Tag Archives: progressive alliance

Naomi Smith’s speech at the Progressive Alliance launch

Last night, a rally attended by over 900 people launched the Progressive Alliance’s campaign to support single anti-Tory candidates in a number of seats around the country.

The event was addressed by Labour’s Clive Lewis, Greens leader Caroline Lucas, Zoe Williams, Paul Mason and Make Votes matter. The Liberal Democrat speaker was former Social Liberal Forum Chair Naomi Smith. She has sent us her speech. Here it is:

I’m Naomi Smith, former Liberal Democrat PPC for this constituency (Cities of London and Westminster), former chair of the Social Liberal Forum and very proud Remoaner!

I’m not standing this time round, but am campaigning in St Albans where with a 63% remain vote, we’ve got a good chance of taking the seat from the Brexiteer, Anne Main.

Of course, we’d have a much better change if an electoral pact between the progressive parties have been brokered. I’m pleased, of course, that the Lib Dems have stood aside in two seats, but am disappointed it wasn’t more. I commend, as we all should, The Green Party, for having done so in a great number of seats. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

What has happened in South West Surrey, where the Labour Party and my own, failed to step down for the doctor running against Jeremy Hunt, tells us all we need to know about the culture changes needed in our parties.

SW Surrey, could have been the new Tatton, where if you remember in 1997, both Labour and the Lib Dems stood aside for the anti-corruption candidate, Martin Bell. This helped to highlight Tory sleaze and bring it under the spotlight during a general election campaign. How differently our parties behaved then. Had we not done that, Neil Hamilton may be restanding as the MP for Tatton in June. If we’d make like Tatton in SW Surrey this time, we could’ve made Tory under funding of the NHS a greater feature of the 2017 General Election.

To change those cultures in our parties is a longer term project. We need to engage in a process of building and reciprocating goodwill and trust. Milestones along that journey in my opinion, should include Labour moving its position on Brexit quite markedly, and for the Lib Dems to rule out working with the Conservatives.

Given the lack of leadership in our both our parties on this, it is now very much down to us, as progressive activists. But before I get on to what Liberal Democrat local parties can now do, let me just put in to context the vision and leadership shown by some:

On the other side of the debate, the organisation has been ruthless. The Regressive Alliance is real. UKIP are giving the Conservatives a free run in 41% of the seats the Tories are contesting. In 2015, UKIP stood 624 candidates. This time, they’re contesting just 377 seats. By comparison, our parties have managed to stand down for each other in around 40 seats. And while I highly commend those local parties that have managed to strike a deal, I sincerely wish it could have been more.

Let’s not fight fire, with dire.

It matters, because we know when we work together, we all benefit. The greatest periods of success for progressive over the last 100 years all involved some degree of cross party collaboration (1906, 1945 and 1997). Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. As long as progressive parties are estranged from one another, the Tories will always be able to present themselves as the providers of secure and stable government.

So what can we do now, right now, to help reduce Theresa May’s majority? Well, we have to try and offset the ill effects of the Regressive Alliance. I’m encouraging all Liberal Democrat supporters in marginal Labour/Tory seats to critically engage their candidates on the key issues of Brexit and that most progressive of issues, Equal Votes.

The reality for Lib Dem supporters is that the Conservatives are generally terrible on the things we care most about, from LGBT issues to internationalism and democratic equality. While we still have this horrendous first past the post system, we have to vote tactically and encourage others to do so  as well.

Tactical votes and non-aggression pacts are what we have left between now and 8 June. And it’s so important that we employ them. As the American philosopher Carl Friedrich said, ‘Democratic order is built, not on agreement of the fundamentals, but on the organising of its dissent’. Or in other words, what distinguishes the health of a democracy , is the vitality of its opposition. If Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders won’t yet collaborate, then we must. And it’ll be no coalition of chaos, but a rebel alliance, and I look forward to working with you all – tactical voting is now our key message, as we begin to build our progressive future. Thank you.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 49 Comments

If you want a progressive alliance, you need to vote against Labour this time

The Liberal Democrats have officially ruled out alliances this time, but informal arrangements seem to be popping up all over the place, and it’s certain a vote for Corbyn won’t help any such alliance evolve in the future.

Vince Cable allegedly believes that there are certain Labour candidates in this election whose views ‘exactly match our own.’ If that is the case then it is rather reassuring that the current reactionary riff being performed by Corbyn and Co. is not the tune to which all of the Labour Party march.

But the problem is, that doesn’t matter. Corbyn has already said he would like to stay even if he loses the election, and that he doesn’t want alliances. So every vote for the Labour Party in any seat anywhere will become part of his narrative to suggest that rejection by the people is a mere detail, each vote a cudgel to legitimise their counter-intellectual concerns.

Socialism of the Corbyn kind is predicated on centralising power. It is an ideology of pessimism. Lib Dems like devolution and empowering the individual,  an ideology of optimism. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 43 Comments

On deals and no deals

Tim Farron was challenged this morning on the radio whether the decision by the local party to stand down in Brighton Pavilion respresented some sort of deal. It isn’t, and nor should it be.

For all my long standing political differences with the Greens, I, like Tim, am relaxed about this decision. We weren’t going to win in Brighton Pavilion, and it is only fair that the Greens have a voice in parliament. Their politics are really quite bad in some ways but it is better they have a voice than are silenced. And tactically, I’d rather see a remainer …

Posted in Op-eds | 13 Comments

We need to be smarter in the battles we choose

The frantic and febrile environment of a general election isn’t always conducive to clear-headed thinking, but I fear we Lib Dems are guilty of some serious fuzzy-headedness that even a general election shouldn’t excuse.

This is the background. We tumbled from 57 seats to 8 at the last election. This election is all about limiting Theresa May’s majority, and under a voting system that doesn’t help us. If we’re smart about it, we could boost our seats to the point where we have a healthy bloc that will recapture the oxygen of publicity needed to push liberalism to a wider audience. If we’re not smart, our number of parliamentary seats could actually go down.

Against this background, the Greens have offered to stand down in about a dozen seats if we stand down in one. Sounds like a good offer, eh? Except the local Lib Dem party in the one seat we’re being asked to stand down in has said no.

That seat is the Isle of Wight, and it’s important to stress that the local party there is being very honourable. Its brief is to fight for liberalism, and as we had the MP there until 2001, it’s potentially fertile ground for us. So IoW Lib Dems have quite reasonably said this is an election where we need to rebuild the Lib Dem base, and in principle we should support that.

But given where we’re starting from, given how much is at stake, given that it could make the difference between having a single-digit number of MPs and a number in the 20s, someone should be guiding the Isle of Wight party about the wider implications their decision could have.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 58 Comments

No Progressive Alliance please, we’re Liberals!

Recently there has been much talk of abandoning our principles and going in with the Greens and the Labour Party. Now my stance on this doesn’t come from some sort of archetypal hatred of them. In fact many of my friends belong to the Labour and Green movements. I have fond memories of standing side by side in Peterborough handing out leaflets and speaking to people about why we thought it was best to remain. I still keep cordial relations with the Greens and the Labour moderates. We campaign for Open Britain together and there is a lot to be said for cross party cooperation in this sense. Logic dictates when you believe in a common cause you should work as a team to achieve this.

However, the common cause on Europe is not a plan for government. We radically differ on policy with the Greens with regards to economic policy. With Labour, our Social Democratic wing undoubtedly has significant overlaps with the Labour moderate wing. However for every similarity there is a difference. I cannot honestly stand for election on a manifesto I disagree with, this is what would happen with the so called progressive alliance.

Posted in Op-eds | 89 Comments

A Lib Dem route to victory: a case for a Progressive Alliance

The recent Richmond Park by-election was a huge victory for Liberal Democrats, further boosting our credibility and standing in the country with voters and the media. But it was also a great success for Progressive Alliance campaigners, who supported Sarah Olney’s excellent campaign.

The decision by the Green Party to stand down and endorse us, along with calls from a group of leading Labour figures for Labour to do the same, helped to recreate the conditions where we could win back the seat by leading a non-conservative bloc of voters to victory. These moves – by Labour figures and the Greens – were made in support of progressives in different parties organising together more generally.

The cross-party pressure group, Compass, is currently publishing a series of essays from members who would like to see a Progressive Alliance from each of the different progressive parties. Written before the announcement of the Election, I’ve set out some of my thoughts from the perspective of a Liberal Democrat about why we need a Progressive Alliance, which are published on the Compass site today. Drawing upon psephology, demography and historical precedent, I believe a Progressive Alliance presents by far our best route to implement electoral reform at Westminster, our best chance to prevent a hard Brexit, and best opportunity for liberals to sustain influence over the long term. I’ve not reproduced many arguments here, and hope you will take some time to have a look, when you take a break from the campaign trail.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 56 Comments

Moving towards a progressive alliance

General Election campaigning has got off to a flying start across the country and it is exhilarating to be ‘back in the saddle’. Oxford West and Abingdon was hard fought at the last election and it looks like it will be again. Like many seats, the Tory incumbent increased her majority here in 2015, yet this still feels like a marginal, and we are campaigning to win.

We were knocking on doors yesterday and what struck me was just how different this election feels compared to 2015. The political sands continue to shift beneath our feet but the wind is very definitely no longer against us. This constituency voted strongly to remain, yet the local MP flip-flopped and is now totally behind a Hard Brexit. This, combined with a weak Labour party nationally, has meant that local Labour and Green voters are more open than ever to lending us their vote to beat the Tory this time. And we are going to need them to do it.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 34 Comments
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