Why no Progressive Alliance

31 May 2017

This is a letter sent to the Salisbury Journal on May 13th.


Dick Bellringer is stating the obvious when he notes that, "Now is the time for a Progressive Alliance in Salisbury!" (Postbag, May 11th), but he does the truth a disservice when he lumps the Greens in with his own Labour Party and the Lib Dems as those whose "tribal politics" have frustrated the process so far.

In fact, it has been the Green Party's Co-Leader Caroline Lucas who has led the calls for such alliances since the last general election, and it has been local Green Parties up and down the land, including here in Salisbury, who have been endeavouring to create them - only to meet with a brick wall of tribal immobility from Labour and Lib Dems alike.

An agreement in regard to Salisbury City Council should have been relatively easy to achieve. With three city seats available in each of seven out of the eight wards, the three parties needed only to agree to put up one candidate each to maximise the chances of beating the Tories and produce a democratically mixed council, instead of the single party rule which is to be our lot for the next four years. Unfortunately, the Green Party's polite approaches were met by both Labour and Lib Dems with the suggestion that we talk after the local elections (and now further put back until after the general election).

As regards the bigger prize of a single Progressive Alliance candidate to take on the Tories on June 8th, while the Salisbury Green Party gave near-unanimous backing to a resolution calling for discussion with the other parties, there was never any real prospect of that occurring, and our polite invitation to discuss the matter was turned down, with Labour fearful that if they even contemplated such a thing, their local party would be suspended and a candidate imposed by their National Executive, while the Lib Dems are seemingly so immersed in their fantasy of a magical revival that they could think of no other possibility than that of everyone else agreeing to stand down for them, despite their poor fourth place last time round. So, for the time being, as in every general election for over 80 years, the people of Salisbury are once again left with no real prospect of changing the outcome in terms of seats in Westminster.

While both Labour and the Lib Dems cling to the belief that only they can beat the Tories, the truth is that neither of them can. As Caroline Lucas commented this week, "The old politics is dead and its Leaders are stuck in the past." We have to move forward to a new kind of multi-party politics, based on fair proportional representation at all levels, but a radical new approach is needed to get there. Not splitting the vote in council seats could be one step on the way, but the biggest step would be for Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems to agree to hold an Open Primary before the next general election so that the people can decide on a single Progressive candidate to oppose the Conservatives. It is not the Greens, but rather the intransigence of the other old parties which is holding us back.

Brig Oubridge,
Green Party parliamentary candidate for Salisbury