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Greens stand aside in 31 seats to stop Tory landslide

by Hugo Dixon and Rachel Franklin | 14.05.2017

If Theresa May fails to secure a landslide on June 8, the heroism of the Greens will deserve a big chunk of the credit. The party has stood down in 31 seats. This will make it easier either for candidates from rival parties to capture Conservative seats or defend themselves from a Tory attack. (See below for the two lists of seats being attacked and defended).

Sadly, the other main “progressive” parties haven’t played ball. No Labour candidate has stood down. This is despite the Greens standing down in 10 seats which Labour is defending against the Tories and seven where it is attacking them. Labour even expelled some of its activists for campaigning for the National Health Action candidate who is seeking to unseat Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, in South West Surrey.

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The Liberal Democrats are barely better. They have stood down in only two seats where the Greens are fighting the Tories – Brighton Pavilion, where Caroline Lucas, its co-leader, is standing – and Skipton and Ripon. The Greens, by contrast, are stepping aside in four seats where the Lib Dems are being pursued by the Conservatives and a further eight which they hope to win from the government.

The small Women’s Equality party did take some action. It is not putting up candidates in three seats where the Greens are facing off against the Tories – in return for the Green’s standing down in Shipley, where Sophie Walker, the Women’s Equality leader, is seeking to unseat a Conservative.

However, the failure of Labour and the Lib Dems to play ball means there are far fewer progressive alliances in this election than there could have been. Unsurprisingly, the Greens were reluctant to keep standing down when they were getting so little in return. In some cases, they also didn’t endorse another progressive candidate even when they stepped aside.

Progressive and pro-European aren’t quite the same

Being progressive and pro-European obviously aren’t the same thing. But there’s a huge overlap. Of the 19 Tory seats being challenged, only Twickenham is held by an MP who has publicly voted against parts of May’s Brexit policy since the referendum. And many pro-Europeans would still prefer the Lib Dem challenger, Vince Cable, to win against the incumbent Tania Mathias.

So, in general, progressive alliances have advanced the pro-European cause this election. Look at the Lib Dems. Not only will four seats already held by the party now be easier to defend; in three Lib Dem targets, the Greens got more votes in the last election than the size of the Tory majority. In other words, if the only thing that changed since 2015 was that Green voters moved en masse to the Lib Dems, the Tory candidate would be kicked out in Lewes and St Ives, as well as Twickenham.

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Similarly, Labour will now find it easier to win 10 seats such as Ealing Central and Acton, where the strongly pro-Remain Rupa Huq is defending a wafer-thin 274 majority. There’s also one Tory seat, Bury North, where the Greens got more votes than the size of the Tory majority. Labour’s chance of winning this has risen because the Liberal Democrat candidate is now urging activists to support the challenger to prevent the Tory being re-elected.

Indeed, the Lib Dem candidate’s endorsement in Bury North could be the next stage of pro-European and progressive politics. Even when candidates don’t step down, they can still decide not to fight their seats aggressively to avoid splitting the vote. Compass, the pressure group that has been campaigning for progressive alliances, is holding an event in London on Monday to advocate precisely such non-aggression pacts.

That said, divisions in both the pro-European camp and progressive politics have led to many missed opportunities. For example, the Green’s challenge against a Brexiter in the Isle of Wight seems set to fall flat because the party will have to fight off both Labour and the Lib Dems.

Equally, Clive Lewis, who quit the shadow cabinet after Jeremy Corbyn called on all Labour MPs to back Article 50, may now be vulnerable to the Tories because he will have to split pro-European votes with the Greens and Lib Dems. The fact that UKIP isn’t standing in his Norwich South constituency makes him particularly open to attack.

Kate Hoey, the ardently pro-Brexit Labour MP, also looks likely to be reelected as a result of a three-way split between pro-European parties in her Vauxhall seat. Here, too, UKIP isn’t standing. Indeed, its collapse as a party – it’s not contesting 247 seats – suggests that Britain’s pro-Brexit forces are better at joining forces than its pro-European ones.

Correction: the Liberal Democrats stood down in two seats, not one as originally written. The piece was updated on May 20 to reflect this.

8 Responses to “Greens stand aside in 31 seats to stop Tory landslide”

  • As a LibDem member I’m a bit depressed that we haven’t got more involved with this and stood down in areas where it could help other progressives win. Our future as a party has to be in co-operation with other parties – ultimately with Proportional Representation. If we can’t co-operate now then what exactly is our grand plan for the future?

  • Bob Seely is not the MP for the Isle of Wight – we currently do not have one as the last one, Andrew Turner, recently resigned.

  • Why no mention or list of Lib Dems standing down & recommending vote Green?That is what happened here in Skipton and Ripon where Andy Brown is standing for Greens with Lib Dem backing and asking all people of good will to vote Lib DRM in Harrogate

  • It’s a pity you don’t mention Derby North, where Labour’s Chris Williamson lost to the Conservative candidate by 41 votes in 2015, making it the second most marginal seat in the UK. The Derbyshire Green Party gained 1618 votes two years ago and decided not to field a candidate this time, but instead endorsed Williamson.

  • I hope this is not going to be another example of the anti European forces being better organised than the pro Europe, but it’s starting to look that way. I applaud the research done by InFacts to establish where all the candidates stand, but clearly alot is up to national parties , and how much they are prepared to make sacrifices for the national interest. A particular responsibility lies with Labour and the Lib Dems.
    The ‘progressive’ forces need to understand that so many of their other policies and plans are dependent on what sort of relationship we have with Europe, which will probably be fixed for many years to come.

  • The Greens also aren’t standing in Newcastle-under-Lyme where Labour are defending a 650 majority.

  • Your tables (and analysis) have missed out Skipton and Ripon, where the Lib Dems stood down in favour of the Greens, in exchange for the Greens standing down in nearby Harrogate and Knaresborough.