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The Green Case Against Further Efforts To Bring About A 'Progressive Alliance'

03/07/2017 17:07 BST | Updated 03/07/2017 17:07 BST
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Now that there is a UK Government in place with a workable Commons majority, the Opposition Parties have to be realistic: the probability is that May's Government will last years, not months.

What now are the next moves forward for the UK's Opposition Parties?

There are two obvious options: Aim for a Labour majority at the next General Election, or aim for a 'progressive alliance' majority.

The former is probably unrealistic (the Conservatives are unlikely ever again to run such a catastrophic general election campaign as they ran last month) - but Labour will find it overwhelmingly tempting to try for it. Given that even in the desperate circumstances under which they laboured over the last two years Labour showed not the slightest scintilla of interest in a 'progressive alliance', with Jeremy Corbyn insisting arrogantly that the Labour Party itself 'is' the progressive alliance, the chances of the latter being achieved are now entirely negligible. Labour will beyond any reasonable doubt from now on remain its usual tribal self, and aim for power by itself.

The upshot?: neither option is likely to be achieved at the next General Election.

Under these circumstances, it is time to think again.

Especially for Greens - who had a horribly bruising experience of the attempted 'progressive alliance', at this election. For the concept of a 'progressive alliance' become well-known, and encouraged people to think that the Green Party was 'OK' with people voting Labour pretty much everywhere - while on the ground there was no actual progressive alliance at all, merely the Green Party standing down in a number of seats.

Furthermore, it is intolerable that Labour milked votes out of the progressive alliance concept, while steadfastly remaining opposed to electoral reform (ie. opposed to real democracy!). Never again must we accept 'lending' our votes to a party that does not believe in real electoral democracy, fair votes.

And crucially, the manifestos at this last election, despite the various ways in which the Labour manifesto was better than their offerings at previous general elections, still differ greatly on THE fundamental issue of our times: the ecological limits to the economy. I.e. The Green Party differs profoundly from Labour, because while Greens are post-growth, Labour want faster economic growth, which would be environmental disastrous. True, Corbyn's Labour have some good environmental policies. For example, their new-found opposition to fracking is much to be welcomed. But their unreconstructed insistence on "faster economic growth", a sentiment expressed repeatedly in their manifesto, undermines all of the good environmental stuff in that manifesto. Faster economic growth means faster environmental destruction. It's that simple. Net 'green growth' across the economy is a fantasy, nothing more; and in any case, that isn't even what Labour's manifesto promises. It speaks of an industrial strategy for growth across all sectors of the economy (i.e. 'Grey'/'brown' as well as 'green'). And of course Labour is committed to a whole raft of de facto anti-environmental policies: a road-building programme, HS2, expansion of Heathrow, nuclear weapons renewal, and so on and so forth.

Labour's environmental policies simply do not add up. A Labour administration with an outright majority, if it succeeded in its goal of faster growth, would speed us toward the climate cliff. So a Labour outright majority is not only an unrealistic goal; it is also an undesirable one.

Real environmental sustainability and renewal will never get a proper hearing from the Labour Party because it is at fundamental odds with Labour's underlying philosophy. The Labour Party is built upon the principle of increasing 'production' and sharing the proceeds (relatively) equitably among the wider society. While this goes some way towards addressing the dire inequality in within our society, it does nothing to address the catastrophic ecological collapses that we are marching relentlessly into, and so does nothing to treat our descendants equally, fairly, daringly, unrecklessly. I despair when I see Labour Party representatives (from Corbyn and McDonnell down) frequently argue that their policies should / will lead to faster economic growth. The ecological harms that are the inevitable consequences of faster economic growth are well documented, but despite this Labour is as bad as the Conservatives in placing increased growth at the heart of its pitch to voters. It does nothing whatsoever to question growthist hegemony, it just wants to share the proceeds of growth a bit differently. The Green Party is unique in its challenging of the assumption that more growth will benefit our society in the long run - for even if the proceeds of it are distributed fairly, we would still be complicit in the undermining of our own survival. Instead, our pitch is to share resources fairly, while maintaining levels of - a scale of - production compatible with continued human existence and flourishing.

For all these reasons, Greens should not be suckered into trying to form a 'progressive alliance' with Labour again. Greens should build up their/our vote again, win more seats - and then perhaps be part of a future confidence and supply arrangement that would force another Party such as Labour to do the decent thing at last: to change the voting system, and to start to transition our society toward a post-growth future. Before the atmosphere forces such a transition abruptly upon us...

[Thanks to Atus Mariqueo-Russell for essential help researching this article.]