The Lib Dems' Sarah Olney campaigning in Richmond this week. Credit: Josiah Mortimer
The Lib Dems’ Sarah Olney campaigning in Richmond this week. Credit: Josiah Mortimer

The Green Party will not be standing in the Richmond Park by-election, after members in Kingston voted to back the Liberal Democrat candidate instead on Thursday night.

The decision follows Richmond and Twickenham Greens’ decision the night before to stand aside for the Liberal Democrats’ Sarah Olney, in the hope she has a stronger chance of defeating incumbent Zac Goldsmith.

The constituency spans two local Green Party groups – meaning the final decision hinged on Kingston Green Party’s vote on Thursday evening.

The move followed talks over the past few days between senior Green Party figures – including the leadership – and the local parties, with Caroline Lucas MP and Jonathan Bartley supportive of the local members’ decision tonight.

Bright Green visited Richmond to discuss the Green Party’s decision with co-leader Caroline Lucas:

Lucas and Bartley made building progressive alliances a key plank of their leadership election platform this summer, with Jonathan Bartley welcoming the news:

“This is no normal by-election. A regressive alliance of the Tories and UKIP are working together to re-install a pro-brexit MP who just ran a racist campaign to be Mayor of London.

“The decision not to stand has been made because a majority of local party members believe that a win for a non-Conservative candidate would be a blow to the Tory’s hard brexit, and dent their damaging plans for post-referendum Britain.”

It will be seen as firing the starting gun for ‘progressive alliance’ talks with the Lib Dems for the next council elections and the General Election – both in London and elsewhere.

The influential left-wing think tank Compass had previously called for the Greens and Labour to stand aside in the constituency to give Sarah Olney the strongest chance of defeating Goldsmith – with the Lib Dems running on a clear anti-Brexit ticket.

Bright Green has seen the full statement sent to local members on Thursday night:

Dear all,

Kingston GP has agreed to stand down in the Richmond Park by-elex this evening.
I expect there will be some further discussion now around the process we go through in future, when arranging electoral alliances with local parties.

It continues:

Kingston Green Party continues to support the goal of a Progressive Alliance in 2020 to defeat the Conservatives and bring about a fairer voting system. We trust that the gesture of standing down in order to defeat Zac Goldsmith will build confidence in the possibility of a Progressive Alliance.

We welcome the fact that, in the last 24 hours, local Liberal Democrats have given a commitment to open discussions over possible alliances for local elections in 2018.

Kingston Green Party calls on Richmond Park Labour Party to follow suit in the hopes of defeating Zac Goldsmith and building towards the Progressive Alliance in 2020.

Following the by-election, we will continue campaigning to build a strong Green voice in the borough of Kingston and nationally.

Chair Richard Bennett called for Labour to ‘step up to the plate’ and join the Greens in standing down in the seat:

“Now it is down to the Labour Party to step up to the plate. Moments like this don’t come along very often – but they require the will of all parties involved to realise their potential. Let’s not waste this chance.

“We hope this approach breaks the mould of old adversarial politics and sets us on the way to a better democracy – as people from all parties have been calling for – with a more representative Parliament and Government.”

Jonathan Bartley added:

“Of course we have big policy differences with the Lib Dems – and I joined many others in marching against the coalition government – but they are simply the only chance we have at this moment to narrow the Conservative’s majority.

“I’d now urge Labour to join us in forming a progressive alliance against the forces of Conservatism and narrow-mindedness. Chances like this don’t come about very often – so let’s use this opportunity to kick back against the Tories.”

Kingston Green Party’s decision may be seen as a breakthrough for a progressive alliance in Britain.

Bright Green will be covering further developments about Richmond and progressive alliances over the coming weeks and months.