The constituency of South West Surrey has a real progressive alliance borne out the South West Surrey Compass Group. The group is affiliated to the national organisation (www.compassonline.org.uk) which describes itself as the home for everyone who wants to be part of a much more equal, democratic and sustainable future.
For two years, members of different progressive parties and progressives with no party affiliation in SW Surrey had been meeting under the auspices of the Compass group to discuss policy ideas together and to campaign together.
We realised that there was so much common ground between those of us who belonged to the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party and other “independent” progressives to put up “progressive alliance” candidates in local and national elections, where other parties would stand down in favour of a single candidate. This is because a single progressive alliance candidate would have the best chance of winning against the Tories.
A big public meeting attended by over 200 people was held on 19th April, with national speakers from Labour, LibDems and Greens, on the day the General Election was called. The atmosphere was electric and there was an overwhelming desire to unite behind a single candidate to defeat Jeremy Hunt in what has hitherto been seen as a “safe” Conservative seat because of a divided opposition.
A further open public meeting was held in Godalming on 6th May to take forward the idea of a single progressive candidate in the General Election. Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green candidates were invited, along with Dr Louise Irvine who polled extremely well with very little organisation as the National Health Health Action Party candidate in the 2015 election. Liberal Democrat and Green Party candidates accepted the invitation, as did Louise.
Prior to the meeting itself, all potential progressive alliance candidates were asked if they agreed a common platform including support for a soft Brexit, electoral reform and protecting the NHS. Each of the candidates agreed to the progressive platform, united in wanting to challenge Jeremy Hunt.
The meeting was attended by a large number of members and supporters of various political parties and overwhelmingly endorsed Dr Louise Irvine as the progressive candidate best placed to defeat Jeremy Hunt over Ollie Purkiss, the Liberal Democrat, by a 10:1 majority. At the meeting, the Green candidate, Susan Ryland, agreed not to stand to rapturous applause, but Ollie did not make such an undertaking.
The local Labour party supported Louise Irvine from the floor but nationally the party did not back the initiative as it was against their rules to stand down candidates. Because they declared their support for Louise’s candidature, three of their local members have been suspended from Labour. But local Labour Party members have continued to campaign for Louise Irvine.
Although the Liberal Democrats insisted on their candidate standing, despite his participation in the Progressive Forum, Louise Irvine is supported by local Liberal Democrats, including Penny Rivers who has recently been elected as a Liberal Democrat Surrey county councillor, herself elected as a result of Labour standing down its candidate and securing a 27% swing away from the Conservatives.
On the ground, Labour Party members, Liberal Democrats, Greens, NHA and others belonging to no party who have been energised by the campaign are working together and campaigning for Louise. This IS a real progressive alliance. So while Labour and the Liberal Democrat parties have insisted on putting forward paper candidates, there is a real coming together of all progressive political forces in the South West Surrey constituency to unseat a deeply unpopular secretary of state for health who has caused untold damage to the NHS over the past five years.
The only way to get rid of Jeremy Hunt and oppose the Tories in SW Surrey is to support the opposition candidate most likely to win. With the active campaigning support of the Green Party and numerous local Labour Party and LibDem members I am confident that Dr Louise Irvine is the best placed candidate to achieve this.
Chair, South West Surrey Compass
Dr Louise Irvine, National Health Action Party
The candidate selected by Lib Dem, Labour and Green party members in South West Surrey to kick out Jeremy Hunt.
And if you want to help me protect your NHS from Jeremy Hunt, please vote for me.