Green policies, red lines, watermelons, mangoes. It was the Green campaign launch this morning, and aside from rumblings about leader Natalie Bennett’s poor media performances, there was talk about how the party would work with Labour in government.
“We would be open to supporting a minority Labour government on a case by case basis,” Caroline Lucas told the press conference. “Working with parties like the SNP and Plaid Cymru, with whom we’ve always had a formal arrangement in the European parliament, we would form a progressive alliance that would put real pressure on a minority Labour government.”
We have already heard from the Greens that they would be open to a confidence-and-supply arrangement, if they were to prop up a government at all, but Lucas went into further detail than we have previously heard from a party that refuses to discuss “red lines” – other than on scrapping Trident.
She said that the alliance of smaller parties, “would be able to get things like a ban on fracking, as a clear thing on the agenda of a future government, major investment in clean energy and energy efficiency, scrapping Trident…”
When I spoke to Lucas after the event, I pushed her on the “red lines” the Greens would draw ahead of working with Labour in any capacity. She insisted: “We haven’t got to that point, but what we do know is the kind of things we want to be able to promote and push as part of our agenda. And so that means the kind of results around voting reform, Trident, or fracking, or austerity – some of the worst aspects of austerity, and so forth.
“But we have not had that discussion, because as soon as you start saying what you wouldn’t work on, you’ve started drawing the ‘red lines’, which I’ve just said we’re not talking about.”
However, Lucas did reveal that the Greens will be having “internal discussions” about red lines, “whether or not we’ll make those public I think is another question”. She added that the party is also having private discussions with Plaid Cymru and the SNP about “the building of a progressive alliance”.
“In terms of putting that to voters, there’s an awful lot of interest, even from traditional Labour-voting members of having a minority Labour government subjected to a progressive force pushing them on these issues on austerity, the environment, or rail in public hands.”
Lucas’s aim is for this small party alliance to “help make Labour be the party many backbenchers, Labour voters would like it to be, as well as pushing on our own strong environmental policies too”.
She denies that she has spoken to Labour politicians about this prospect “yet”, but says “certainly talking about how the small parties will work together – that is happening now”.
One Labour shadow cabinet aide recently mentioned to me that some plans had been mooted in the party to work with individual Green candidates to avoid them splitting Labour’s vote in certain seats. “A similar idea to when Ukip and the Tories were going to have local peace pacts,” they tell me.
I put this prospect to Lucas, who rules out working with individual Labour MPs. “I can’t imagine joint tickets,” she says. “But what would be nice would be to have a change in the electoral system which would then mean the Greens and Labour are not having to fight each other.
“I think we’ve ruled out having any arrangement propping up the Tories; we are a left of centre party, therefore Labour is a much more likely party for us to work with. But at the moment the electoral system is such that we do end up fighting each other, and that’s unfortunate in a way.”