Defending against Progressive Alliance

Molly Scott Cato, External Communications Coordinator, and Brian Candeland, Elections Coordinator, on the upcoming conference motion that aims to protect the Party from Labour’s ‘progressive alliance’ tactics.

Autumn Conference 2023
Autumn Conference 2023
Molly Scott Cato and Brian Candeland

The Green Party of England and Wales needs a very strong showing at the next General Election and that means we need a nationally agreed strategy. Labour has outright rejected our approaches to cooperate in the last three General Elections, and Keir Starmer’s lurch to the centre-right makes working together more unlikely than ever. In light of this, the party’s general election steering group is bringing a motion to conference that will allow us to have a conference-agreed approach to the General Election and to protect against the pressure that is already coming on us not to stand in the general election. This has become such a routine tactic by Labour that many of you may no longer be shocked by it. But one party trying to invalidate the right of a competitor party to take part in democratic elections? Really? Can that possibly have any place in our democracy? We think the answer is no and our motion is designed to protect against this anti-democratic attack from Labour, who will do whatever they can to protect the two-party status quo that is so damaging to our political system.

The Green Party has always been committed to electoral cooperation. At the last general election, we joined the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru in a nationally negotiated agreement for strategic, reciprocal stand-asides. Had Labour engaged in this we could have avoided both Brexit and these five appalling years of far-right government. But Labour placed the interests of their party above the interests of the country – insisting on standing in every seat. So much for Labour’s stated commitment to ‘get the Tories out’. I have previously described how, far from engaging in cooperation, Labour turned the Progressive Alliance into a weapon to crush the Green Party by pressuring local parties and candidates not to stand. Our motion to conference aims to protect our local parties against this overwhelming pressure. 

You may think that nobody will notice your quiet local decision not to stand a candidate in a part of the country where the journalists never venture. But you would be wrong. Every time a local party makes the decision not to stand, Labour weaponizes that decision and uses it against Green candidates in other constituencies. They say this is on the basis of ‘not splitting the vote’ but this is a lie. Their purpose is to eradicate us and our message without having to contest with us. By pressurising us out of the democratic arena they don’t have to deal with the rising discontent with their strategic choice to abandon their historic vision and merely ape the Tories. Reversing commitments to end the obscene Rwanda policy, to abolish the two-child cap on benefits, and so on and so on is alienating many voters from Labour. Labour wants to remove those voters’ right to make a fairer, greener choice by removing the Green candidate in as many national seats as they can.

Every time you back down from standing in your local constituency you help Labour crush the Green Party and prop up the crumbling two-party system where they are happy to take turns with the Tories.

Not having a nationally agreed approach for General Elections in the past has enabled Labour to pick off one local party at a time. This time, as no other party wants to work on any electoral arrangement with the Greens, we think the only option is to seek to stand everywhere. Our local parties are isolated in the face of Labour intimidation, while attempts to negotiate with them locally are always met with the misleading suggestion that the Labour Party constitution requires them to stand in every seat. This is not strictly true, but it is true that if local parties do not select candidates, then the national party can impose candidates. It is this that leaves us peculiarly vulnerable and that we are trying to address in our motion to conference.

Our motion creates a route for the national party to ensure that members and voters in all constituencies have a right to vote Green, even if their local party has not gone through a candidate selection process. It would enable the General Election Steering Group (a sub-committee of GPEx) to consider whether it would wish to run the ballot for a given constituency itself. The decision about who the candidate would be would rest with the local members as always. But given the principle to go into an alliance has been a conference decision in the past, we feel that a conference decision to stand everywhere (with the potential for exceptions) should be a conference decision too. This motion simply provides the constitutional mechanism to deliver on not forming an alliance and standing everywhere this time.  

This motion protects our Party by supporting local members to select their Green Candidates in the face of huge pressure from Labour. The opportunity is great: the biggest ever Green vote, more Greens in Parliament, more media coverage, and every voter in England and Wales having the opportunity to demand a greener, fairer world.