Whether as part of national campaigns, or grassroots constituency-level activism, Bristol is seeing a surge of activity towards creating ‘progressive alliances’ to keep the Conservatives out.
If you’ve received a door knock during this election period, it may not necessarily have been from your typical staunch party member: In Bristol, under the rallying cry of ‘stop the Tories’ and backed by local or national tactical voting campaigns, many people have been canvassing for the first time, whether or not they’re affiliated with any particular party.
Despite no official alliance building between the ‘progressive’ parties – Labour, Greens and the Lib Dems – on a national level, grassroots and non-aligned movements to support the Conservative’s strongest progressive challenger in any given constituency have gone from strength to strength.
Here, two campaigners talk about what motivated them to hit the streets of Bristol.
“60% of people signing up to take part in canvassing events have never done anything like this before.”
Kat Wall is an organiser with Campaign Together, a national group which supports people to canvass in their communities for the constituency’s strongest progressive challenger to the Conservatives. She says there’s ‘amazing energy’ around progressive alliances in Bristol.
My first thought, when the election was called back in April was “Oh No, not another election!” My second thought – how can we stop the Tories?
Inspired by the leadership of Caroline Lucas (Green), Clive Lewis (Labour) and Paul Chandler (Lib Dems), who have been so supportive of progressive alliances, I decided that for this election, I would put party politics aside, roll up my selves and get involved.
In order to stop the Tories, we have to vote for and campaign with any progressive party that could challenge them. This has been the hallmark of this election: tactical voting, alliance building and campaigning together.
I live in Bristol West and have the luxury of choosing between progressive parties – as a long time supporter of the Green Party, I will vote with my heart on June 8th. The majority of people across the UK don’t find themselves in the same position.
Because of our broken voting system, most votes for progressive parties won’t count. Bristol East and Bristol South are being targeted by the Tories who want to take both seats from Labour and Bristol North is currently held by Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie.
In order to mount a challenge, we not only have to vote Labour in these three Bristol seats to keep the Tories out, we have to get out on the doorstep and have conversations in our communities. In Bristol East, Kerry McCarthy only won by 3980 votes in 2015. UKIP got 7000 votes last time and they aren’t standing a candidate!
That’s why I got involved in Campaign Together. We are recruiting, training and organising thousands of people over the UK to get out into the streets to stop the Tories.
Here in Bristol we have had dozens of first time canvassers get involved coming out on the doorstep, organising meet ups and supporting each other. 60% of people signing up to take part in canvassing events have never done anything like this before.
To date there has been 32 Campaign Together canvassing events in 25 marginal seats across the UK. The sheer numbers of people getting involved is giving me hope that this time, we will make a difference to the outcome of the general election.
We have been finding out the times of canvassing in Bristol East and Bristol South, inviting people to come along half an hour beforehand to a nearby café to talk about what to expect on the doorstep, then meeting up with the local party and speaking to people about how they plan on voting on 8th June. The energy has been amazing – with people coming back again and again to have as many conversations as we can before election day.
With less than a week until polling day, we need even more of us to get involved. To stop the Tories, now’s the time to show up, talk to people and campaign together!
“Many of us Bristol East residents are doing all we can to ensure that we don’t wake up to a Tory MP on June 9th.”
Kitty Webster is campaigning with ‘Greens for Kerry’, a grassroots effort in Bristol East to mobilise Greens and other progressive voters to re-elect current Labour MP Kerry McCarthy. She argues that not only is the campaign about ‘keeping the Tories out’, but that McCarthy has strong green credentials of her own.
We know that the Tories are ploughing money and resources into winning Bristol East, parachuting in a candidate from London who has no understanding of the local area and who refuses to take part in local hustings, as previously written about in the Bristol Cable.
Many of us Bristol East residents are doing all we can to ensure that we don’t wake up to a Tory MP on June 9th. In what’s been called a ‘regressive alliance’, UKIP decided to stand down in Bristol East and have openly called for their supporters to vote for the Conservative candidate instead. Can we counter this regressive alliance with a progressive alliance, with people who might normally vote for the Green Party and the Lib Dems?
While ‘progressive alliance’ agreements have been formally struck in some areas, including in Brighton where the Lib Dems agreed not to stand against Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion, there is frustration in other areas up and down the country at the lack of agreements between parties broadly considered on the left and centre-left.
Both the Greens and Lib Dems are standing candidates in Bristol East, potentially splitting the progressive vote to benefit the UKIP-backed Tory candidate. Yet at the grassroots level, individuals and local party activists are coming together to push for tactical voting to ensure the re-election of Kerry McCarthy.
Formed by a small group of environmentalists and green-minded folk impressed by the track record of Kerry McCarthy, ‘Greens for Kerry’ is calling for ‘environmentally-minded voters’ in Bristol East to pledge to vote for Kerry McCarthy on 8 June.
In the 2015 general election, the combined Labour and Green vote was 21,975, only just a few hundred more than the combined Conservative and UKIP vote of 21,320.
Voting for Kerry McCarthy isn’t only about keeping the climate-dangerous Tory candidate at bay, but also a recognition about the good work that Kerry has done of green issues. Kerry has an incredibly strong track record on environmental issues and is standing on a Labour manifesto which seems to have borrowed half its climate policies from the Greens.
Labour’s manifesto includes a ban on fracking, a new Clean Air Act, a ban on bee killing pesticides, and a commitment to ramp up climate action to meet the UK’s own emissions targets and, crucially, those made in the Paris Climate Agreement.
Bristol East could be one of a handful of constituencies that decides the outcome of the General Election. It’s up to those of us who feel strongly about climate and social justice to come together and vote for Kerry McCarthy, the progressive candidate that can win in Bristol East.