Green Party co-leader argues the Greens played a key role in denying Theresa May a majority and helped delay government fracking and aviation expansion plans
The Green Party may have seen its vote share dip at last month’s election, but did it still manage to play a crucial role in denying Theresa May a majority?
That is certainly the view of the Party’s co-leader who reckons the decision by local party members not to field a candidates in 22 marginal seats had a major impact on the eventual outcome.
“The Greens – it is pretty clear to me – made the difference by standing aside in 22 seats at the general election and brought about the hung parliament,” he told BusinessGreen. “If we hadn’t stood aside in those 22 seats I don’t think we would have a hung parliament now.”
“What has that meant?” he continued. “It meant in the Queen’s Speech there was nothing to expand Heathrow, it means the dementia tax has been dropped, there was nothing on fox hunting, there was nothing on fracking. Those 22 parties, they made the decision, but they have changed the agenda of British politics quite profoundly.”
The Conservatives ended up eight seats short of a majority with Labour performing better than expected in a host of key marginals.
Bartley acknowledged it was difficult to quantify the precise impact of the Greens’ decision to stand aside in a number of seats, admitting that “you never know what would have happened” if the Party had decided to contest the seats.
But he argued that had Labour and the Lib Dems been willing to pursue proposals for a Progressive Alliance then the result could have delivered an even bigger shock to pollsters.
“This was the opportunity for other parties to be less tribal and work with us,” he said. “Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron did not come to talk to us. If they had, we might well have seen Jeremy Corbyn sitting in Number 10 now.”
Asked if that would have been a good result, he replied, “your readers can discuss that.”
Bartley expressed scepticism that a formal Progressive Alliance would materialise in the next few years, but reiterated that the Greens remained open to talking to other parties.
“They don’t want to talk about it, so that route to electoral reform – which is what it was always about; it was not about minimising a Conservative majority, it was always about getting a route to an electoral reform – seems dead in the water,” he said. “But our door is open. They know where we stand and we are happy to talk.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Bartley also details how the Greens were adopting a fresh approach to the business community and were positioning themselves as “the Party of small business”.
“I think no other party is standing up for small business right now,” he said. “I really believe the Green Party is the party of small business, from wanting to give a business rate cut to small businesses that pay the living wage to wanting a different form of corporation tax so it is lower tax for small businesses and more tax for big business.”
However, he added that the Party would continue to call on large businesses to pay more in tax and step up efforts to cut their environmental impacts.
“We are still unequivocal that if you are a big business and you are benefitting from graduates then you should be paying more for their education and therefore we need a business education tax or higher corporation tax in order to pay for tuition fees and restore education maintenance allowance,” he said. “Politicians tend to lump all business together and say they are pro- or anti- business. But we know the picture is much more mixed. We want to be supporting the little guy and also new forms of social enterprise.”
As an example, he called on the government to step up support for community energy projects that can deliver multiple environmental, social, and economic benefits.
“Where I am in Brixton there is a wonderful community energy project,” he said. “We’ve got an era of ultra-low interest rates, no one has anywhere to put their money. In Brixton you can put your money into a community energy project, you get a five per cent return and the money goes to fund solar panels, creating jobs and clean energy in the local community.
“The clean energy goes to a local housing estate to help bring down bills and any profits go back in to a social enterprise which provides insulation and tackles fuel poverty. It’s a great model where everybody is winning. You’ve got clean energy, good jobs, tackling fuel poverty, and getting a return on investment. Why are we not rolling that out across the country?”