6 October 2017
In some ways, the Green Party’s success in the 2017 general election was also its failure. Greens spearheaded the argument for progressive alliances, playing a vital part in planting the idea in the public imagination. The Party set aside tribalism in favour of a mature and pragmatic approach to getting the Tories out, while at the same time highlighting the manifold failures of First-Past-The-Post. Our reward? The loss of a large chunk of our vote share.
When Theresa May lost her majority, it was seen as Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. I can only hope that in time the crucial role of the Greens in the shock election result will be recognised. Although I was in favour of progressive alliances as a way of making the best of a deeply flawed electoral system, it hurts to see the harm it has done to a Green vote that was surging back in 2015. The idea of the progressive alliance had taken such a strong grip that even in Bristol West, a rare progressive marginal, Green supporters I spoke to on the doorstep felt that they had to get behind Labour.
With the election over, the Green Party needs to focus once again on what makes it distinctive and resist being bundled up with other ‘progressive’ parties. First and foremost, as Reece has already argued in his blog, we need to continue campaigning hard against the First-Past-The-Post system that squeezed our vote share in this latest election. It’s broken, undemocratic, and reinforces apathy among voters. When so many votes are wasted, it’s not hard to see why some people might not bother at all.
We also need to keep green issues on the political agenda. Climate change all but disappeared from the public conversation during the last election campaign and environmental challenges that need to be attended to urgently continue to be treated with staggering complacency by those in power. It’s been important to establish that the Green Party is not just an environmental group, but we need to keep shouting about green policies at the same time as we push our ideas on the economy, health and education. As I write this, Hurricane Irma continues its trail of destruction – just the latest reminder of the damage climate change is already causing and the desperate need to curb further global warming.
And while we may still have just one MP, let’s celebrate what we can achieve and what we have achieved from within the House of Commons, as well as campaigning for more representation in Parliament. Let’s also shout about the successes of our Green councillors and make it clear what the Party can do locally. Our focus needs to be on making change at all levels.
Finally, I might venture a bit of wild optimism by suggesting that universal basic income is an idea that seems to be having its moment. This is in no small part due to the Green Party’s championing of the policy as part of its drive for a sustainable and collaborative economy. While reaching across partisan divides can be important, especially in times of challenge and crisis, we should take ownership of this policy and continue to lead on it. One of the Green Party’s promises – and one of the main reasons that I joined – is to do politics differently. Now, more than ever, we need to demonstrate that we’re not just part of some hazily defined progressive grouping. We need to show how we’re different.