Unite To Remain will do more harm than good
I am writing this article as I get ready to contest a seat for a party I truly care about. I have been a Green member for the best part of 5 years and have stood in several elections for them at various levels. While in principle, cross party and a more grown up approach to politics is desperately needed, this pact is not the way to go about it.
For a start the seats that have been selected seem to raise more questions than answers, and no more so than in Exeter. I was not party to the discussions around the allocating of these 60 seats, but here this pact seems to only really help the Conservatives against a prominent Labour Remainer. It’s not so much that the Greens are not in a better position to win the seat from the incumbent than the Lib Dems, but that this seat has been selected for this pact in the first place. This is highlighted by us standing aside for former Tories who have helped wreak misery against the most vulnerable of our society, while running against people like Ben Bradshaw who has voted far more in line with Green values than a lot of the other candidates we are standing aside for.
Whether the semantics of selection interest you or not, we cannot escape the fact that we have massive, and very fundamental differences. The day before the pact was announced CND criticised Jo Swinson for her comments around the use of nuclear weapons. Many Greens like me were rightly appalled by her comments. Anybody willing to use nuclear weapons is not fit to represent this country at any level. The thought of working with a party led by this kind of person makes me feel deeply uncomfortable, and no doubt that is a feeling shared by many members like me.
This is not the only policy area that the parties disagree on. We have a radical agenda of nationalisation of our services that the Lib Dems do not share. They are pro big business and would not be supportive of our economic reforms. Fundamentally they still subscribe to the theory that endless growth is necessary. They have been in favour of trident consistently and are not in favour of the Greens education reforms such as abolishing Ofsted.
With Labours shift to the left, as well as the Greens doing the same. The Lib Dems have unquestionably shifted to the right. Jo Swinsons voting record during the coalition years would not look out of place in the conservative cabinet. This isn’t the kind of person I planned to be working with when I’d joined the Green Party.
There is no question that the pact has been met with a lot of backlash within the party. Nothing summed up this attitude more than our now former Bermondsey candidate Hannah Graham’s tweet – “f**k the Lib Dems”, this was in response to Swinson’s nuclear comments. And then Graham had to stand down for a Lib Dem less than 24 hours later.
This for me very much summed up the mood I saw in various Facebook groups after the announcement. Our ideological bedfellows are not the Lib Dems. A people’s vote – sure. Electoral reform absolutely. But that is where it ends.
The simple truth is this, the pact does not benefit the Greens enough to justify the soul we will lose, working with a party that for all intents and purposes has lost its own. Vast swathes of the electorate will not forgive us if this pact lets the Tories win seats. If this happens there will be a lot of soul searching going on, with radical change needed in how our party works with others. With the greatest respect to our leaders, this is a decision that I think will come back to haunt us.
We made a big deal saying this election was about “More than Brexit”, this pact to me shows that we have been suckered into making this a Brexit election. The 2019 election will go down as the “Climate Election” that should have been.
Benjamin Smith is the Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Runnymede and Weybridge