A week ago today, Cambridge Green Party hosted an event to start a dialog on the formation of a ‘progressive alliance’. This is something that has been promoted again recently by Green MP and Green Party leader candidate Caroline Lucas, and is something that has been taken up by party as a whole. Similar events are being held by other local parties, and technical motions have been proposed for the autumn party congress to iron out the practicalities should this idea be pursued.
Our event in Cambridge was very well attended; the venue was filled with activists and councillors from Labour, Lib Dem and Greens, as well as people of no party affiliation – in some cases attending a ‘political’ meeting for the first time. There was even an ex-MP from Hungary who had real-world experience in serving in such a cross-party political alliance. The meeting was extremely positive, and even those, like myself, a little dubious about forging such an alliance, left the meeting with a real feeling of optimism for the first time since the brexit vote and its disastrous aftermath.
The only local ‘progressive’ group that wasn’t represented on the night was Momentum. They wanted to concentrate on Corbyn’s election campaign, they said.
Then today, in an interview given in Brighton, Corbyn ruled out such an alliance, stating that even in Brighton Pavilion, what is by definition the first Green Party safe seat held by Caroline Lucas, Labour would fight to unseat her.
Many in the Green Party have supported Corbyn, seeing him as the first opposition leader in a long time that we can actually work with. On countless occasions, whether it be at CND marches, Stop the War, People’s Assembly or other such protests, Lucas and Corbyn have literally stood side-by-side. They have often gone through the lobbies together, supporting each other’s parliamentary motions. It’s no secret that some Greens have defected to Labour to support a progressive, albeit socialist, platform.
It’s also well known that the Green Party vote share in certain parts of the country, Cambridge being one, was decimated due to what our canvassers termed ‘The Corbyn Effect’. A combination of his re-engagement with the disenfranchised Labour core and a sympathetic reaction against his vilification at the hands of the press served to swing a lot of our voters to Labour – even when the local party and MP do not support him.
So it would seem that Corbyn, buoyed by a groundswell of public support, has decided that he no longer needs the Greens – and instead he means nothing less than to wipe our party off the map. So instead of working with Labour, we’ll be standing once again to oppose them, this time fighting for the very existence of the party. We’ll have to lay aside all our common causes to emphasise our differences, why we are Green and not Red, and why people should vote for us and not Labour – or whatever it is called after the inevitable schism.
Perhaps we can still forge an alliance with the SNP and Plaid – and locally uniting with the Lib Dems to unseat Labour in favour of Julian Huppert (who in fact more closely supports Green policies than the current Labour incumbent) may still be an option. But from this point forward a ‘labour’ party with Corbyn at its head no longer looks favourable for the pursuance of progressive, sustainable Green politics in England.