For years Stroud District Council has been led by a cooperative alliance of the Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat parties – a ‘rainbow alliance’ (below).
Last May. Gloucestershire County Council’s agenda and minutes post recorded that Cllr Lesley Williams and Cllr Rachel Smith advised that the Labour and Green members had formed a political group called the Labour and Green Cooperative Alliance. They explained that under the arrangement the Labour and Green members would work cooperatively but would continue to look at issues on an individual basis.
Professor John Curtice summarised the electoral maths: almost half the nation voted for broadly progressive parties in 2015 (49% backed Labour, the LibDems, Greens, SNP or Plaid Cymru, while 51% chose the Tories or Ukip). He considers the impact of a coalition with even one ‘minor party’.
Labour MP Clive Lewis and Green MP Caroline Lucas noted that in the 2017 general election more than 40 local alliances were formed, where almost exclusively Greens put the national interest before that of their party.
It had a huge impact on the vote – more than doubling the average swing away from the Tories.
They pointed out the challenges we face:
- markets that are too free
- a state that can be too remote,
- a democracy that still leaves so many voices unheard
- and climate change on a scale our people and our planet simply can’t cope with.
Continuing: “It will take a politics that is social, liberal and green to overcome these challenges. No single party or movement has all the answers. We are going to have to learn to cooperate as well as compete to build the society of which we dream. And we are going to have to recognise that the future is not a two-party system but one in which smaller parties grow – both in influence and in their electoral representation”.
They point out that the millions of young people who voted live in a world of social media in which their identities and allegiances are permanently in flux. They like and they share. They flock to one idea, group or party and then another. A politics that is purposeful but also responsive, open and collaborative is needed.
The case for an alliance between ‘progressive’ parties, has been described by Simon Jenkins (above right) as unanswerable:
“In 2015, 49% of voters went for broadly progressive parties, including Labour, the Lib Dems and nationalists. But at elections they fight each other as rivals. As a result, 40 to 50 seats that might have gone to a single left-wing candidate went Tory.
Then, as now, Westminster tribalism won. Machismo required Labour “to contest every seat in the land”. That is apparently more important than denying the Tories a strong majority – let alone winning elections.
MPs Lewis and Lucas end:
“We are from different parties and different political traditions – and we celebrate that because, while we share so much, we can learn much more from each other. If we work together there is nothing progressives can’t achieve.
“The limits of the old politics are there for everyone to see – the limitlessness of the new we are just starting to explore.
People on the mailing list of this website are drawn from many areas of Britain and visitors come from several countries (opposite: eleven in May), the overwhelming majority from America.
British readers, expats and other well-informed readers are asked to send, via comments, any other examples of an effective co-operative alliance within councils and parliaments.
In July Peter Hitchens wrote: “Globalisation hasn’t worked but our elite have not yet been held to account”. As he said, the EU referendum result was a heartfelt protest, but is Brexit likely to enhance the lives of those who made that protest? He continued:
“There is nothing good (or conservative) about low wages, insecure jobs and a mad housing market which offers nothing but cramped rooms and high rents to young families just when they need space, proper houses with gardens, and security”.
But people are re-engaging with politics
Hundreds of thousands have joined Labour. Tens of thousands have joined the SNP, Greens, Tories and, since the EU referendum, the Lib Dems – and this, in an age when we have been told that people no longer want to get involved in politics. The growing adherence to Sanders, Corbyn, the SNP and radical parties in Greece, Spain, Italy and Iceland suggest that the existing order is being challenged and new hope is emerging.
In a different article Hitchens said: “If (like me) you have attended any of Mr Corbyn’s overflowing campaign meetings, you will have seen the hunger – among the under-30s and the over-50s especially – for principled, grown-up politics instead of public relations pap. Millions are weary of being smarmed and lied to by people who actually are not that competent or impressive, and who have been picked because they look good on TV rather than because they have ideas or character”.
Is it just a matter of time before parties regroup?
Some Conservative and Labour voters are moving to UKIP, some to the Liberal Democrats – and others are listening to calls for a cross-party progressive alliance.
In July there was a “Post-Brexit Alliance” meeting with speakers including the Liberal Democrat’s Vince Cable, the SNP’s Tommy Sheppard, Labour MP Clive Lewis, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Amina Gichinga from Take Back the City and the Guardian’s John Harris. This month, a statement calling for progressive parties to work together for electoral reform was published; it is signed by Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru, Steven Agnew, Leader of the Green Party of Northern Ireland, Patrick Harvie, Co-convener of the Scottish Green Party and Alice Hooker-Stroud, Leader of the Wales Green Party.
‘Principled, grown-up politics’ indeed.
Llansantffraed Community Councillor Harry Hayfield’s personal experience has led him to realise that whilst there are differences between what is happening to the NHS in England and the NHS in Wales they share a common problem – underfunding – which leads to cuts in service. Cllr Hayfield says:
I have been a Liberal Democrat for the past twenty four years, however last March a chain of events started that has persuaded me it is time to change.
But what I was not aware of was just how painful the condition was. She was forced into a position where her only option was to have private treatment.
Although the operation was a success she was discharged without being completely tested for after effects. That treatment was to lead to complications which meant she was admitted as a patient to the NHS, after all.
The NHS is obliged to provide emergency treatment but its underfunding is restricting its ability to provide a timely service to the public. It is clear to me that a market for the private sector is being opened up.
“I was elected as a Liberal Democrat community councillor in Ceredigion but worry that, because the money for the NHS comes from Westminster, the Welsh service is in desperate need of help that the Assembly has little control over.
“Having seen that it’s the NHS which picks up the pieces after private healthcare has made its profits, I am concerned that there is no clear political voice spelling out what the real issues are. I have therefore made a personal decision to join the National Health Action Party in order to campaign for people, like my grandmother, to get the care and treatment that they deserve.”
Dr Clive Peedell the NHA party leader (above) said, “We are delighted by Cllr Hayfield’s decision. We do not want to see the NHS in Wales – or in Scotland – following the same route as in England. We were very disappointed to hear Leanne Woods talking before the Welsh Assembly elections about creating lean organisations, bringing in the private sector and tightening up the public sector. This sounds worryingly like the language of someone who has accepted George Osborne’s austerity agenda.
Progressive politics recognises the importance of a clear distinction between public service and private business. Investing in the NHS as a public service brings rewards to the greater economy, it is not a drain. Cllr Hayfield wants to use his change of party to highlight that distinction, to make people realise that better services cannot be provided under a constant regime of cuts and change. The NHS in all the UK’s countries needs stability, public provision and decent funding.
Cllr Hayfield also has a personal reason for wanting to be part of NHA. He grew up in the area served by Dr. Richard Taylor, who co-founded the NHA with me and is now its life president. Dr Taylor was the MP for Wyre Forest, and was elected twice as an independent candidate fighting for an NHS that was fit for purpose. The National Health Action Party welcomes Cllr Hayfield as part of that campaign.”
Cllr Hayfield will be making a public statement, which we support, about his change of party. If there are 10 people from his electoral area who object to his change of party then he will stand down and campaign for his community council place under his new colours. We hope his local electorate will understand and respect his reasons for change and allow him to help the NHA to highlight the danger our NHS faces from underfunding and privatisation.
An audit report about NHS waiting times in Wales: http://www.audit.wales/system/files/publications/nhs_waiting_times_technical_report_english.pdf