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
And here’s an account of how one Green Party branch came to their decision to withdraw, particularly interesting given that it concerns the candidate who the author of the article cites in their post:
New opportunities to make a Green vote count in Southwark
Uniting to Remain, Lib Dems step aside for the Green Party’s co-leader Jonathan Bartley in Dulwich & West Norwood, while Hannah Graham of the Green Party steps aside in Bermondsey & Old Southwark.
The co-leader of the Green Party, Jonathan Bartley, has been selected to fight the seat of Dulwich and West Norwood in South London at the general election. The other Remain parties, the Lib Dems and Change UK, will not contest the seat as part of the ‘Remain Alliance’ organised by Unite to Remain. Voters in this constiituency have the opportunity to make history and elect London’s first Green Party MP.
The constituency of Dulwich & West Norwood is shared between the boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth. Both boroughs had high votes for ‘Remain’ in the 2016 referendum, with Lambeth polling at 78% and Southwark at 73%.
In the recent European elections in Dulwich and West Norwood, Remain parties (Lib Dems, Change UK and the Greens) received 64% of the vote. Labour achieved 19%, the Brexit Party 10% and the Conservatives just 4%.
In Bermondsey & Old Southwark, the Green Party will not field a candidate in the upcoming General Election, as part of a national series of electoral arrangements with the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru.
This decision was not made lightly. Following a motion at the Green Party conference to enable national negotiations, and detailed local discussion, Green Party members in the constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark were balloted on their views. We deeply regret that voters in some constituencies, including this one, are being denied the chance to vote Green.
In this climate emergency, it is more crucial than ever for the country to have more Green MPs. But in a First Past The Post voting system, smaller parties lose out. Voters feel disenfranchised, unable to vote for their real first choice. That’s why we have always supported Fairer Votes, and a reform of the voting system.
A series of electoral arrangements has been made in a handful of constituencies across England and Wales to ensure the Remain vote is unified and to help elect more Green MPs in places like the Isle of Wight and Bristol West. We welcome the reciprocal action by the Liberal Democrats. This does not mean that the Green Party agrees with the Lib Dems on all issues or endorses their manifesto. A summary of the Green Party political programme can be found here.
Green Party candidate Hannah Graham is stepping aside in Bermondsey & Old Southwark. She said:
‘While I am very sorry not to be able to stand to represent people living in Bermondsey and Old Southwark, I believe this arrangement is the best way forward for local people. It shows that Greens are willing to work with other parties for the common good.
‘I will continue to support Greens in the general election campaign in Southwark. I will be heading over to Dulwich and West Norwood where Jonathan Bartley is standing. He’s a well-known spokesperson for the national party and a councillor in Lambeth. I will also be supporting incredible local activist Claire Sheppard who is standing as the Green Party candidate in Camberwell and Peckham.
‘I urge Green supporters from all over Southwark to support Jonathan and Claire. Have a look on greenparty.org.uk and southwarkgreenparty.org.uk to find out what’s happening near you, and follow @SouthwarkGP on Twitter and Facebook.’
Hannah Graham is also a candidate on the Green Party list for the London Assembly. This is an election conducted under a proportional voting system and voters across Southwark will be able to vote for Hannah to become a London Assembly member, joining existing Green Assembly Members Sian Berry and Caroline Russell, in May 2020.
we lost both the referendum to change the voting system in 2011 and the referendum to stay in EU in 2016. this has taken along time to sink in. maybe when the torys win the general election out right it will do.
thre is no point having an alliance with the libreals when the two issues we agree with them on are both lost causes.
i want the old green party back that did nt have a leader and wanted a change in process of politics rather than just winning its policy objectives.
I remember when Labour used to complain about us risking a Tory victory by splitting the left vote in Brighton.
As someone very much on the left of the Green Party, I fully support this tactical move. The top priority is to improve our chances under FPTP of getting strong 2nd places and possibly one more MP.
I have no problem with this move given FPTP. We are not endorsing LD policies in any shape or form. Assuming FPTP continues, if Greens gain strong second places in a small number of seats, this will be important in future elections. Tactically I think this is a very astute move, for me this is not primarily about Remain but how we play the brutal FPTP set up which means that even Green Party members will feel forced to vote Labour in some constituencies, as they have done in the past. Think of all of those people over the years we have spoken to who say they agree with us but won’t vote for us because we can’t win. We can now build a vote in a small number of constituencies which can undercut this argument. I suspect the large majority of members will be happy with this electoral pact. And if we have one more MP on Dec 13th, which still remains a really tough ask, will be very happy indeed. Even if it is ‘only’ two or three strong second places the worth of this tactic will have been proven. Let’s not forget that the Green Party remains easily the most radical and left wing party currently represented in Parliament. We have not compromised our vision and policies. We want that representation to grow further.
One of the reasons the Greens gained so many council seats in May 2018 was due to similar electoral pacts with both Labour and the LibDems – and indeed some very dubious ‘independent’ groups on local councils. And Labour Party members/supporters, the Green Party has over the years and in this election offered plenty in practical terms to the Labour Party by withdrawing in certain seats and will continue to do so I’m sure, whilst being clear we will never receive anything back – apart from a huge amount of goodwill from Labour members/supporters and the political and moral high ground. Fortunately increasing numbers of local Labour Parties are ignoring the leadership (a leadership which I will continue to defend from attacks by the right) and are willing to make electoral pacts at local level. This has led to the Tories losing control of councils where Labour and the Greens have stood down for each other. The attitude of the Labour leadership is best summed up by the example of Islington Council where the Greens have one councillor and Labour all the rest, over 50. In May 2018 which ward did Jeremy Corbyn choose to campaign in? You guessed it the ward that had one Green councillor. The Greens increased our vote and still have one councillor. It is clear that national Labour wishes to smash the Greens electorally.