Tag Archives: progressive alliance

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

Grasping the cross party nettle

Whoops of delight and the whoosh of triumphant fists punching the air were apparently to be heard at Lib Dem HQ on Tuesday when Theresa May announced the 8 June election. For a party hammered so badly two years ago, the chance to regain some lost ground is indeed enticing, but if we’re to make the most of the opportunity some nettles need to be grasped.

Tempting though it is to believe in our invincibility based on recent by-election successes, we are still only around 11% in the polls. That will go up in certain seats, but our final total of MPs will depend on whether we’re willing to be smart, and to set aside the tribalism of past elections.

If you’re sick of terms like ‘progressive alliance’ or ‘cross-party cooperation’, fair enough. But then think of it like this: in an election that is going to defy traditional party allegiances because of the role of Brexit, we cannot adopt the old “my party right or wrong, and all other parties are the enemy” attitude. We have to think of the broader concept of liberalism, as well as openness, tolerance and internationalism.

That means recognising that there are plenty of people in other parties – largely Labour and the Greens – who are philosophically close to us. We may have issues with the Labour leadership, but that doesn’t stop us recognising that there are many good people in Labour. And while we believe we’re big on the environment, it helps to have a specifically environmental party to keep us all honest.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 86 Comments

Maximising the number of pro-European MPs

Not just Liberal Democrats but small “l” liberals in all political parties should welcome the opportunity the June General Election will provide for voters to make clear their priorities by voting for candidates committed to the fight for us to maintain a continued close relationship with Europe.

In this increasingly uncertain world, there is nothing more important than that.

Those candidates will not just be Liberal Democrats.

If we want to maximise the strength of the opposition to May’s “hard Brexit”, the Lib Dems should have the courage to concentrate their limited resources on their candidates in seats that we can win this time ,which means making hard decisions about not squandering time,energy and money in seats that we cannot.

If we want to make a reality of any version of a progressive alliance, the Liberal Democrats cannot expect Labour to stand aside in some seats (or decide to make only a token effort )unless we are also prepared to stand aside (or make only a token effort) in selected seats where a pro-European Labour candidate has a very much better chance.

It will go against the grain – but it must be done!

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 22 Comments

LibLink: Alistair Carmichael: Will Labour moderates seize the moment?

In an article for the Telegraph (which the sub-editors did not headline in a particularly helpful way), Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland Alistair Carmichael called on Labour moderates to work with others who share the aim of securing the UK’s place in the single market and who want to see a successful economy which gives more money to invest in public services.

First of all, he states that the party really is over for Labour:

First, as this summer’s leadership election made clear, they do not even have a Neil Kinnock, let alone a Tony Blair. The Corbyn grip on Labour is stronger than ever, and so the party will continue to look inwards not outwards to voters.

Secondly, Labour then could look to Scotland and the North for both raw numbers and talent. No longer.

So as they view their prospects for 2017, Labour MPs face some unpalatable but necessary decisions. The Fabian estimate of Labour reduced to 150 seats may turn out to be optimistic. Its leader is more interested in ideological purity than winning elections, and, challenged by identity politics in its heartlands, Labour is as far from power as it was under Michael Foot. This time, however, there is no way back. Our first past the post electoral system – long supported by Labour – now threatens to consume them.

Labour, he says, is a “road block” to progress.

He calls on those in the Labour Party who don’t agree with its current direction to work with us:

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , and | 13 Comments

Is a Progressive Alliance the way forward?

Since the last general election – and even more so since the EU Referendum and the election of Donald Trump in the United States – there has been talk of a need for a “Progressive Alliance” between Labour, Lib Dems and Greens, in an effort to beat the Tories.

Much of this talk has come from Green Party members, with Caroline Lucas being a prominent voice in favour, but there are those in Labour and the Lib Dems for whom this would seem to be a beguiling idea. Indeed, former leader Lord Ashdown has long hankered for a realignment of the left.

Personally I’m a sceptic; for all sorts of reasons.

First, just how do you define “progressive”? To me it’s one of those political phrases that gets thrown around a lot, but means so many things to so many different people it has lost any real meaning. There are, for example, many in Labour who are perfectly happy with its authoritarian tendencies (evident in its internal organisation as well as in many of the policies it pursued in office) who would describe themselves as progressive, whereas I would not.

Posted in Op-eds | 36 Comments

Richmond Park is an important milestone – but it’s only the start

Well, we’re winning parliamentary by-elections again. Who’d have thought it possible on that awful night almost 19 months ago?

Liberal Democrats everywhere are grinning this morning. We’ve seen the brilliant local government results over the past few months. We saw the amazing Liz Leffman surge forward in the Tory heartland of Witney in October. Now, we have actually won another MP.

We shouldn’t under-estimate how massive a task winning Richmond Park was. It’s only been 37 days since Zac resigned. We had just over 5 weeks to change the agenda from Heathrow to Brexit and win the argument. A combination of clever literature, a fantastic candidate and an army of activists prepared to drop everything did it. Way back in the 90s when we were winning by-elections all the time, we had at least 3 times as long to make our case.

We also shouldn’t under-estimate how important it was that we won this. It was a seat we used to hold with a whacking great Remain vote. If we hadn’t, even if we had had a Witney type surge, people would have doubted our ability to change the political weather.

Sarah Olney’s victory has shown that we have still got what it takes to win the big moments. That is incredibly important for the outside world to see. Theresa May will be hoping that her MPs in similar seats to Richmond, where there is Liberal Democrat history, don’t cause any further by-elections.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , and | 29 Comments

Can we build in an extra question, please?

Maybe it’s just my own predisposition, but I seem to be seeing the phrase ‘more candidates’ all the time in Lib Dem literature. Mark Pack’s excellent pamphlet ‘How to Rebuild the Liberal Democrats’ talks about ‘more candiates’, Tim Farron has used the phrase, and my regional chair has just asked me to contribute to a by-election fund so we can stand ‘more candidates’.

All of which is good stuff, especially if more candidates lead to better quality candidates and increased diversity of candidates because more candidates are applying to fly the Lib Dem flag. But I’d also like to encourage the idea of ‘smarter candidates’, which requires asking the question: is this the right election for the Lib Dems to stand a candidate at all?

Cynics may point out that my current hobby horse is cross-party cooperation, and it is. But I’m still a Liberal Democrat who wants to see liberalism – especially social liberalism – enacted in this country. And for that to happen, we need the cooperation of other like-minded people who aren’t necessarily Lib Dems, people who Caroline Lucas, Lisa Nandy and I called ‘progressives’ in our recent book ‘The Alternative’.

Posted in Op-eds | 30 Comments
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