Do Lib Dem members favour a “progressive alliance” against the Tories?

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. 741 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

There have been many conversations about the possibility of parties on the progressive side of politics working together against the Tories. We asked whether people liked that idea and, if so, what forms of collaboration would they tolerate.

Do you think that Labour, SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats should work together to oppose the Conservative Government in a type of progressive alliance?

Yes: 54.52%

No:   45.48%

So a clear, but narrow majority in favour of joint working of some sort.

Here are some of the comments:

I do, but it’s not possible for the simple reason that no deal with the SNP and Labour is workable in Scotland. Would the SNP simply stand down many of their MPs? Because if not what do Labour have to gain?

A PA is the last thing the Lib Dems should even think of at this stage. The party is struggling to find its own identity within itself and with voters, so an Alliance will weaken our image further – possibly fatally.

Sounds unworkable – unless it can 100% guarantee, as its very first act, a change of electoral system for future General Elections.

This is the only way that a democratic breakthrough can be achieved. A temporary alliance with a committment to reform government and electoral system, then all for themselves.

In a binary electoral system it is the only approach that makes sense. If we can’t achieve PR then we must push for a formal primary system, and until then arrangements between all opposition parties should be sought.

This is the single most important issue facing politics in the UK. This is the only way that we can bring about an effective, mature PR system and prevent the voices of large parts of the electorate gaining to be heard.

No. I see this as an unique opportunity for the Liberal Democrats to recover. Just like the coalition government, our message would be diluted or compromised and others would take credit for our policies.

I think that the SNP in particular do not share many of our Liberal principles.

If we get a Tory majority in 2020, they will have a full blown mandate for wholesale Tory tinkering with the Constitution. We need electoral reform (proportional representation) so that the Tories can no longer drive through their policies on the back of only 36% of votes.

We then asked what sort of co-operation people would support. The least popular options involved either electoral pacts in certain seats and open primaries between progressive candidates. People may well remember the seat negotiations with the SDP in the 1980s. 44% of respondents, however, were happy with the idea of covert co-operation and non-aggression strategies.

Here’s how it played out.

Standing down Liberal Democrat candidates to give the main opponent to the Conservatives a free run? 17.68%

Supporting any candidate in a seat who subscribed to a particular set of progressive values. 25.51%

Covert co-operation and non-aggression strategies between parties to maximise the anti-Conservative vote 44.4%

Maintaining clear equidistance between Labour and Conservatives 21.86%

None of the above 22.13%

The “More United’ style option was supported by 25%. I’m not sure what the earthly use is of supporting more than one candidate in a seat in the electoral system we have, though.

It certainly shows that there is some appetite for some sort of collaborative working, which will encourage the panel at the fringe meeting that is due to take place at lunchtime.

  • 2,200+ Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with  741 completed the latest survey, which was conducted between 13-15 September 2016
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. The surveys are, though, the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country.
  • We have been able to test the LibDemVoice surveys against actual results on a handful of occasions. It correctly forecast the special Lib Dem conference would overwhelmingly approve the Coalition Agreement in May 2010. In the 2008 and 2010 elections for Lib Dem party president, it correctly predicted the winner. However, in the 2014 election it didn’t; see here for my thoughts on this.
  • Polling expert Anthony Wells has written about the reliability/validity of LibDemVoice surveys here.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Read more by .
This entry was posted in LDV Members poll.


  • This shows the split between social liberals and economic liberals in the party is almost 50 – 50.

    I despise the quasi-nationalism and socially illiberal policies of the Tories, but the economic policies of Corbynism, the Greens and Plaid are far far more dangerous. I do not want to be on the same side as Corbyn, McDonnell the FBU, POA, RMT or ASLEF unions all which have more in common with not only the Brexiteer TUSC, but also the “Red” side of UKIP than us – protectionist and closed off to the world. Similarly the Greens despite being far more internationalist are still ultimately protectionists and pro nationalisation, trade union power and anti free trade and anti investor protection.

    Any alliance has to be with Liberal Tories and the sensible wing of the Labour Party (pro EU, pro Washington, pro migration, pro feminism, pro markets and pro privatisation). We could work with Chukka Ummuna, Jess Phillips, Tristram Hunt, Liz Kendall or Yvette Cooper – however the Labour members, trade unions and both traditional Labour voters and the left wing vote seem to have spurned these people in favour of the hard left (Corbynites or Greens) or UKIP.

  • jedibeeftrix 18th Sep '16 - 11:26am

    GE2015 amply demonstrated that while we are now in the era of multi-party politics, it does not mean we are in the era of multi-party government.

    The very dissolution of the binary electoral choice that gave 40+ percent vote shares in the past, now provides the incumbent parties with lots of fractured little victims to exploit as a result of the poor electoral knowledge their limited resource can afford.

    A progressive alliance only achieves the weakening of the formal opposition, and explicitly entrenches the disorganisation of the Tory’s GE completion.

  • @Stimpson – I agree with much of your sentiment.

    I do believe in a Bi-partisan consensus and approach where possible. However, at this current moment, the Corbyn/McDonnell/Momentum ethos appears to be one of absolutes – i.e If you don’t agree with all we say, then you must be against us, and if you are against us then we will do our utmost to discredit and destroy you – If they are willing to unleash their anger and disdain on members of their own PLP/Donors/Executive what chance, or indeed what would possess anyone to sit down and think there is a chance for reasoned discussion? Or indeed the chance that they would even honour any sort of agreement?

    At this current inflection point that we currently find ourselves at, I think the most important thing we can do is to be “Partisan” and continue to show that there are differences – IMHO!

  • Richard Underhill 18th Sep '16 - 12:05pm

    Guardian journalist Zoe went to the Green conference and pointed out the differences over timing. Climate change is overwhelmingly urgent for Greens (less so for the Tories whose interest is mainly in power at the expense of the national interest and the UK’s share of wider interests).

  • Bill le Breton 18th Sep '16 - 5:54pm

    The Tories may be the enemy, but Labour is and always has been the competition. They understood that in the early C20th and replaced us. The C21st is our time to replace Labour.

    Any efforts to help them through their present difficulties is a way of ensuring that we continue to be the weaker challenger to the Tories. People will continue to vote for real Tories and what they perceive as the real opposition to the Tories.

    History is not on the side of the smaller and weaker alternative to the Tories.

  • paul barker 18th Sep '16 - 6:31pm

    We need to be nimble to take advantage of fast-moving events. I certainly dont rule out us getting a larger vote share than Labour in Witney or in The National Equivalent Vote next May. I dont rule out big Labour defections to us but that wont alter the fact that we have less than 80,000 members, barely half the membership of The Tories, less than a quarter of Labours. We are not going to defeat The Tories without Allies.

  • There is so much that could go right, or wrong with an attempt at an alliance.

    One of the biggest problems is that while we know we agree with a number of issues, Labour, like the Tories, is a broad church. Many of our members would happily get behind some Labour candidates if they are in a strong position to beat the Tories, but not so much with certain others.

    I’d be keen on a very limited scheme within ‘progressive’ parties, for those candidates publicly committed to Proportional Representation, where we have a reciprocal arrangement recognising that the other party should be getting a certain number of seats. I know I’d be happy for the Lib Dems to step aside to let Caroline Lucas take the lead in Brighton, so long as they agreed to step aside in a constituency of our choosing. We could use it as an opportunity to talk about the benefits of PR, and to demonstrate a bit of inter-party respect.

    We’ll come unstuck if a moderate Labour candidate agrees to step aside for a Lib Dem who has a better chance of winning, because people on the hard left of Labour would insist that one of their candidates should be selected instead.

    What I hope is achievable is that we get a commitment to fair play and require positive campaigning between the relevant parties. In particular, no misrepresentation of what a rival said, or did, and definitely no manipulation of the ‘they abstained on …’ data. Pretending that a rival doesn’t care about an issue they do care about provides a bigger opportunity to the opposing candidate who really doesn’t care about it.

  • Bill le Breton 18th Sep '16 - 8:56pm

    No Labour candidate will step aside for anyone. Labour will field circa 600 candidates.

    Of course there may be some EX Labour who decide to stand against a Corbyn Labour Party, but why should a genuine Lib Dem hero step aside for that person? Better there are two Labour candidates and the Labour vote is split.

    There is not one single member of the Labour PLP who is as good a Liberal as any of our candidates in 2015 in 2020 for that matter.

    Our job is to get a larger group in Parliament than Labour – simple. That is what the Labour Party did to us in the election following the WW1. It is what we have to do this time, in this new century.

    Enough of this arrant nonsense about doing deals with anyone for 2020.

    Nor should we want our Lib Dem Party overwhelmed by ‘former’ Labour candidates and MPs who in the 2010-15 Parliament did everything they could to DESTROY the Liberal Democrats.

    The best way they can help Liberal democrats is by standing against Labour official candidates.

  • I don’t want to work with Jess Phillips. I would rather regain Birmingham Yardley for the Liberal Democrats

  • Not often that I say this….but I agree with Nick! p.166 “Politics”: “…genuine pluralism is the opposite of realignment. The former implies a shifting combination of coalitions, in which parties maintain their independence but act to follow the will of the electorate as best they can. The latter is arguably just a glorified term for two or more parties ganging up together to hammer a common enemy”.

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Sep '16 - 10:37pm

    I really don’t understand this periodically repeating hiccup of the anti-Tory “progressive alliance”.
    If you really believe that there is a binary choice in politics – that you’re either a little Conservative or a little Progressive – then for pity’s sake just join the Labour Party. As Fiona says (18th Sep ’16 – 7:10pm), the Labour Party is a broad church: if your feeling is that “we agree on a lot, but not everything” then why not just join and fight for what you believe within that alliance, which is clearly – still – the best placed to defeat the Tories?
    If you don’t believe that politics is primarily a choice between two options (and I don’t, quite; though the experience of 2010–15 has severely shaken that belief), then keep fighting for what you actually believe in: presumably, something like Liberal Democracy.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Sep '16 - 11:03pm

    I get the impression the Greens really want a progressive alliance because they know they don’t have a big future as a near single-issue party.

    If I identified as centre-left I would support the idea. It makes sense if that’s your politics. Labour are running away from the centre-left though and are creating a cult-like movement based on Jeremy Corbyn and his opinions.

  • Malcolm Todd – well said.
    Ever since I’ve been a member (1986), this debate just keeps coming up. We grab at any passing party who seems to agree with us on certain things at that moment. And then we wonder why voters don’t know what we stand for!
    Of COURSE we should co-operate with others where it is sensible – and we do that all the time, in response to election results. But to proclaim this as our strategic mission? Are we crazy? Did we learn nothing from the coalition?
    People vote for parties that stand for things. We should be using every ounce of our energy, and the tiny amount of media coverage we get, to proclaim what we are FOR. This endless cross-party talk is a Westminster game. If you don’t believe me, knock on a door and ask a voter. (Yes. Remember them?)

  • PS. Stimpson – Your assumptions are way too broad. I’m one of the 45% who voted NO in the survey, but that does NOT mean I am an economic liberal. I’m actually as social a liberal as you can get. I just don’t like these Westminster parlour games.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 19th Sep '16 - 8:05am

    A “Progressive Alliance” would deny voters the freedom to choose. All “progressive” parties should stand in each constituency – If voters feel that the main priority is to defeat the Conservatives, then they can choose to vote “tactically” if they wish, but this must be their choice. As Liberal Democrats, who support democracy, freedom and choice, we should oppose any “alliance” that restricts voters’ choice

  • Peter Watson 19th Sep '16 - 9:57am

    @Shaun Young “If you don’t agree with all we say, then you must be against us, and if you are against us then we will do our utmost to discredit and destroy you”
    This sounds more like the approach of the parliamentary Labour party which is why I think Lib Dems should be very cautious about an alliance with that party’s so-called “sensible wing”. I suspect they (and probably moderate Tories) would try to deal with the Lib Dems using the Microsoft strategy of “embrace, extend, and extinguish”.

  • I agree with both of Bill le Breton’s posts above.

  • @Peter Watson – I absolutely agree, I would be very sceptical of any overtures made even from as you put it ‘moderate’ wings of either the Tories or Labour. I have over the past months been somewhat bemused by the internal squabbles of both, but more worryingly it almost appears that both are retreating to ‘base’ settings not seen since the 80’s which doesn’t bode well :-/

  • I don’t see why an alliance has to be an electoral pact of some sort. What about an alliance in Parliament to create a broad-based, robust opposition to the Conservatives from now until 2020?

  • Malcolm Todd 19th Sep '16 - 2:26pm

    David-1 19th Sep ’16 – 1:27pm

    “What about an alliance in Parliament…?”

    We had one of those in the last Parliament. How do you think it worked for us?

  • Well, I’m not a progressive, but a Liberal. I find much of Corbynite Labour and Greens to be abhorrent and I fail to see how we can bridge our differences.
    Also, I don’t think these types of alliances can truly mean anything, or be beneficial, in our FPTP system.

    I think we should be resigned to the fact, that we won’t be in government the next go around. I reject this attempt to form an alliance, and think that if we stay on-message
    and be competent, that we will be a natural choice for people looking to make the move.

  • If we have to reach out, it should be to those Tories we have something in common with, as well as to the left. But, as I’ve posted on an old thread, with a healthy mistrust. Other parties will deal with us only if it suits their best interests and only for as long as that continues to be the case.

    All this talk of alliances is just saying ‘we will always be a minor party, looking to tack on the end of one of the big two’. Doesn’t strike me as a way to attract voters.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Sep '16 - 10:47pm

    Good to have you with us , have you joined the party or are you going to support us , we would welcome your experience , do share more and feel welcome here.

  • Instead of all this ‘Labour are a Stalinist dictatorship’ why not lay out Labour’s policies and point out where, and by how much, we differ?

  • nvelope2003 1st Sep '18 - 3:39pm

    expats:That is the problem – we don’t and people will vote for the bigger party with the better chance of forming a government. At least there are no allegations of anti Semitism though.

  • John Littler 7th Jun '20 - 5:27pm

    A Progressive Alliance can focus around a handful of issues that could work with Labour and the Greens and some Nationalists and Starmer is clearly moving in that direction, which must include PR voting.

    While there are a minority of LibDems who are more sympathetic to the Tories and carry right wing extreme laissez faire views on economics, but they should put that aside for the bigger picture of an Alliance to change the system, or else we will forever be beaten by an intractable 40% until eventually Labour (or somebody) overturns a clapped out version of the Tories at some future time and does it on their own again

    There is a reason why LibDems target 20%. It is because this country has it’s biggest minority as a right wing block, with a smaller minority as a looser left wing coalition and the LibDems are left looking for crumbs, which under FPTP, puts their existence as a national force in doubt.

    Under PR, the largest group of voters, in the centre ( yougov), will no longer be forced to split, choosing left or more likely the right and instead can choose the centre and win.

  • Sensible comments from Bill le Breton as usual. The current Labour leader is sitting on a very painful fence in terms of his own party. He may gently suggest that a majority Labour government might usefully go for PR but he cannot deliver any solid commitment prior to an election. Some people argue that we must avoid another Tory government at all costs but Labour have regularly ushered them into office through their willingness to stick with First Past the Post.

  • No, it would be self defeating.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Suzanne Fletcher
    It isn't the theory I have a problem with, it is how it would happen. it wouldn't just be deciding to disestablish, it would be unpicking lot of complicated li...
  • John
    Gordon, yes: "Being ‘first-mover’ can create competitive advantage, but it can also bake in weaknesses that are hard to identify let alone fix." Britain...
  • John
    Labour's plans for the HoL are a foolish concoction dreamt up by Gordon Brown as centralisers idea for devolution. People around the country are already nomi...
  • John
    Judging from anecdotal views encountered and comments n the Guardian and Independent, there ought to be a fair chunk of opinion looking for a more pro European ...
  • John
    Labour have made these proposals in an attempt to throw a constitutional bone to their membership ( 80%+ ), unions, and supporters who are desperate to get real...