Caroline Lucas: Why Labour and the Greens could benefit from co-operation

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The Independent Online

Some people say coalitions are undemocratic, and depend on backroom deals and unprincipled trade-offs. I say that the opposite is true. Coalitions can often be more honest and more transparent, than a party that tries to be all things to all people, and where the backroom deals include the kind of bribery, bullying and smears that characterise the current regime.

As part of the progressive left, we share many of the same values, including social justice, the strength that comes from collective responses to collective problems, and a genuine belief that power lies not with elites or special interests but with the people. So I believe we ought to work together. Not by merging our distinct identities into a popular front, but by accepting and respecting our differences as well as our common vision. Not so much a Big Tent, as a camp-site of smaller tents.

How can this be done? I want to outline three suggestions.

First, by accepting we all have a right to exist. I take no pleasure in seeing the Labour Party, which has achieved great things in the past, coming to its current position. Equally, I reject entirely the view that Greens should join Labour and try and reform it from within. The Greens bring distinctive policies, and a distinctive approach, to the table.

Second, we should continue to meet, and talk, and explore, where areas of agreement lie. Today should be only the start. And if we were putting together a list of where we can work together, I would start with democratic reform, curbing the influence of businesses and lobbyists on political decision-making, restoring our lost human rights, cancelling ID cards and the Trident replacement programme, proper controls on the arms trade, a fairer deal for developing countries.

Third, we need a political system that encourages this kind of co-operation. Asking for Proportional Representation isn't just special pleading – it's about encouraging political diversity and co-operation. That's why, as part of a raft of democratic reforms, alongside the next general election, we should have a referendum on Proportional Representation, which should be binding on any incoming government.

Taken from leader of the Green Party's speech to a Compass Conference at the weekend