A Progressive Alliance for 2024

My conclusion from the election is simple. Progressive parties cannot fight each other next time. Instead, we must unite against the populist right. With our current electoral system it may be the only way to win.

So I have a proposal. But I warn you, many of you will not like it.

First, we must elect a new leader and so, according to their own timetable, will Labour. For a while we continue to develop our own individual policy platforms. Then, in about two years’ time, the four progressive parties of England and Wales come together and agree a common manifesto for the next election – similar in scope to the Coalition Agreement of 2010, but in advance.

Here’s the first unpalatable bit. Just like when we were the junior partner in the Coalition, we will have to compromise. A lot. Labour is by far the biggest party and will have the greatest say.

It gets worse. The leader of the resulting Progressive Alliance would have to be Labour’s leader. So whoever they elect would be who we agree would become Prime Minister.

I think we can accept that. We accepted David Cameron. Of course, I don’t know who Labour will choose as their next leader, but we should stay well out of that decision.

I am not suggesting any sort of merger. We all remain separate parties with our own identities: Labour, Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru. And in the future we compete with each other again. But we fight the next election on a common platform, with a single candidate in each constituency.

Candidates would be selected by their parties, and party allocations in Conservative-held seats would largely be determined by who came second this time. And all candidates would agree to run under the Progressive Alliance banner and accept the manifesto – so candidates could only begin to be selected once that was settled.

Can we come to such an agreement? In my view, we must. We’ve just seen what happens if we don’t.

* Brian Robinson joined the Liberal Democrats as a student in 1989 and has been a member ever since. He suffers from anxiety so doesn't interact much, and spends most of his time trying to get better.

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  • Chris Bowers 14th Dec '19 - 10:15am

    You’re right, Brian, it does need to be discussed. I will say no more than that at present, because there are so many variables (including crucially how willing Labour is to actually cooperate), and the dust is still settling. But one of the consoling thoughts of an awful result is that the unthinkable becomes thinkable, if only for a short time, so you’re right to throw this out there for discussion.

  • Isn’t this what Jo Grimmond understood all those years ago? We cannot make the breakthrough on our own. We have to become a catalyst around which a new broad centre left political entity can form.

  • David Becket 14th Dec '19 - 10:44am

    Can you see Rebecca Long Bailey and Co playing ball? Not a cat in hells chance.

  • Sopwith Morley 14th Dec '19 - 10:51am

    I would have thought the electoral commission might have something to say about your ideas for all sorts of reasons.

    Why don’t you just suggest all four parties amalgamate and call yourself something like Progressive Change, although for the life of me I am at a loss as to why anti-semitism is considered progressive.

  • Brian, I agree, a discussion should be had. My only personal reservation would be the next labour leader…….if it’s a Corbynite, like Ms Long Bailey with a Momentum agenda, I couldn’t be associated with those types of policy. Obviously it would need to comply with the electoral commission as Sophie points out.

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Dec '19 - 11:04am

    Brian – how do you define “Progressive”?

    The Labour Party isn’t progressive – it’s peddling a failed philosophy of socialism – and apparently practising dictatorship within its own ranks given the stories of intolerance of dissent which appear…. and also its unwillingness to consider co-operation with others. Their view of co-operation is “Do as we tell you”.

  • The one thing Jo Swinson got right was to keep the Momentum controlled Labour Party at arms length. Johnson wouldn’t believe his luck if this happened.

  • David Becket 14th Dec ’19 – 10:44am….Can you see Rebecca Long Bailey and Co playing ball? Not a cat in hells chance….

    To you and the other ‘little LidDemers’ that dismissal of even talking (Jo Swinson’s knee jerk reaction when askede to talk to Labor) is why this party has only 11 MPs and is going nowhere.

  • Martin Frost 14th Dec '19 - 11:43am

    The far left has to be ousted before there can be any hope of a Progressive alliance but if the opportunity arises the Party should take it.

    There are not enough people bought in to pure Liberalism and there never will be until the Party gets a bigger public platform. 4 seats in Scotland. 3 in SW London. That is not a national political party.

    Soft Tories always return home when the going gets a little rough. We have seen that happen time and again.

    I joined the Lib Dems from Labour before the SDP was formed . When the Alliance fell apart, many SDP members happily joined the Lib Dems and the Party prospered. It was only when Nick Clegg steered the party to the right that the party’s fortunes collapsed.

    It’s time to face up to political reality. Liberal principles are great ones but not enough people are hearing the message. A progressive alliance just might be the way forward.

  • David Becket 14th Dec '19 - 11:44am

    I am sorry expats, it was Labour that would not talk to anybody else, they are tribal. I would agree that attacking Corbyn was one of Jo’s many mistakes, though none of them as bad as backing SNP in calling the election.
    At local level I have worked as a senior councillor in coalition with both Tories and Labour, so please do not lecture me about talking to or working with others.

  • You need to define what “Progressive” is. In this context it always feels it’s a word chosen by socialists to provide cover for their real intentions. It goes hand in hand woth all sorts of other buzz words Labour have adopted with different meanings to what they are commonly understood by (austerity, neo-liberalim and radical are just a couple that spring to mind). Its weird that liberals keep on singing from Labour’s/socialist songbook.

    Whilst there will be a leadership change in the Labour Party it will still be a socialist party made up of a mostly socialist membership. My understanding of “progressive” leads me to conclude that most of the Labour platform is regressive. Their hideously identitarian form of politics (which sadly some small ‘l’ liberals ape) is so regressive to humanity’s progress over the past century. Their planned mismanagement of government spending and taxation would lead to a poorer country and a regression in the standards of living. Their Brexit policy (negotiate new Brexit deal and put to referendum) would lead to Brexit and a regression in cooperation in Europe and geographical unity. Their foreign policy would include regressing our standing in the world, and flirting with despots and terrorists would be a huge step backwards.

    The Liberal Democrats’ vision is poles apart from Labour’s regressive vision. There is no partner there am afraid, no matter how many left-leaning liberals, “radicals”, social liberals and event socialist liberals deludd themselves (and others). Labour truely is a nasty party.

  • A lot depends where Boris takes things, if the majority of working people end up with a huge tax cut paid for by simplifying and reducing welfare (for people who would never vote Tory) then it is going to be very hard to appeal to people when they realise you want to increase their taxes to put welfare back where it was. No access to welfare or NHS for non-British passport holders would be immensely popular with the working class but have the progressives rollings around the floor in shocked agony at the lack of fairness. Many more things will happen on the back of making Brexit work that will be popular with the majority of people that will make progressive politics difficult even if the disparate Left mutates into a whole body for elections.

    Maybe look at the Democrats in the USA for inspiration rather than cosying up to out of date Left politics?

  • Phil Beesley 14th Dec '19 - 12:19pm

    Charter 88 was formed as a response to successive Conservative election victories after 1979. It wasn’t an electoral pact but the organisation brought together liberals, social democrats, socialists and independent thinkers to campaign for constitutional reform. It is/was a failure in that Charter 88 and successor organisations have been unable to deliver electoral reform, but there have been minor successes. Individuals in the Labour Party are more open to PR thanks to Charter 88.

    The Labour Party was inclined to the “one more push” attitude under Neil Kinnock’s leadership. Kinnock fronted Labour’s ejection of entryists, reformed policy and the party nearly became electable. The party was not amenable on the whole to working with Liberal Democrats, owing to the SDP split and other old Labour sentiments, although some co-operation occurred in local government and non-partisan campaigns. The big change was the emergence of more open minded Labour politicians such as Robin Cook or Alan Simpson. It is worth noting that many came from the traditional left (Campaign or Tribune groups) as well as the social democratic wing.

    Under Paddy Ashdown’s leadership, conversations were conducted with the “new” political generation which became New Labour. There were no electoral pacts but an informal understanding that New Labour would act differently. We remember what happened when New Labour achieved power, and there were a few positive changes. And a lot of disappointment, for liberals and open minded lefties. Some of the people who presented themselves as decent Labour politicians turned out not to be so.

    We don’t know who will lead the Labour Party next year or who will guide policy and philosophy. It’ll take months to see through the murk of Conservative Party thinking, months more to develop a response. More of the same will not achieve much for liberalism but that does not mean knee jerk strategy or policy.

  • Joseph Bourke 14th Dec '19 - 12:32pm

    A progressive alliance can only be justified as a stepping stone toward proportional representation. It has to be remembered that PR normally means permanent coalition government and in most cases that means coalition with the largest party – quite often the Conservatives.
    A progressive alliance based purely on locking Conservatives and insurgent groups like the Brexit party out of power is probably doomed to failure as is any strategy based solely on disenfranching the centre right in British politics.
    There was an opportunity in 2017 when Mrs May lost her majority to reenter a coalition on the basis of putting Mrs May’s deal to a 2nd referendum. That opportunity was lost not because it wasn’t in the best interest of all to have a 2nd referendum, but for fear of the damage it could do to the Libdems. In the absence of the Libdems, the Tories did their supply and confidence deal with the DUP instead.
    For all the reported toxicity of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party. his leadership it is still not sufficiently unpalatable to prevent Labour squeezing the Libdem vote down from 20% to 11% in the recent campaign.
    The party needs to maintain its own set of aims and values and establish how it will maintain those values in a PR system. Refusing to work with other parties in government (only if they are Conservatives) is hardly a distinctive platform. It condemns the party to the fringes of the real opposition (Labour) and will always see the Libdem vote squeezed out in any general election.
    If that is the strategy, you might as well follow the cooperative party in entering an electoral pact with Labour to not stand candidates where Labour are best placed to win and any remaining LibDem candidates would stand using the description Labour and Liberal Democrat Party and take the Labour whip in Parliament.

  • I think such an alliance could only work if Labour tacked to the centre. Otherwise we all get tarred with the same brush and we would be destroyed in all seats that are Lib/Con battles.

    There’s a bigger opportunity here if labour continue to fail to understand why they lost. If they continue with their current brand of politics it leaves the centre wide open. Johnson took the north with voters who voted for Brexit, but more crucially not for Corbyn. If they face a Corbyn Successor v Johnson vote next time, they may stay blue. If we can offer a centrist/ centre left option, they’ll come to us and we could make huge inroads in 5 years time, perhaps set ourselves up as the challenger party in so many more seats. And then in 10 years, who knows.

    As a party we need to decide where we want to be, and appoint a leader who wants to lead us there. I fear if we dont grasp the oppportunity to make that centre-left ground our own, then we will continue to be an irrelevance in westminster. People wont vote for us in enough nunbers from positions of being the 3rd placed party as there will always be a bigger party that more people want to stop. We need to come out of 2024 being the 2nd party, and a Corbyn Successor would enable that, but only if we grasp that opportunity.

    Otherwise what *is* the point of us?

  • No, no, no. This is the liberal party, of which I am a member in order to get liberal MPs elected and ultimately implement liberal policies.

    We are not the ‘anti-Tory party’ or some annex of labour. What we have to do is develop bold, radical, liberal policies and communicate them to the public in a way that we’ve failed to do since 2010. We have no hope if we start down a road of standing down for socialists.

    These attempts to strip the party of its purpose and soul must be resisted. They will lead only to one direction- our demise.

  • Those currently in power in the Labour Party regard Liberal Democrats as bourgeois reformists who need to be destroyed (along with Blairites) because we prevent the masses from understanding the true evil of capitalism. The argument in favour of a progressive alliance completely misses the point that Seamus Milne and his ilk will be rejoicing at the outcome of the election because it will ensure that when the Tories again decimate the North of England as Mrs Thatcher did 35 years ago, a new generation will feel betrayed, the scales of false consciousness will fall from their eyes, and they will become receptive to true socialism.

  • Paul Barker 14th Dec '19 - 1:38pm

    Labour have spent 120 Years trying to destroy The Liberal Tradition in Britain. They are racist, authoritarian & statist, we should not touch them.
    We should be trying to build a Progressive Alliance with The Greens (outwith Scotland) Plaid Cymru & smaller Groups like The WEP. That will be hard work but has real potential in the long term.
    We need to free ourselves of this pathetic desire to be liked by trendy fools, Labour hate us & we should be working to make then hate us more. We are the only threat to their existence, we are their real Enemy & they know it. I just wish we knew it too.

  • Neil Sandison 14th Dec '19 - 1:48pm

    What it would require i a Labour leader who clearly indecated that they would colaborate cross party towards a progressive alliance from the begining The treatment of those who indecated they had voted tactically within labours ranks has been swift and brutal .Even local agreement could leave labour members open to expulsion .

  • Graham Jeffs 14th Dec '19 - 2:03pm

    Labour – “progressive”. You must be joking. Class-based dinosaurs more like

  • Richard Armitage 14th Dec '19 - 2:22pm

    I am quite saddened to read some of the comments on here. As a Labour member I also thought the idea of a progressive alliance was a good one. But if you prefer to stick with your 11 MPs that is also fine.

  • I look forward to Sir John Curtice or one of his ilk doing their multiple regression analysis and working out what the “Unite to Remain” pact achieved but looking at seats like Brecon & Radnor and the Isle of Wight has not yet led me to the conclusion that an electoral pact would solve the UK’s problems [I concede that it appeared to work better in Northern Ireland]. More to the point an electoral pact that led to the implementation of Labour’s 2019 manifesto would not be a step forward for liberalism – nationalise BT to provide free broadband for Aaron Banks – I think not.

  • David Becket 14th Dec ’19 – 11:44am
    I am sorry expats, it was Labour that would not talk to anybody else, they are tribal. I would agree that attacking Corbyn was one of Jo’s many mistakes, though none of them as bad as backing SNP in calling the election.
    At local level I have worked as a senior councillor in coalition with both Tories and Labour, so please do not lecture me about talking to or working with others……………….

    And there was me believing that, “Jaw, jaw is better than War, war”…

    Brian Robinson is, obviously wasting his time in suggesting EVEN talking to Labour who are ‘Class-based dinosaurs’. This party’s aim, according to Paul Barker, should be to make Labour “hate us even more” as they are not John Smith’s ‘soulmates’,,….

    As it stands this party is a threat to no-one but itself; it is in a more perilous state now than in 2012…
    Still, keep the party pure and unsullied by outside thoughts. However, as evolution teaches us, that way is a sure recipe for extinction.

  • Ian Patterson 14th Dec '19 - 2:38pm

    Corbyn will facilitate the election of a younger clone, as the broader membership is not in a position too accept anything other than that.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Dec '19 - 3:53pm

    Having been away from this site, as a participant, as having been away in person, dealing with a family situation in the US, I find it is as if not having been away, the same discussions, but the situation is now very changed, for this party.

    An opportunity did not work out at all, as expected or hyped. Revoke was a massive and unnecessary mistake, and Stop Brexit, Exit from Brexit got obsessive for years, and at the cost of perception of a mainstream alternative seen as extreme as the two more often extreme parties.

    If we are mainstream first, not progressive, though whatever either mean is open to consideration, we should have nothing to do with the Labour party as it is. There is nothing a liberal could like about a socialism that allows understanding or reapraisal for Stalin, Marxist sympathisers or Hamas Iran systematic and regularly expressed support. We could have dealings with the Conservatives, their moderates are yet there.Arguably under this government they might be or become, progressive, as the One Nation ideas emerge.

    This party could and should carry on as a centre party of the properly liberal sort, which is open, even open to a liberal Brext. Or it can be a fantasy party committed to a better yesterday, in that case with much in common with Labour.

  • Phil Beesley 14th Dec '19 - 4:08pm

    @David Becket: “I would agree that attacking Corbyn was one of Jo’s many mistakes…”

    I reckon that kicking a player when they are down is unfair. Give them a chance to stand up.

    Jeremy Corbyn learned his politics in the 1970s when he stopped learning. Others with a more acquisitive nature changed track. Social democracy, liberal democracy, anarchism, the Independent Labour Party — lots of options for a leftie with a heart.

    Corbyn chose the Leninist route which isolated him for 30 years. And then some pillocks voted him leader of the Labour Party.

    I don’t blame the MPs who signed his papers for Labour leadership — they acted in goodwill.

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Dec '19 - 4:34pm

    @Richard Armitage
    “As a Labour member I also thought the idea of a progressive alliance was a good one.”

    Please tell us what you mean by “progressive”. It is a word which is bandied about with no common understanding or agreement as to its meaning in a political sense.

    As I said above:
    “The Labour Party isn’t progressive – it’s peddling a failed philosophy of socialism – and apparently practising dictatorship within its own ranks given the stories of intolerance of dissent which appear…. and also its unwillingness to consider co-operation with others. Their view of co-operation is “Do as we tell you”.”

    If the Labour Party moves – genuinely – towards working with people in other parties who wish to improve the lives of all our people, not just those at the top of the tree, we might be in a position to work with them. As it is, for Thursday’s election, it was Labour who rebuffed efforts at co-operation.

  • Phil Beesley 14th Dec '19 - 4:36pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin: “Revoke was a massive and unnecessary mistake, and Stop Brexit, Exit from Brexit got obsessive for years, and at the cost of perception of a mainstream alternative seen as extreme as the two more often extreme parties.”

    “Revoke” was a big gamble. “Revoke” was sold appallingly. The sales pitch was so bad that leadership were embarrassed by it.

    I’m a reluctant Remainer, a power sceptic, and Revoke.

  • Laurence Cox 14th Dec '19 - 5:04pm

    There is only one way we can do a deal with Labour and that is if the joint manifesto includes PR for Westminster; not a referendum on AV, but a absolute binding commitment by all the parties to bring in PR (preferably STV in multi-member constituencies, but I would accept AMS as in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Senedd) plus an agreed agenda for the lifetime of the Parliament (as we will need time to get the legislation through Parliament).

    And don’t think that we have until 2024 to set this up. Once Johnson has got his Brexit through he will be looking at repealing the FTPA, so he gets the power back to call a GE whenever he wants. If the Tories are still riding high, we might have an election as early as the Summer or Autumn of 2023 rather than on May 2nd 2024.

  • Brian Robinson 14th Dec '19 - 5:26pm

    Thank you for the comments so far. I will try to reply to more of them later, but several people have said I should define “progressive” and they are right.

    It’s a bit of a loose term, and different people I’m sure we’ll have different ideas of what it means. Here’s mine (off the top of my head):

    Progressives act to try to improve the quality of life for everyone, with a particular focus on tackling disadvantage and the harm we are doing to our environment. Unlike populists, progressives do not seek to blame any group of people for everything that is wrong and do not claim to speak uniquely for “the people” (as if all people had the same view).

  • Michael Berridge 14th Dec '19 - 5:55pm

    Frank West “if the majority of working people end up with a huge tax cut paid for by simplifying or reducing welfare (for people who would never vote Tory)… [it] would be immensely popular with the working class but have the progressives rollings around the floor in shocked agony…”
    This is the most alarming thing I have read among all these comments and I greatly fear that it is true.

  • Peter Martin 14th Dec '19 - 6:16pm

    I think its pretty clear that the majority of Lib Dems don’t think the Labour Party is progressive and the sentiment is reciprocated in spades by Labour Party members too.

    A supposed “progressive alliance” is just a non starter for the foreseeable future.

    It’s not, at least for me, just the coalition years. It’s being descibed as a “pillock” “who voted [JC] leader of the Labour Party”.

    You lot had your chance to stop Brexit but you didn’t want to. That would have meant putting JC into no10 and you couldn’t have that, now , could you?

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Dec '19 - 6:58pm

    Why use the word “progressive”? Our country has developed in a way that the rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer. We have changed from the 1970s when we were one of the most equal countries in Europe to now when we are one of the most unequal.

    That is why many people in this country are nostalgic, and what they want is to turn the clock back, not to be “progressive”. The genius of the Conservative Party has been to get the support of people who are conservative in not wanting to see big changes in society while at the same time rapidly changing our country by supporting extreme right-wing economics which has broken down government and given so much more control over how the country is run to big business.

    Back in the past, politics was on the basis that socialism was the inevitable way things would change, so socialists were those pushing it fast, and conservatives wanting to be a bit cautious about it and so slowing it down. So, at that time using “progressive” to mean left-wing politics made sense.

    Since the 1980s, however, politics has been predominantly about pushing things towards more extreme free-market economics, where that in reality means control by international billionaires. It is the right-wingers who are enthusiastic about pushing things forward in what is now seen as the inevitable way things must change, and left-wingers who are urging caution on that.

    What is happening now is that a lot of ordinary people think that if we are “progressive” that means that we are right-wingers who want to push things away from the old more equal and less stressful society we used to have. So, in the general election we just had, they voted Conservative to show their opposition to what in reality is Conservative economic policy.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Dec '19 - 7:15pm

    Frank West

    A lot depends where Boris takes things, if the majority of working people end up with a huge tax cut paid for by simplifying and reducing welfare (for people who would never vote Tory) then it is going to be very hard to appeal to people when they realise you want to increase their taxes to put welfare back where it was.

    We need to be honest about this and explain it properly. We didn’t.

    If people want the government to do more, and many say they do, then it must be paid for by tax increases. If people want tax decreases, then they must accept further cuts in what the government does.

    One of the big problems is that many people seem to think that tax and government spending are two different unrelated things. For example, they supposed a Conservative-LibDem coalition would combine Conservative policy on tax with LibDem policy on government spending. Well, it didn’t, because there was no way the LibDems with just one-sixth of the government and no alternative government possible could get the Conservatives to drop their main policy: keeping tax low. We should have said that. By not saying it, people blame us for what was inevitable.

    A big way in which keeping tax down in 2010-15 was done was by stopping direct government spending on universities. But if we hadn’t give in to that, what else could have been done? Even bigger cuts elsewhere?

    So what next in order to be able to do more tax cuts? It seems to me it may have to be doing with NHS what was done in 2010-15 with universities. Happy with that?

  • Michael Sammon 15th Dec '19 - 3:14am

    Good luck squaring that circle between liberals, centrists and socialists. It’s a non starter. This isn’t American politics and nor should it become so. All this is going to achieve is destroy our bases in the seats we stand down in.

  • Ed Shepherd 15th Dec '19 - 7:53am

    Brian’s article is broadly correct. A progressive alliance would have stopped a Boris government or reduced it’s majority. There is not much to be gained from trying to differentiate between the meaning of socialism, social democracy, liberalism, etc. Boris will put loads of investment into those northern seats nit does that mean he is now a socialist? More thoughts on the recent GE: despite the widely expressed dislike of Corbynism, the Labour party still got one in three votes. Leave voters are divided on what Leave means and that will be more of a factor in deciding future elections than economic policies. Despite what someone said above, lots of people who receive state benefits voted Tory and even massive cuts in benefits will not turn them against the Tories. Scotland and NI are going, the LDP have been too strident in opposing nationalism thus losing some Scottish, Welsh and even English support that they could have done with. English parliament is needed and to their credit LDP support federalism but make a mistake in trying to make it regional not national thus alienating the English voters that Boris tapped into. All these renegade MPs from other parties and old grandees switching to vote LDP brought only problems to the LDP especially in London. Just because Momentum or the ERG does not like an MP does not mean that MP is a good one….

  • Peter Martin 15th Dec '19 - 9:03am

    @ Ed Shepherd,

    I used to agree with this general approach. I actually ran a tactical voting website in 2010 which went ballistic in terms of hits in the days before the election. I wish I hadn’t bothered later as the coalition formed. I won’t repeat this mistake again.

    My mistake was to think that the Lib Dems were somehow part of a left opposition to the Tory party. If that were the case then it would make sense to do what we could to unify it. It is probably true of many individual Lib Dem members but not enough in overall terms. I would say Brian Robinson is making the same mistake. A Lib Dem friend of mine recently put me straight on that point. He wrote on his blog that he’d rather have the Tories and Brexit than Jeremy Corbyn and no Brexit.

    The calling of this election when all possibilities, in the old Paliament, for deposing Boris Johnson hadn’t been fully exhausted confirms that the Lib Dem leadership thinks along the same lines.

  • Paul Bennett 15th Dec '19 - 9:13am

    Exactly the same conclusion I came to at about 10:30 on Thursday night, even down to the name. I had the SNP in it as well, and NI’s Alliance &/or Aontú, since I believe we should ditch our obsession with ‘The Union’. Labour’s inclusion would largely depend upon the leader being from their Sensible tendency. In Darlington and Sedgefield we have lost two decent and sensible Labour MPs who might have been better served by a Progressive Alliance.

  • John Marriott 15th Dec '19 - 9:23am

    How to beat the Tories in five(?) years time? Assuming that one of the first things Johnson does is to repeal the FTPA, gerrymander, sorry, redraw the parliamentary boundaries and then reduce the size of the House of Commons – but probably not the Lords – by then some sort of trade deal with an increasingly fractious EU might have been achieved – and England might be World Cup holders!

    With the Democrats possibly succumbing to another Electoral College defeat in 2020, especially if they select a left wing candidate and with China still flexing its muscles, not forgetting the Climate movement, we just might have stumbled into the kind of modus vivendi to tide us over what could be a very traumatic new decade.

    Any ‘Progressive Alliance’ ought to contain the Labour Party, unless it really does morph into a niche Socialist Talking Shop. However, what this election ought to tell us is that those of us with university degrees, who read serious newspapers, attend conferences and really do have a social conscience, have got to wake up to the fact that the majority of our fellow citizens have moved on. The antics in parliament over the past three years did more damage to democracy than many of us realised. Quite frankly, with FPTP living on, some kind of agreement is essential. One factor, however, that might come back to haunt the new Tory government is what happens north of the border. As the late Lord Stockton was alleged to have said; “Events, dear boy, events”.

  • Peter Martin 15th Dec '19 - 9:27am

    @ Matthew Huntbach,

    “If people want the government to do more, and many say they do, then it must be paid for by tax increases. If people want tax decreases, then they must accept further cuts in what the government does.”

    I’ve tried to explain this before but you seem to have a mental block. We aren’t talking about our local councils which do have to operate on this ‘household’ principle. If a local council does want to spend money it has to raise it first, perhaps by raising council tax or selling some land. It isn’t like this for a currency issuing government. It isn’t a household albeit on some grand scale.

    The process of spending and taxation should be used to regulate the economy in a sensible fashion. Cutting spending results in reductions of revenue. That’s a sensible thing to do if the economy is overheating and inflation is an issue. It isn’t, though, going to reduce any deficit for obvious reasons. Conversely, if the economy is running too cold an increase in spending will result in an increase in revenue. Maybe not straight away. There will be a time lag. But that’s not the reason for doing it. It is to speed up an economy that needs speeding up.

    Doing that will “pay for itself” if you insist on looking at it like that. It will decrease the need of the state to provide what many workers are quite capable of providing themselves providing they have adequate and sufficiently well paid work.

  • Arnold Kiel 15th Dec '19 - 9:44am

    By 2024 it will not be about policies or their compatibility anymore. Much more will be at stake. Think Orban, Kaczynski, Babis, Salvini (likely back by then), LePen (possibly). A divided opposition keeps them in place, or will bring them back, respectively (and mostly under PR).

  • I agree that some sort of centre-left pack will be needed in the future, as long as we keep having to use FPTP.

    One thing to be borne in mind is the Tories’ plans to move all the boundaries and perhaps, with the majority they now have, to reduce the number of MPs to 500 or so as they wanted to in the past.
    This will lead to the removal of many marginals, and the creation of more and more safe Tory seats. We face the loss of the non-Tory seats in Scotland and NI too, making it increasingly difficult if not impossible to get them out of power in the future.

    A centre-left pact will likely be the only way to get the Tories out of power, get electoral reform so that we never again get a Tory (or any other) dictatorship on barely two-fifths of the vote, and banish the adversarial politics from Britain for good.

  • Peter Martin 15th Dec '19 - 10:16am

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    “Think Orban, Kaczynski, Babis, Salvini (likely back by then), LePen (possibly).”

    Not our problem any longer! Except we’ll have to work out just how to best handle the inevitable fall-out from future EU internal conflict.

  • Richard Taylor 15th Dec '19 - 11:44am

    This should happen but the Labour party will not countenance it until the Corbynistas are defeated in 2024. Hate to say it but hey are already saying that their Brexit policy was the only thing to blame. We are doomed to 10 more years of the Tories

  • Peter Martin,

    Evidently I failed to express myself clearly: the UK has the same problem now. Its called Johnson

  • The LDP leadership overestimated the popularity of rogue MPs and grandees from other parties but underestimated the basic strength of the Labour Party. Apparently Labour got more votes this time than under the inoffensive, moderate, likeable Ed Milliband.
    A decade of reading LDV has shown me that many LDP supporters do not ‘get’ the Labour Party. They cannot work out why it continues to exist and will always get a lot of votes, members and supporters. The Labour Party continues because there are people who join trade unions and hence end up funding the Labour Party. Why do they join trade unions? As a defence against bad working conditions and an insurance against problems in the work place. There will always be something like a Labour Party in every country as long as their is inequality and insecurity in the workplace. A Labour Party is not some evil Stalinist project even if it attracts some extreme characters. It’s the result of an economic conflict in the workplace. The LDP is going to have to come to terms with that even if it sometimes means stepping aside for a Labour candidate but getting nothing in return e.g. Kensington or Canterbury.

  • Brian Robinson 15th Dec '19 - 1:12pm

    @Paul Bennett, you are right, I should have included the Alliance Party of NI, and I apologise for the omission. The situation is somewhat different because we don’t have candidates in NI; but the Alliance Party certainly should be included in discussions, and in any common manifesto that is agreed.

    The SNP is more problematic and I’m not even sure of my own view on that at the moment. I’d welcome people’s thoughts on the SNP.

    More generally, let me add this:

    Comments seem to mostly fall into one of three categories: (1) no way, never, under no circumstances; (2) yes, but only if…; or (3) yes, it’s not the situation I wish we were in, but given the reality, it’s the only way to stand a chance of getting a different government next time.

    My view, as you will have gathered from the article, is number 3. But to those in the middle category: I think preconditions, at this stage, would be a mistake.

    I have some sympathy for the “only if the manifesto includes proportional representation for Westminster” view, but I think we should not go to Labour with demands. I hope they will come round to PR themselves in their own time, and many Labour members already have.

    As for “only if their leader is/isn’t…”, that’s for them to decide, and then we talk to whoever they choose. Similarly with the “only if they move more to the centre ground” – that’s for them, and whatever they decide I still think it’s worth talking. I keep coming back to the overriding question: what happens at the next election if we don’t?

    Finally, I accept that Labour might need to change their constitution if they wanted to participate, and that there would anyway be Electoral Commission difficulties with my proposal (but we have time to resolve those). And of course I also accept that Labour may well simply say “no”. The first step, though, would be for us to agree that it’s worth asking them.

  • My question is this – is the Liberal Democrat party liberal? I was just reading our constitution, especially the bit about no one being enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. This is a test that should be explicitly used to test every policy.
    I attended the conference this year in York. I was struck by the illiberal nature of the way the conference was run. This even extends to the fact that if I wanted to speak I was expected to reveal what I was going to say. The speakers are then chosen by a process which is a mystery to me. At the debate on the supporters issue there were people – I think plural is right – who said they had reservations but that they had to support it because they were on some committee or other.
    I respect that people have the right to advocate Democratic Centralism. There is an argument that China has progressed because of it.
    However I struggle to see how this fits in with any sensible definition of political liberalism.
    So at the moment I would score our party 4 out of 10 on the liberalism axis.
    The members I have listened to score anything on my reckoning from 5 to 9 or 10.
    I realise that the idea of a liberalism axis is meaningless, but a great contribution of the west to intellectual progress has been to make up words, without defining them, and then to assume that they mean something. The word “Brexit” springs to mind.

  • Brian, many thanks for your excellent starter. I have read only 2 or 3 responses so far, being busy with Christmas, but I shall. Glancing at them scrolling past, however, I get the impression (apols to all whom I’m maligning) that too many are too negative, knee-jerkily.

    Before I quit for the present, however, may I question your assertion that the leader of the Progressive Alliance would have to be the Leader of Labour, as the biggest of the parties involved?

    I suggest the Leader of the Alliance ought to be a recent Leader of the smallest party. Such a Leader would clearly not have the numerical clout to boss the other parties about, and would therefore be much more likely to be acceptable to each of the other parties. He or she , even by virtue of being relatively well known and generally respected by our ‘progressive’ side of the electoral spectrum, would stand a much better chance of being an acceptable Chair, in the attempt to arrive at the shared Manifesto. Work-hardened to the being always outnumbered by bigger wigs, on such panels as Any Questions; tough, well respected, experienced, forward looking, indomitably cheerful, polite, and sensible , he or she should be the unanimous choice of all parties involved.

    Afterthought: I would expect that the Alliance Chair portrayed above might not be, and need not be, the consequent PM after a successful General Election. I expect it would be, though.

    And I agree strongly with your suggestion that after winning a General Election the Alliance would amicably dissolve, to resume the competition between parties — but not before introducing a democratic electoral machinery, surely?

  • Nom de Plume 15th Dec '19 - 6:06pm

    I think Putney Labour should join the LibDems and that the Labour party should go and think about how it is going to best represent those seats and voters in their red wall that they have just lost to the Tories.

  • David Allen 15th Dec '19 - 6:31pm

    What we don’t need is an alliance between two failed parties with one big thing in common – the blinkered inability to understand why they failed.

    Wishful thinking is the disease of British politics. The wishful thinking that led Labour to believe that piling up a mountain of implausible Socialist bribes would buy back their disillusioned voters. The wishful thinking that led Lib Dems to misinterpret a temporary surge in “support” as anything other than a demand for the party to do its best to stop Brexit – followed by revulsion, when the Lib Dems instead helped Johnson get his Brexit election done, in the vain hope of winning seats. And of course, the wishful thinking of the Brexiteers, kidding themselves that throwing off the “tyranny” of the EU will magically put Britain on its feet again.

    We need to see the back of all the wishful thinkers who have dominated Labour and the Lib Dems. The only way that can happen is a complete new start – by forming a new party which aims to overthrow, banish and supplant both Labour and the Lib Dems. Jess Phillips, Chukka Umunna, Layla Moran, Keir Starmer – Please listen!

  • My comment to Mark. I do understand what the theory is about seeing contributions in advance. It certainly didn’t happen in the case of the time wasting debate on the introduction of a supporters scheme. There other ways of doing it, but the paramount criterion should be openness and accountability. This evidence is that these concepts are not understood.

  • David Allen – you obviously havent learnt anything from the SDP and ChangeUK – forming a new party and expecting it to do well electorally under FPTP, is not going to happen, it is, ironically, nothing more than “wishful thinking”.

  • @ David Allen – yes! I am a Remainer who paid to be a LibDems member almost three years ago, having been a Labour Party member for over a decade before Corbyn and his stance on Brexit alienated me. I joined LibDems as essentially the Remain party, getting my votes in two general elections, a European and local election. The party no longer has my support after this disastrous winter general election it never needed to support , and I feel that Remainers like me were just used and exploited to temporarily hold up a dying party. I’m disappointed and now politically homeless, but there we go. Unless the LibDems are part of an eventual rejoin campaign, my time is over for good as a LibDem voter, member and activist.

  • David Allen 16th Dec '19 - 3:28pm

    JH, you obviously haven’t learnt anything from – the Labour Party, a century ago! Forming a new party which breaks through under FPTP can be successful, if major change is really needed. A revolt against the penury of the Industrial Revolution was needed then. An effective revolt against the new Right is needed now.

  • David Allen – good luck with that (you ll need it), say hello to Anna Soubury and Gavin Shuker for me. By the time youve amassed enough resources and people, any opportunity for a revolt will have long since gone. I m sure Lib Dems will be sympathetic when you fail again . . . and we ll still have a far bigger and (therefore more effective) party to affect the revolt you talk about.

  • Edward Wills 16th Dec '19 - 10:26pm

    I agree with you completely, but I would add that once in power, you need electoral reform, with Single Transferrable Vote, Proportional Representation or another suitable alternative.

    This is the only way for the UK as a whole to have fair representation, and put an end to the huge divide in our society. We have to work together.

  • Tactical voting is at best a plaster to our voting system and we should start opposing it as it also does not work. To me, preferential voting is pivotal as it allows the electorate to choose who is second best etc and with a fair counting system allows the extremes to be marginalised. What value to give to a second choice is a subject for debate though I suspect it should be the same as a first choice or that also will not work.

  • What everyone’s forgetting to acknowledge is how the FPTP system inherently benefits the tories. They won 56% of the seats from 44% of the vote. I know a lot of voters who regularly move between the Lib Dem’s, greens and labour, and the FPTP system serves to punish this. Personally I would like to see the tories ousted in 2024 as its the only way were going re-join the EU. However under the current system I cant see how they’ll be voted out. The Lib Dem’s are now a party of only 9 mps, that’s not going to drastically change anytime soon. Even the great John Curtice argues that labours policies were broadly popular just the leadership was thought to be incompetent. As far as I can see a progressive alliance with all opposition parties offering voters a binary choice in each seat may be the only way even if only to introduce PR and re-engage with the EU. Although I’m all ears if anyone has a better idea of how to oust the current government.

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