The Tories won in a divided nation – but they won’t get far if progressives join forces

We can’t afford to let the Conservatives leave this country exposed to years of continuing austerity and indifference to the suffering it has caused. Now is the time to regroup and rebuild, argues Caroline Lucas

Friday 13 December 2019 12:37
Boris Johnson to Labour voters: ‘We will never take your support for granted’
Boris Johnson to Labour voters: ‘We will never take your support for granted’

What does the future hold for our democracy when truth has no meaning?

We now have a prime minister who has spent his previous months in office, and much of the election campaign, saying things which are directly contradicted by reality. And these claims are delivered with no sense of embarrassment, or even acknowledgement that he is twisting the facts.

Politicians don’t have a strong reputation for telling the “truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. But there is a difference between political spin and ignoring the facts altogether.

Yet this is where we are. On the eve of the most important and critical negotiations for this country in half a century, we have a PM who cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

But the truth matters more than ever: over our future relationship with the European Union and, even more importantly, in terms of the changes we need to make in our lives, to our society and to the economy in the face of the accelerating climate emergency.

That has been the main demand of the Extinction Rebellion protesters and the brave school climate strikers – tell the truth about the climate crisis. What chance of that now?

It feels like a very dark place for our country.

But the character of our prime minister is not the only reason I feel both anger and sadness today. One truth the election campaign revealed – if we didn’t know it already – was the desperate state of our public services and the absence of social justice in this country.

The status quo in this country is intolerable for millions of people, and it is now likely that it will become even more so.

The Conservatives will govern for the next few years with a sizeable majority. Minority parties have been squeezed. Despite winning more than 20 per cent of the vote, the smaller parties will have only 64 seats between them (most of those being SNP).

The Green Party’s share of the vote went up by 60 per cent compared to 2017. And the result? We held on to our one seat – my own. Put another way, the Green Party’s 860,000 votes delivered just one seat.

Our political system is badly broken and has been letting down voters and our country for years. In fact, it’s been hijacked by the two main parties who are content to fight it out between each other for the lion’s share of seats, sweeping aside the wishes of all those voters who want something different.

We are now paying the price for this. And it’s our children and the climate that will pay the highest price of all.

The Tories called this the Brexit election, and it looks like that simple message struck home. But it was also the climate election. This coming parliament is possibly the last one which could take the decisions necessary to avoid runaway climate chaos.

The warnings from the Committee on Climate Change are clear. Crucial decisions need to be taken over the next 18 months to get us on the path we need to be on. The Conservatives think they can kick the can down the road by setting a date of 2050 for net-zero emissions, and then doing next to nothing to achieve it.

This is not in line with the science. It is not what our climate-striking children are demanding, and the Green Party will not let them down. We may have only my voice in parliament, but I will never stop speaking up for their future, and for a fairer society.

I cannot do this alone, which is why I would appeal to all progressive forces in our country to regroup and rebuild, not get sucked into recriminations and blame games.

We can’t afford to let the Tories divide us, and leave this country exposed to years of continuing austerity and Conservative indifference to the suffering it has caused. They have won this election with the lie that they can get Brexit done, when we are only at the first stage of a long and potentially painful negotiating process.

There’s another lie too that Boris Johnson proclaimed this morning, that he has a “powerful people’s mandate” for his rotten Brexit deal. He has no “people’s mandate” when a majority of people voted for parties which opposed that deal or wanted to give the people a say in a second referendum.

The truth matters and the truth will out. This Conservative victory will not last forever and it is the job of progressive politicians to limit the damage they cause in the coming years.

I hope this regrouping will lead to a deep-rooted change in our politics for good, creating a momentum for a new voting system in which every single vote counts, every single time. That is what the people of our country deserve, and that is how we make this election the start of something truly transformative.

It is the one glimmer of light on a very bleak December morning.

Caroline Lucas is the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion

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