Jay M assess what this means for the left:
The Green Party has elected new co-leaders Jonathan Bartley and Caroline Lucas at its Autumn Conference. The major theme of their leadership campaign was to work with other parties to defeat the Tories in the next election with the idea banded as a Progressive Alliance still in its infancy.
They were elected with an overwhelming majority of 86% although some members in the Greens resented the cherry-picking of Bartley an openly Christian former campaigner for John Major coinciding with the inevitable coronation of Lucas, the Greens only Westminster politician.
The narrative of the Progressive Alliance comes from the cross-party co-operation of progressives together in EU-referendum campaign Another Europe Is Possible alongside the failure of the current electoral system to form a progressive government certainly since before the ConDem coalition in 2010 and arguably since the neoliberal projects of Thatcher and Blair. The Tories were last elected on a minority vote granting them a majority government not reflecting the will of the population.
Although there is no clear idea of what form this Progressive Alliance would take it is thought to include electoral pacts of various forms with centre-left parties from Lib Dems to Labour and the nationalists SNP and Plaid Cymru. The SNP to their credit have expressed lip service support to the idea despite them benefitting enormously from the current electoral system.
In the panel session on Progressive Alliance, Lucas said that this would not be a top-down approach but would be part of a grassroots social movement calling for an end to austerity, a positive progressive outcome from the terms of Brexit and a push for fairer more representative democracy.
I personally liked the idea of this electoral pact particularly when the UK was facing the prospect of Miliband’s hapless Diet Austerity mainly because the Greens and SNP were adopting some of the radical politics necessary to oppose the Tories and global financial elite. I had hoped that electoral pact would drag Labour back to the left to achieve a decent opposition and secure an overall win. Since the rise of Corbyn and attempted coups of the Blairites I wonder if this reasoning is still valid?
The alliance has been proposed as a one-off system to end Tory-driven austerity and transform the outdated electoral system to direct Proportional Representation. Based on the last vote share the “Progressives” would lose on 47.5% versus “Anti-Progressives” (UKIP and Tories) 49.5%. A lot has changed since the last election and it is not yet known how the rise of Corbyn and Labour’s Left, coupled with the fallout from Brexit charade and deceit, will affect the overall balance.
Local parties would be given autonomy to negotiate the Progressive Alliance as they see fit which does not fill me with much optimism that anything will be achieved. Co-panellist Labour MP Lisa Nandy is supportive of the idea of co-operation between parties but refused to endorse Labour standing down in any wards. For the Progressive Alliance to actually work some negotiation, give and take will have to take place and it was suggested the pact could hold open or closed primaries to select the best progressive candidates.
What are Socialists to make of all this? Defeating Tories where possible is the main objective. It is an opportunity to stop the squabbling of Westminster and create a formidable opposition in the uncertain world post-Brexit. It could be an opportunity to push the eco-socialist agenda, purging out all the undesirable aspects from each party and form a Nordic Red-Green Alliance in Britain and Ireland.
If played well, I think the gamble would pay off it could be the start of a much broader social movement against the old style of politics. A move to Proportional Representation could allow a split of PLP without entirely destroying the Labour movement. Furthermore it could allow an increased resurgence of the Left where many independent Marxist and Ecological parties become viable alternatives in direct democracy.