Democrats stood aside in Brighton Pavilion, and the Greens stood down in Brighton Kemptown. People who have spent years campaigning in these places took the decision to put aside party allegiances and work together so we have the best possible chance of delivering a fairer voting system and beating the Tories on 8 June. These choices were not easy, indeed they are acts of political bravery.
The movement for electoral alliances isn’t just happening in Brighton, it’s kicking off across the country. Despite the leaders of both the Liberal Democrats and Labour trying to shut these discussion down, their members are taking things into their own hands. From Labour-led discussions in Surrey to oust Jeremy Hunt to Lib Dem activists across the country, this grassroots movement is growing.
Local parties are stepping up, but that alone is not enough. It’s now up to the Lib Dem and Labour leaderships to sit down for talks about how we can make this movement for electoral alliances work. These alliances cannot be a one-way street and now Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron must act to ensure we’re not condemning this country to many more years of Tory rule. Let’s not look back on this moment in seven weeks’ time with a newly installed Tory government and kick ourselves for not doing more to stop it happening.
Britain is in the grip of a hardline Tory prime minister who has danced to the tune of Ukip, overseen destruction of our public services and failed to even begin to get to grips with the environmental crisis. She has the gall to predict a “coalition of chaos” but the truth is that it is she who is overseeing a Brexit calamity and entrenched inequality. We can stop them – but it needs leadership from the other parties to make it happen.
And it could scarcely be more urgent. Our political system is broken. We have a government hellbent on some of the most extreme policies in a generation: a crumbling NHS, a jilted generation of young people being let down and the pursuit of a hardline extreme Brexit. For us, proportional representation must be central to this project, because our hugely undemocratic electoral system is so stacked in the establishment’s favour that the Tories can win a majority on just 24% of the eligible vote. It’s abundantly clear that to crack open our politics we must hack the system – and respect the fact that no single party has a monopoly on wisdom.
According to analysis by Compass, electoral alliances at this election could help Labour win up to 29 Tory seats – and help them defend vulnerable ones too. They could allow the Lib Dems to pick off some Tories in the south-west and would give the Greens a chance to topple the Tories in places like the Isle of Wight.
Meanwhile, the Regressive Alliance is gathering pace. With Ukip now planning to stand aside for Tories such as Philip Davies and Jacob Rees-Mogg, it’s more important than ever that progressives think again about how we might work together in a handful of places too. Though the polls are not looking pretty right now for the left, let’s not forget that the Tory majority is small – and a lot can happen during a general election campaign.
I should be very clear here. Greens will be standing for election across this country and putting across our unique vision. Where we disagree with any party we will not hold back in making our feelings known. We’ll never sign up to the Lib Dems’ laissez-faire attitude on our economy, nor forgive some of their decisions in the coalition, neither do we back Labour’s attitude(s) to Europe or its commitment to Trident, Heathrow and Hinkley.
On election day we’ll be urging people to vote for us because ours is the only policy platform that offers the bold changes so desperately needed to transform this country for the better. But to beat the Tories, and to increase the chances of mending our broken politics, we need to be realistic about what’s needed to form a progressive government. That’s why, in just a handful of places, if we see reciprocal action from the other parties, our members will consider brave decisions for the common good.
Jeremy, Tim, over to you.