Caroline Lucas MP: We need a general election this year, it's only right voters get a say

Posted On: 
13th July 2016

Green party MP Caroline Lucas explains why she thinks Britain needs to have a general election this year. 

Credit: 
PA Images

Yesterday Theresa May took the helm of a Britain that’s lost at sea. Not only are we in a state of post-referendum shock, with a Government lacking a post-referendum plan, but we also have an Official Opposition in utter disarray. I’ve never seen such a distinct need for clear leadership.

Amid such chaos it was right for David Cameron to stand down, and for a new Tory PM to take charge. But for real, accountable leadership, in such a time of upheaval, I believe that we need to have a General Election this year.

There is, of course, no constitutional requirement for a general election at this stage – and plenty of examples of party leaders being replaced between elections. But no Governmenthas a mandate to fundamentally renegotiate Britain’s place in the world without going to the people first. A majority voted to leave the EU, but they did not vote on the direction Britain should take moving forwards. Crucially the last Government was elected on a manifesto commitment to deliver an EU referendum – but no party that I’m aware of laid out their detailed post-Brexit plans to the electorate. Surely Theresa May must agree that any democracy worthy of the name should give people a chance to decide who is making these decisions that will profoundly affect this country for years to come.

I'm convinced that an early election is both democratically right and also the correct choice for progressive politics because of the deep worries I have about the consequences of letting a Theresa May Government shape post-referendum Britain. We can’t know for sure what approach she’ll take but a cursory glance at her record on free movement is troubling. The new Prime Minister will not even guarantee all EU citizens already resident in the UK that they won’t be deported at some point in the future – that alone should be enough for progressives to rally behind a general election this year. And the Government’s decision to slash Corporation tax in response to the referendum confirms my worst fears that they see Britain’s future place in the world as an offshore tax haven for big business. People who voted to leave the EU weren’t endorsing that vision.

I’m not just calling for a re-run of the last general election. Instead it’s my belief that progressive parties should look very seriously at ways to work together ahead of a General Election, to unite behind core values and in response to the growing public clamour for a more grown up, less tribal politics. I’m not only convinced that the electoral maths points to the need to talk among progressive parties, but also that our movements are stronger and more dynamic when we embrace pluralism.

At the heart of any such agreement would be a commitment by all parties to deliver a genuinely fair voting system which hands power to the people. Further details of any such agreement must be discussed, and any pacts should come from the grassroots, not imposed from above. My party has written to Labour, the Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru to suggest starting talks as soon as possible.

It’s just three weeks since the biggest democratic moment in modern British history. Millions of people voted in the referendum, and every vote really did matter. For the post-referendum Prime Minister of this country to then be handpicked by 199 Tory MPs after the country voted to ‘take back control’ is clearly wrong.

Alongside the Labour Party and the Lib Dems, the Green Party wants a general election this year. Whoever is in Government in the coming years will define Britain’s place in the world for a generation at the very least. It’s only right that voters get a say as to who steers the ship through these stormy waters.

Caroline Lucas is former leader of the Green Party and MP for Brighton Pavilion