Labour MPs call for pact with Greens, fuelling claims of 'coalition of chaos'

Gordon Rayner
Clive Lewis is among those who signed the letter - Eddie Mulholland

A group of senior Labour MPs has called on the party to withdraw its candidates in some constituencies in favour of other parties, fuelling Conservative accusations of a “coalition of chaos”.

Former front-benchers Clive Lewis and Tulip Siddiq and Labour’s former policy coordinator Jon Cruddas signed an open letter saying it would be “the right thing morally” to stand aside in seats where the Greens have the best chance of beating the Tories.

Meanwhile Compass, a Labour think-tank, set up on online petition calling for a “progressive alliance” of Labour, the LibDems, SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru to allow local “pacts” to shut out the Conservatives.

The Greens have already said they will not stand in Ealing Central and Acton, and Brighton Kemptown, to give Labour the best chance of winning.

Caroline Lucas's seat should not be contested by Labour, some MPs say Credit: PA

The Conservatives seized on the letter, published in the Guardian newspaper, as evidence of “pure chaos”.

In the letter, which was also signed by the Labour peers Baroness Kennedy and Baroness Lister, the MPs urged the Labour leadership to “maximise progressive votes and campaigning in some seats” where “Labour has no realistic hope of winning”.

The letter adds: “This is both the right thing to do and helps Labour in seats where the Green vote can make the difference to our party winning or losing. Labour now has to give something back to gain even more.”

Jeremy Corbyn has ruled out a formal coalition, as has the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, but the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon has called openly for a loose alliance of parties supporting each other on a vote by vote basis.

Jeremy Corbyn says Labour will contest every seat Credit: Reuters

The Labour MPs suggest that their party should not contest Brighton Pavilion, the seat currently held by the Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, or the Isle of Wight, where they are the strongest challengers to the Conservatives.

The Conservative MP Steve Baker said: “This is pure chaos. If two of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest allies won’t follow his lead, it’s clear he would totally fail to get the best deal with 27 European nations lined up to oppose him.

“People would pay for this failure with higher taxes, fewer jobs, more debt and more waste.

“Only a vote for Theresa May and her local Conservative candidate will strengthen Britain’s hand in these crucial negotiations.”

Brandon Lewis, the Policing Minister Credit: Rex

A Labour spokesman said the letter did not represent the views of the leadership, adding: “Labour is fighting to win this election and will field candidates in every seat, with the exception of the Speaker’s on grounds of parliamentary protocol.”

Jeremy Corbyn will today pledge to increase policing numbers by 10,000 if Labour are elected, saying it would equate to an extra officer in every electoral ward in the country. The Labour leader will say the extra staff would be paid for by reversing recent cuts in Capital Gains Tax.

But Brandon Lewis, the Policing Minister, dismissed the idea as “nonsensical”, saying Labour had already spent the same money three times in other policy pledges.

Countdown to the General Election

The Taxpayers’ Alliance described it as “yet another example of politicians making policy on the hoof, promising more money by hiking taxes”. A spokesman said: “All the evidence shows that cutting CGT has positive effects for the broader economy. If Labour wants to promise more money for a certain service, they should get real and suggest spending reductions elsewhere to pay for it instead of seeking to dip their hands in taxpayers' pockets."

Meanwhile Labour used an official party Twitter account to publish a list of its 20-point plan to protect and enhance workers’ rights, only for readers to point out that it only listed 18 points. The two extra points were hastily added later.

Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity with his own party members continued to bottom out when Sion Simon, the Labour candidate for the post of West Midlands Mayor, declined to mention him by name in a radio interview yesterday.

Elsewhere Lord Darling, the former Labour chancellor, dismissed Mr Corbyn’s chances of winning, saying the best result would be to have a “sensible, sizeable opposition that can actually make a difference”.

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