I can't remember exactly how I first came across it. I think it was whilst on a scroll through the worlds of Facebook and Twitter. I read an article someone had posted: 'Is it time for a progressive alliance?'.
The idea was to put aside tribal differences between the left and centre left parties and to unite under a larger progressive banner. Or, to put another way, to do everything humanly possible to defeat Theresa May's Conservative Party at this coming election on June the 8th. To vote and encourage others to vote in whatever way necessary so that when we wake up on June the 9th we aren't greeted by an overwhelming Tory majority and the looming spectre of five years of more cuts to welfare and pensions, the continuation of an unfair burden placed upon those who are scraping by, and cruel benefit sanctions leaving some of our most vulnerable members of society destitute.
Zero hours contracts and millions forced to work multiple jobs simply in order to afford out of control rent and astronomical energy costs. The neglect and gradual dismantling of the NHS from under our noses, and the complete disrespect of our health care professionals. An underfunded education system requiring donations from parents to schools due to the inadequacy of school funding. Much of this resulting in strikes up and down the country. All the while the dreary drumbeat of a biased press peddling half truths, negativity, and in some cases outright lies. Unfortunately, I could go on.
We were here together for a 'Barnstorm', an event invented by the Bernie Sanders campaign which ignited progressive political involvement in the US during last year’s election. Claire Sandberg, a key member of the Sanders camp, was here to help us organise our very own progressive surge.
Looking around this tightly packed room in Richmond, my eyes met with people, young and old, some veterans of this kind of gathering who had campaigned for years for Labour, the Greens, and the Liberal Democrats. Others, like myself, were complete newbies at this kind of event. We all had one obvious thing in common. We were fed up.
Simply fed up with the increasingly unjust, intolerant and divided society we find ourselves living in. But there was something else in the air here. There was a sense of hope, and, more than that, a sense of the beginnings of something important and potentially powerful. We were in Richmond because it was here that tactical voting organised and campaigned for by the Progressive Alliance helped Sarah Olney topple Zac Goldsmith in the Richmond Park by-election last year, and we were eager to repeat that feat in this and many other constituencies in the coming election.
Formally many left wing politicians have said they do not subscribe to the idea of a progressive alliance. On the face of it it could seem like a defeat for the concept. But what if the opposite is true?
Sitting in the second row of this crowded Richmond room it occurred to me that this progressive movement could only work from the ground up. It was powered by ordinary people and could work only with our involvement. I began to see it not as a clever tactical numbers game. It felt empowering. It felt authentically democratic.
For years I was one of those young people who didn't bother to vote, I was with Russell Brand all the way when he told people not to. I had an interest in politics but it only left me feeling numb and powerless to change anything. If left me feeling negative and hopeless. Stories of politicians doing the bidding of big business, providing them over and over again with tax breaks whilst at the same time bailing out the banks, claiming ludicrous amounts in expenses and marching us into illegal, ill advised and ethically bankrupt wars.
I watched governments routinely break manifesto pledges with no consequences. It made me feel like the whole thing was a massive joke with no punchline. One that I didn't want to have any involvement in. And the majority of my peers felt the same.
But now I feel differently. In this election there is a clear and credible difference between the status quo and an alternative progressive option. Parties and political leaders on the left have galvanised large swaths of disaffected young voters, like myself, who sense integrity and the necessity of engaging with progressive politics in combating the right-wing nationalism that has been taking hold across much of Europe and the United States, as well as facing up, in earnest, to the challenge and increasing threat of climate change. As happened in the US with Bernie Sanders, we could be in for a big surprise when these young voters take to the polls in numbers we haven't seen before. The vast majority very much aligned in their political viewpoint.
The current power structures would have us believe that this election is already done and dusted. That a large conservative majority is a foregone conclusion. This is not the case. The reality of the situation seems to be that in order to unseat this Tory government we need to vote tactically. Our outdated voting system means that millions of votes are thrown down the drain at every election. At the last election the Green Party won a million votes and got only one MP to show for it. If progressive parties stand against each other in marginal seats, the only party set to gain are the Conservatives.
The situation is not hopeless; we can make an impact. Vote this June the 8th. Vote tactically and vote Progressive. We have the tools to make it happen. Visit www.progressivealliance.org.uk and use the Vote Smart tool to find out how to make your vote count. If you live in a safe seat then campaign and encourage others to vote tactically in the marginal seats that can make a real difference. People want their vote to count and their voice to be heard, so let them know it can be.
The result of our Barnstorm in Richmond was canvassing organised around the country, on door steps, at events, and at phone banks. Ordinary people, not necessarily aligned with a particular political party. Just people who want to change the status quo, eager to let their fellow citizens know that if they to want to make a change that there is a credible way to go about it this June.
For too long now have we felt hopeless to change things for the better. We've allowed a biased media to dictate to us who to vote for and what to think. For too long we've accepted negativity, inequality and injustice as evils that we simply had to bear.
We are living in a moment when our most basic values are being challenged on a daily basis. We are at a point where we are asked to choose between a politics of inclusion or division. Between compassion or the exclusion of those vulnerable members of our society and of those who have, with their families, left behind their homes and taken to the seas in order to find refuge here. And those who are so brazen as to ask for help. Between a politics of hope, and a politics of fear. This is quite simply the choice we are faced with.
There are moments of clarity, of purpose and empowerment that you experience a few times in your life if you are lucky. They usually occur during a period of turmoil. After a long painful slog. Enough is enough.
You just decide to stop it. You decide to do something different. And then you make a change. This could be one of those moments. Let's make it happen.
Find Adam Harley on Twitter: @AdsHarles