Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. The Staggers
5 June 2019updated 07 Jun 2021 4:30pm

Caroline Lucas’ plan to stop no deal Brexit is great – for the Greens, at least

By Stephen Bush

The central problem with a government of national unity is that most of the people who’d have to be involved don’t want one.

The Liberal Democrats don’t want to support a government with Jeremy Corbyn at its head because they believe that it would imperil their chances of winning seats off the Conservatives at the next election, and that Jeremy Corbyn is unfit to be Prime Minister. The Labour leadership don’t want to support a government without Jeremy Corbyn at its head because they fear that it would damage them politically, and create a precedent that could be used against Corbyn if Labour are the largest party, or enter government after the next election without a majority. Labour MPs don’t want to support a government without Jeremy Corbyn at its head because they fear it will lead to them being deselected, or end their hopes of leading the Labour party permanently after Corbyn has gone.

These groups are in any case divided over what their preferred way of stopping no deal would actually be, and it is not clear that there are enough Conservative MPs to vote for any unity government to make the question anything other than academic.

That does not change simply by suggesting an all-female-reboot for the idea, as Caroline Lucas, the Greens’ sole MP, has done. But it’s a clever way to keep the Green party in the headlines by emphasising some of its different credentials. Although the party is not constitutionally obliged to have joint co-leaders, it has had a run of them for close to four years, and its candidate for the London mayoralty, many of its most highly-rated MEPs, its sole member of the House of Lords (and, I’m told, its second member of the House of Lords, nominated by Theresa May in her resignation honours but not yet officially cleared by the new regime) are all women.

The idea reflects an underrated element of Lucas’ political skillset: keeping her party in the headlines through eyecatching measures – a tax on meat was one, and this was another – that reiterate the party’s key messages.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

That fact would be a source of considerable solace to me if I worked in Downing Street, and a subject of great worry if I worked in Jeremy Corbyn’s office. The nightmare scenario for Boris Johnson is that while the headline voting intention shows an opposition divided between Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, tactical voting means that he loses seats to the Liberal Democrats in England and Wales, fails to make a breakthrough against Labour, and in addition is whomped in Scotland by the SNP.

Content from our partners
Transport is the core of levelling up
The forgotten crisis: How businesses can boost biodiversity
Small businesses can be the backbone of our national recovery

That is less likely to happen if the Green party remains in the news and continues to be seen as viable entity, not just in safe seats where the outcome is up for grabs, but in marginal constituencies.