The idea of a progressive alliance is dead. The Greens need a new strategy

Green support for the idea of a 'progressive alliance' at the last election was just a signal to vote Labour, argues Rupert Read.

Until recently, I was a big supporter of the ‘progressive alliance’ idea as a strategy for the Green Party.

I’ve written positively the potential of such an alliance on more than one occasion on this blog in the past. But I’ve fallen out with the idea.

Seeing Labour take hundreds of thousands of Green votes – while showing nothing but contempt for the notion of a progressive alliance (with Jeremy Corbyn ruling it out) – has brought it home to me that it was a false hope.

I want here to emphasise two reasons why the ‘progressive alliance’ concept is now useless and indeed dangerous for Greens:

1. Ever since the progressive alliance rhetoric became mainstream, Greens’ adherence to this political position essentially gives people a signal to vote Labour, not Green.

The Green Party, of course, has many ‘leftwing’ policies, and rightly so. For example, we have the strongest policies of any Party in this country on redistribution of wealth. However, for the Greens other political spectra are far more important than the vague, outdated, still-unfortunately-hegemonic Left vs Right spectrum.

If we accept an equation of Green with leftism, then we are sidelining the absolute centrality of ecology, and accepting the debate on Labour’s terms, on ‘Corbynite’ terms. This is catastrophic for the party. 

It’s what happened at the general election, across virtually the whole country. Voters felt that Greens were giving them permission to vote Labour in droves.

Greens must make clear to people that we are not mainly a ‘Left’ party: we are the one and only post-growth, pro-ecology, anti-nuke, pro-democracy (starting with proportional representation) party…

2. The idea of a ‘progressive alliance’ is dead in the water. Given our party’s results, we have no possibility of being a major player in any such alliance.

After the election, the Greens now have no constituency second places. None (in any seat where the major parties stand). That means that a progressive alliance cannot work electorally, for us. If we were to go in for it again, we would be simply engaging in a complete act of destructive self-sacrifice.

For we would then be allowing a situation in which there would be calls for us to stand aside everywhere (save for Brighton Pavillion, which now looks safe next time, even without a progressive alliance, and even given boundary changes). That’s not an electoral strategy.

We need instead to find a way forward that works for the Green Party, and thus that serves the interests and beliefs of our voters, as well as of those (future people, non-human animals) who are depending upon us to succeed.

For the Green Party, it is time to put aside the notion that Labour has any interest in transcending tribalism, or in real democracy. It is back to the hard slog of trying to get elected, by ourselves. The only way we ever actually succeeded, in the first place…

Rupert Read is an academic at UEA. He tweets here.

This piece is part of a conversation about the role of the Greens, a month after the election. Agree/disagree with this piece? Email [email protected]

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