Since Theresa May’s shock call for a snap election last month, much has been made of the potential for an electoral progressive alliance on the left. Although the idea has been rubbished by both the Labour and Lib Dem leaderships, the concept is already going into action at a local level, with the Greens standing aside in places like Richmond Park and Twickenham, and Labour activists in South West Surrey choosing to collaborate with the Greens and Lib Dems to back a candidate from the National Health Action party, in an attempt to unseat Jeremy Hunt.
These actions are clearly in response to the dire situation faced by all centre-left and left wing parties going into this election. Whereas Labour’s plight in the polls has been apparent for a while now, the Lib Dems will have been disappointed with their results in the local elections last week, with their projections for the General Election now scaled back to merely doubling their seats to 18.
Whilst the advantages of an electoral alliance for the Greens, the party most enthusiastic about the concept, are plain to see, the focus of many Green Party activists in standing aside for Labour and Lib Dem candidates will not be along narrow-minded party interests, but on the national interest and the very future of progressive politics in the UK.
With so much now at stake; a bad Brexit deal, a full return of grammar schools, and a continued neglect of Britain’s responsibilities to refugees, advocates of the concept such as Neal Lawson argue: ‘why would Labour stand against Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion and once again leave Brighton Kemptown open to the Tories?’ ‘Why would Labour stand in Richmond Park against the Liberal Democrats, where they can’t win, and bring on defeat in next door Brentford and Isleworth?’
Opponents of the concept are right to highlight the ideological differences between the parties of the left, and it is true that, in normal times, the Labour Party and Lib Dems should be standing as national parties, campaigning hard on their values right across the country. But these are not normal times and this will be anything but a normal election.
If Theresa May has indeed called this election to ‘Crush the Saboteurs’, progressives could face a fully-fledged political disaster in June. With an increasingly right wing Conservative Party likely to row back on a range of social and economic values to which most progressives will hold dear, for all who identify as in any way progressive, a ‘progressive alliance’ should not only be desirable; it should be recognised as a necessity for survival.