When I stood aside in the by-election in November 2016, caused by Zac Goldsmith resigning over Heathrow, little did I know I would do the same again just six months later, or indeed three years later. And for the same reason – Brexit!
The last three-and-a-half-years since the advisory referendum on leaving the EU has trained a magnifying glass on the state of our country. The poor quality of our political leaders, the deadlock in parliament over the best way forward, the sheer amount of money wasted trying to make Brexit work and the complete lack of proper governing since June 2016 has left many of us in despair.
Recently, I re-read my reasons for standing aside in November 2016; and I could just as easily be writing them today. However, one thing has changed, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru have listened to my plea: “I call on other parties across the country to follow our example and create progressive alliances across the country so that the day after the next General Election we don’t wake up still in Tory Land.”
Plus, while the situation at a national level is stuck in groundhog day, at a local level our negotiations with the Lib Dems resulted in four Green Councillors being elected in May 2018. Since then we have successfully pushed Richmond Council to declare a Climate Emergency, bring in a borough-wide 20mph speed limit and become an accredited London Living Wage payer. Greens make a difference.
This is why I believe in progressive alliances, as I wrote here, but it took the Conservatives winning again in 2017 for other parties to come to the table for this General Election. Under the Unite to Remain banner, the leaders of the Greens, Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru have negotiated an agreement in 60 constituencies. In these seats local parties are standing aside to give voters just one ‘Remain’ candidate to mark their cross next to.
Finally, the other parties have recognised the power of collaboration and made the sacrifices necessary to try and ensure a ‘Remain’ majority is elected on 12 December that will put an end to Brexit. I’m also hoping this electoral agreement will result in more Green MPs elected and that after Brexit is consigned to history, (never to be spoken of again), this progressive parliament will urgently tackle the climate emergency, invest in public services and bring in Proportional Representation.
I can but dream. Yet it is this dream that forces me to align our party with the Lib Dems, when many people still blame them for propping up the Conservative government of 2010-2015. But, I also recall the bonfire of environmental protections and investment that happened when Cameron no longer relied on Lib Dem support in government. Further, my experience of working with them on Richmond Council tells me that many of them are not mere ‘yellow Tories’. A Conservative government bent on a hard Brexit has to be stopped. I make no apologies for trying to make this a reality.
Lastly, given the Brexit Party announcement that they will not stand in 317 seats to enable Conservative candidates to win more easily, I am even more convinced that my decision – voted for by Richmond, Twickenham and Kingston Green Party members – to stand aside in Richmond Park is the right one. I believe that people across the country are inspired by the parties cooperating in Unite To Remain to address the crises facing our country.