LDV Interview: Caroline Lucas talks about The Alternative – Part 1

The AlternativeThis week I had the chance to talk to Caroline Lucas, newly elected co-Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, about the book “The Alternative.” She co-edited the book with Labour MP Lisa Nandy and her erstwhile 2015 Liberal Democrat opponent Chris Bowers. The three will be taking part in a fringe meeting at Conference on Sunday at 1pm in the Buckingham suite in the Hilton Metropole. The event is organised by the Social Liberal Forum.

The first part of the book explores all sorts of ideas, from foreign affairs to social security and public services, where there is significant common ground between those of a progressive nature.The second explores how progressives could work together to beat the Tories. It’s a progressive antidote to the Tory dystopia into which we are currently descending. Though the book sets a lot of hares running, it doesn’t seek to outline a way forward. So, I asked Caroline, what happens next?

In the book there are all kinds of options discussed and explored and absolutely no blueprint not least because what might work in one constituency might not work in another.

What I valued about working on the book with Chris and Lisa was that sense that no one party has a monopoly of wisdom and it is just possible that by working together we can reach a wider number  of people than we can individually and that’s going to be crucial in the light of the likely entrenchment of Tory policies if we’re not careful, come the next election and the boundary changes announced today which are the latest nail in that coffin. We’ve also got what’s happened in Scotland and the loss of Labour seats there.

The book was put together out of a sense of urgency. If we don’t find ways of working together better, we really are consigning our constituents to years’ more Conservative domination.

What comes next is a series of discussions at party conferences to see if there is sufficient interest even just in the most basic idea of some kind of  co-operation towards electoral reform for the House of Commons. That is a red line in terms of any kind of co-operation.

Whether that co-operation is at one end of the scale simply not putting so much money or resources into certain constituencies to at the other end of the scale full throttle open primaries with parties on the progressive side agreeing to put forward candidates and then the local community votes on who they think is best placed to defeat the Tories. There are different shades within all of that.

The think tank Compass is also initiating a series of public meetings up and down the country and to gauge the amount of support for the ideas and if people are interested,whether they would want a narrow co-operation agreement or whether they would be interested in exploring the broader common ground that the book sets out.

Caroline had spent 11 years as an MEP and I wondered if our parties working together in the same collaborative manner as the European parties did could Westminster politics grow up.

Yes, The experience of working together in the European Parliament is such that people in Brussels find the idea of looking for common ground is a positive thing to be doing. Finding a compromise isn’t selling out. It’s about being very clear where your red lines are but beyond that seeing where we can work together for the common good. I do think that Westminster politics could learn a lot from that.

The public get fed up with politicians who constantly find fault with each other when you know that they more or less agree with one another. Our electoral system and our political culture encourages politicians to be constantly oppositional. Lisa (Nandy) is particularly motivated by trying to  get away from that kind of politics which is not constructive and not appealing either.

In Part 2, find out what she thinks about the Labour Party and the likelihood of electoral reform – and how we rid ourselves of the baggage we carry with us that might stop us working together.

The Alternative is available from Biteback Publishing here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Problem is that many of Lucas’ positions are not compatible with our party. She prefers renationalisation and trade unionism to the market, she is anti free trade and protectionist.

    Yes the Greens are admirable on social issues, gender issues, the EU and immigration, but I fear that this would just be another back door way for Corbynite types to force us into renationalising the railways, crushing business and scuppering free trade deals.

    Lucas is not the moderate centre ground of say Jess Phillips, Chukka Umuna or Liz Kendall, but is of the Europhile far left, as opposed to the Europhobic far left of Corbyn, the TUSC and the rail unions.

  • @ Stimpson “Problem is that many of Lucas’ positions are not compatible with our party.”

    Problem is that many of Stimpson’s positions are not compatible with our party.

  • @Stimpson: Why not look at what brings us together rather than what divides us? There is a huge amount of common ground. One of the things Duncan mentions in the book is that in the run-up to 1997, us and Labour were not attacking each other but our messages were often resonating with each other – but we had some very distinctive policies. We had the penny on income tax for education.

    @David Raw: Please stop making personal comments about people. Stick to the issues.

  • Laurence Cox 16th Sep '16 - 6:50pm


    There were two reasons for what happened in the run-up to 1997: first, Tony Blair and Paddy Ashdown really liked each other and could put pressure on their parties not to savage each other’s policies; secondly, Blair was not confident that he would win big against Major’s Tories and wanted to have a ready coalition partner in case he ended up in a minority.

    I would hope that there is no Party member who does not loathe Jeremy Corbyn, even if we might support some of his policies, and he has made it very clear that he loathes us. There can be no post-2020 election deal with Labour as long as he is their leader.

  • Leekliberal 16th Sep '16 - 7:56pm

    @Laurence Cox ‘I would hope that there is no Party member who does not loathe Jeremy Corbyn’
    While I strongly dissent from many of Corbyn’s ideas which seem to be stuck in the 1960s, I hope none of us loath Jeremy Corbyn who comes across to me as a decent man. Tony Benn was right on one thing – He said politics is about debating issues not personalities , so play the ball not the man!

  • Matt (Bristol) 16th Sep '16 - 8:04pm

    Laurence Cox – I generally distrust Corbyn, now and again I do admire him (not for long). To be honest, I feel about the same about May. Life is a bit short for too much active hating.

    I’m not into cultivating an interest in politics in order to find hate figures.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Sep '16 - 3:00am

    Very good piece. I have disagreements with the Greens ,even more on crime, than on anything Stimpson mentions , actually , even colleagues in Liberal Reform are for a much more social liberal economic agenda than our friend Stimpson.

    On crime and prisons , the Green manifesto is about as far from mainstream public opinion as it gets , for a leading , albeit smaller,party. Not on release or alternatives to prison for non violent offenses , which any of us as Liberal Democrats would agree with and have long promoted without the Greens . I mean their whole attitude is as left libertarian on this as one could imagine. It puts me off a great deal. They are not remotely interested in the morality involved in the punishment of the truly wicked , violent offenders, something Tim Farron speaks of, well.

    But Caroline Lucas I respect and is a likeable person , far more than I respect or like her party . And which , though it contains people of decency and principle , like Peter Tatchell, who I am well to the right of on some issues, I do believe we have to be sensible over. That said , a lot to agree on , re pr !

  • I was convener of our Party Council group. Our rules were that we should all vote for group motions in order to achieve our policy objectives. It was understood that if an individual dissented h/she should give the benefit of the doubt in favour of the integrity and judgement of colleagues. Frequent dissention meant that the individual was in the wrong party. No hard feelings go and join another more suitable one. Jeremy Corbin, in voting against his parliamentary colleagues 532 times demonstrated that he is in the wrong party. He belongs with SWP or SofGB. Unfortunately those parties don’t get you elected to obtain an MP’s salary and expenses. He may be a nice guy but he is also a chancer.

  • Simon Banks 17th Sep '16 - 9:21am

    If such a deal happens – and I dearly hope it does – it must not try to be a complete programme or anything like the coalition agreement. It should focus on some key issues where progressives are united or at least, they’re between passionately one way and half-heartedly the other. For example, genuine devolution fires up Liberals and Greens. It doesn’t fire up many people in Labour who we agree with on other things, but they’re not set in concrete against it. Same with fairer votes. We could probably agree on some policies for the NHS, safety at work and housing. We probably couldn’t agree on calls to ban the private sector from NHS-funded healthcare (I wouldn’t agree with that), so that would be a point on which the parties would differ. Find ourselves with a majority and we’d hammer out the nature and programme of government then.

  • Just yesterday we had a new UKIP leader label Theresa May “Magpie May” for stealing UKIP ideas. To me this proposal is cutting out such accusations within progressive parties when clearly we share some ideas, the debate can then be focused on the issues where we don’t agree rather than getting personal, and hopefully shared policy will have a greater chance of being voted through.

    Regarding the posts about Corbyn, there was an article in this weeks guardian which reminded us that Corbyn, McDonnell and Charles Kennedy were among the few on the right side of the vote with Blair’s and Bush’s war. There are times when good and popular ideas are being shouted down by the press, tories and those more sympathetic to the tories.

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