Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Progressive Majority Government: what should the Green MP do?

Nick Clegg has rightly rejected the Tories because of their intransigence over democratic reform of the voting system.

The second option is a Progressive Majority or Rainbow Government, formed of Labour, LibDems and 8 others. Is a problem. They can find their 8 from the SDLP of Northern Ireland (3 MPs), Plaid Cymru (3) and the SVP (6). The obvious other possibility is Caroline Lucas, our Green MP.

Should Caroline join a Progressive Coalition? It's a tough choice, and touch choices are what real politics is about.

In favour of joining is the fact that the alternative is a minority Tory Government. Which concentrates the mind wonderfully.

Against joining is that for the Greens to be catapulted straight into Government is a bit of a jump. Caroline has a decade of experience as an MEP, but the problem of being locked into a coalition is that you are bound to the Government line, and there are bound to be many decisions that will not be aligned to the green view. Our Irish Green sister party, Comhaontas Glas, has suffered greatly from dirty actions (notably in running a motorway through Tara) that they have been forced to take as a result in participating in a coalition with Fianna Fail. Admittedly, Fianna Fail is a conservative party, which makes for more difficulty, but the damage to credibility of the Irish Greens has been severe.

Absorption into Government would stifle the ability of Caroline to voice the unique Green point of view, its critique of conventional politics and its firm commitment to ecological economics. But on the other hand, it would bring that voice into the heart of Government.

What a dilemma. Do we just seek to luxuriate in being the voice of opposition? Are we forever the virgin thinkers, afraid to soil our hands on getting to pull at least one of the rusty levers of power?

Much depends on what the Progressive Majority actually means.
Caroline could do well by getting the various political minds focused on the definition of progressive, and the mission of this government. Otherwise it will be overwhelmed by the nuts and bolts of keeping itself together.

A progressive government in 2010, if it means anything, must aim to bring about :
  • Decarbonisation of our energy use
  • Greater Equality, by reducing the RPG
  • Financial stability, cutting the deficit without cutting core public services. 
  • Political reform, starting with abolition of the useless FPTP method
 That much is pretty clear. And there should be broad agreement on those aims among all the potential coalition parties. To be part of such a coalition, helping to bring it about  would be an exciting and tempting prospect. But dangerous. As ever, the devil is in the detail, and as a single, relatively inexperienced MP, Caroline could be at risk of being captured, bound, and silenced by unscrupulous and case hardened Labour and Lib Dem politicians.

The alternative to being part of a coalition is, as Rupert Read suggests, for Caroline to relate to a Progressive Majority Government on a "Confidence and Support" basis. Which would mean being free to criticise and comment on the Government's actions, but pledging to support it in a vote of no-confidence, and to support its budget proposals.  This resolves the dilemma between being clapped in irons as a part of government, or of implicitly bringing about a dreaded Tory regime, with its threat of double dip recession, rule by the rich for the rich, and continuation of a broken political system.

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