Sheffield Central politician argues the Greens should prioritise other seats and confirms he will stand beyond 2022, Harrison Jones reports.
Labour’s Paul Blomfield has criticised Natalie Bennett’s decision to stand against him in Sheffield Central and suggested that the Green Party have been hypocritical in targeting Labour seats while publicly calling for a progressive alliance.
Mr Blomfield is widely expected to be re-elected, with the former Green party leader Natalie Bennett needing to overcome a majority of over 17,000 – despite her decision to move to Sheffield to contest the seat.
In December 2016, Mrs Bennett spoke in depth to JUS News about progressive alliances and moving to Sheffield, claiming she had “a great chance here”. She added that she was committed to doing “everything possible to stop a Tory government happening.”
Yet Mr Blomfield has today described her move as “odd”, claiming that it has even disillusioned some Green supporters.
He told JUS News: “The Greens puzzle me and I know they puzzle a lot of their own supporters. It’s odd that they have decided to make my seat one of their two national priorities when at the same time they are talking about a progressive alliance and suggesting that the target for all parties of the left should be the Tories.
“I think that has led to a number of their supporters saying ‘well, I’m not happy with that and I’ll probably be voting Labour’ – certainly the feedback I’m getting on the doorstep is good.”
In the last parliament, Mr Blomfield helped found ‘Labour for Democracy’, a group aiming to explore how progressive parties could work together. A shadow minister in Labour’s Brexit team, Mr Blomfield says he has “some sympathy” with supporters of a progressive alliance – the idea of a loose electoral pact between progressive parties to help defeat the Conservatives.
“I am an electoral reformer and, at the moment, I am in the minority in my party. I believe in proportional representation, I believe we need to give space for people to express their views in a more diverse way and that does mean more space for other parties,” he said.
“In the context of this election, I have some sympathy with the idea of a progressive alliance but I don’t see much evidence of it working in practice and the classic example is in my seat.
“People have strong views on a number of issues but there is a common position across the political parties – it could be on the NHS, the kind of welfare state that we want, and we need to be exploring those areas of agreement.”
He has been an MP since 2010, when he beat the Liberal Democrat candidate by less than 200 votes. Other parties’ candidates for June are yet to be announced.
Mr Blomfield continued: “If the Greens are serious about their main political objective being to defeat the Tories, then why have they made my seat, Bristol West and other Labour seats, their national priority? They should be putting their resources into those seats where they can defeat the Conservatives.”
The 63-year-old also suggested he would stand beyond 2022 if he held the seat, saying he was “absolutely” committed to the long haul.
“The need for a strong, effective Labour party has never been greater”, he said. Striking a defiantly upbeat tone about Labour’s national chances, Mr Blomfield noted that the polls have narrowed by 10 points in just one week of campaigning.
“One of the things that I think is absolutely true about British politics at the moment is that it is very volatile and unpredictable”, he argued, adding that he was very confident Labour’s candidate would win the Sheffield City Council by-election tomorrow.
He also said he was “very hopeful” about newly announced Labour candidate Jared O’Mara’s chances against Nick Clegg, in Sheffield Hallam.