A rainbow coalition? The role of the Green party

There is a progressive majority in the UK. But a parliamentary coalition requires the support of small parties. What will the Green party choose to do?

Dr Rupert Read is a Green party councillor in Norwich

I want to believe in a “progressive majority“. I really do. If we take both Labour and the Lib Dems as ‘progressive’, then there is a clear progressive majority in terms of votes, and also a slender progressive majority in terms of seats – provided you include additionally most or all of the SNP, the SDLP, Plaid Cymru, the Alliance Party and (of course) the Green Party. All these parties combined would deliver 329 seats.

But there are very serious problems. One is that both Labour and the Lib Dems are wounded. Labour, for getting only 150,000 more votes than Michael Foot; the Lib Dems for losing five seats and not getting the vote-surge that everyone was expecting. This makes it hard to feel any momentum behind the possibility of a Lib/Lab or a rainbow coalition (and it is the latter, with the immense complexities it would bring, that would be required in order to marshal an actual majority).

Another large problem is the political identity of the Lib Dems. Are they really ‘progressive’? As I write, the LibDems are in negotiation with the Tories. The Lib Dems have been dominated for some years now by the “Orange book” free-marketeers . In particular by David Laws, Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, and Nick “Savage-Cuts” Clegg himself. This is threatening to tear the LibDems apart as shown by thesecomments from Lib Dem Voice, the leading Lib Dem grassroots website, and the summary of views on Left Foot Forward yesterday.

It is pretty clear that many grassroots Lib Dems are alienated even by the talks, let alone by the prospect of an actual deal with the Conservatives. They are light-years from the happy neoliberalism shared by parliamentary Liberal Democrats and the Tories. If, in light of Gordon Brown’s offer of real electoral reform, Nick Clegg does decide to talk to Labour as well, the negotiators will have to address what to do with some or all of the Alliance, the SDLP, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and the Greens.

Which brings me to my question: How should and how will my Party, the Green Party, react?

The answer is pretty clear. Our leader and first Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas said it herself in her first interview with Jeremy Paxman, just after being elected. The Green Party will not enter into any coalition. If we were to be involved in a rainbow government of the progressive majority, it would be on the basis of ‘Confidence and Supply as has taken place in recent years with Green MSPs and the SNP minority government in Scotland. In such a circumstance, the Green Party would focus on ensuring that some of our core issues – such as green investment (rather than cuts) as the answer to the ongoing risk of a Depression, and major constitutional and political reform (including proportional representation) – were taken seriously by such a government.

As outlined above, Labour and the Lib Dems alone don’t have the numbers, momentum, or legitimacy alone. By contrast, the entry of the Green Party (and the Alliance Party) into Westminster provides, in a small but nevertheless significant way, a sign of life. Our addition is something healthy and new, and a basis on which to face down the Tories and the Unionists and say that they do not represent an insurgent majority.

A rainbow progressive majority administration – presumably a Lib-Lab coalition, with a ‘Confidence and Supply’ arrangement with the smaller Parties including the Greens – might just work.

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18 Responses to “A rainbow coalition? The role of the Green party”

  1. Sara Hannam

    RT @leftfootfwd: A rainbow coalition? The role of the Green party http://bit.ly/b8CUHs

  2. jameskennell

    RT @leftfootfwd: A rainbow coalition? The role of the Green party http://bit.ly/b8CUHs

  3. Ryan Bestford

    "A rainbow coalition? The role of @TheGreenParty" – http://bit.ly/9sdZe0 (via @leftfootfwd) #hungparliament #GE2010

  4. Ed Jones

    RT @leftfootfwd: A rainbow coalition? The role of the Green party http://bit.ly/b8CUHs

  5. John West

    RT @leftfootfwd: A rainbow coalition? The role of the Green party http://bit.ly/b8CUHs

  6. Ryan Bestford

    "A rainbow coalition? The role of @TheGreenParty" – http://bit.ly/9sdZe0 (via @leftfootfwd) #hungparliament #GE2010

  7. Rupert Read

    I fear that I got it slightly wrong at one point above, or at least that my wording may be misleading or open to misinterpretation at one point. To clarify the term ‘Confidence and Supply’, which is used in very _various_ ways in the media etc:
    The arrangement of the Scottish Green MSPs with the SNP, which (as I’ve said) is often termed ‘Confidence and Supply’, is technically a slightly more limited ‘Co-operation Agreement’. It does not, as some ‘Confidence and Supply’ deals around the world have done, contain any cast-iron commitment on future confidence votes, nor on future budgets. (Of course, such commitments can never really be ‘cast-iron’ in any case, because the deal itself can always be abrograted.)
    It would some kind of ‘Co-operation Agreement’ which I think would be most likely to work with the Green Party (and the Nats). This, as Caroline has said, allows one to take issues on a case by case basis, but nevertheless provides a general expectation of governmental stability, under the framework of the Agreement.
    (N.B. The SDLP MPs generally take the Labour whip, and the Alliance MP is expected to take the LibDem whip.)

  8. Paul Jeater

    While a deal with Cameron might further Clegg & Co’s parliamentary careers, it will alienate sizeable chunks of Lib Dem support. I hate the idea of the Conservatives in power but a Con-Lib coalition and the likelihood of Labour choosing another “New Labour type” leader to replace Brown, offers a large area of political territory for the Green party to operate within during the coming year.

  9. Joy L.

    A rainbow coalition? The role of the Green party | Left Foot Forward http://bit.ly/afZXNs

  10. Phil Thomas

    RT @leftfootfwd: A rainbow coalition? The role of the Green party http://bit.ly/b8CUHs #fb

  11. Ell Aitch

    RT @leftfootfwd: A rainbow coalition? The role of the Green party http://bit.ly/b8CUHs

  12. James Ling

    RT @leftfootfwd: A rainbow coalition? The role of the Green party http://bit.ly/b8CUHs this is what the country needs

  13. blanco

    Will/Shamik, for God’s sake, please separate the tweets/pingbacks from the actual comments! LibCon do it, and Political Scrapbook has tabs for both, it can’t be that hard. If you’re worried it looks bad if people can easily see there are more tweets/pbs than actual comments, separating the two in this fashion will allow for a much better debate and MORE comments!

    Also, the site in general needs a re-design. You both get paid full-time to blog, you should have a professional-looking site (again, Psbook has a much better looking design). Sorry to be so critical, I want you to do well but you need to make some changes. (whilst I’m at it, you put up lots and lots of posts, which might be good for Twitter, but you need a way of separating out your content so the slightly older stuff isn’t missed)

  14. Marcelo

    People are used to the usual majority. And they are stating to their early words intead of acting according to the situation. SNP had lived this situation and took a place, because it’s important. Anyone who stays “neutral” will loose confidence…

  15. Rupert Read

    The situation is so fast-moving; here [below] is an updated and (I hope) improved version of this post. If tehre is to be further discussion, may be best for it to be here: http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2010/05/how-green-party-can-help-stop-tories.html

  16. Greens on board for a progressive government | Left Foot Forward

    […] confirms my piece for Left Foot Forward on Saturday which suggested that, “a Lib-Lab coalition, with a ‘Confidence and Supply’ […]

  17. RupertRead

    @scrapperduncan @PeterTatchell There could be a progressive rainbow coalition.Why not?: http://t.co/tbyAQFWd Tories have shafted LDs. #PRnow

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