In defence of a Progressive Alliance

The amazing Liberal Democrat win in last week’s Chesham & Amersham by-election was the first electoral setback the Conservatives have had since 2019.

So it’s not surprising that it has sparked a fresh wave of debate across non-Conservative politics about what can be learned from it, one of which is around varying types of a progressive alliance.

It’s important to understand WHY people are talking about a progressive alliance in the first place. For me it starts with three key reasons –

The Conservatives have won 4 successive General Elections and judging by the opinion polls and recent election results, they are in a strong position to make it 5 in a row. The prospect of a Conservative government for most of the 2020s fills many with horror.

Our First Past The Post electoral system is massively helping the Conservative Party. They won a whopping majority with the minority of votes in 2019. Since they effectively killed the Brexit Party by becoming them, right wing or authoritarian voters have had a single party to vote for. But progressive or left leaning voters, in England at least, are splitting their votes across Labour, Green and Liberal Democrats. Politics in Scotland remains completely different – fought across a pro/anti-independence spectrum.

Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party is a very different beast to the Conservative Party of David Cameron or even Theresa May. International aid commitment, gone. International law, disregarded. Brexit deal, unworkable disaster. VIP lane for Conservative donors to get huge COVID contracts, delivered. Racism in the UK, no such thing. Right to protest, on its way out. Breaches of ministerial code, ignored. Hostile environment for EU citizens, done. Stop lawyers and charities speaking out, underway. Don’t like the flag, leave. The list goes on and on. This is a dangerous government using a right wing, populist, culture war playbook borrowed from the Republican party in the US. Every day they’re still in power is a bad day for liberals everywhere.

It’s an extraordinary set of circumstances and we have to face this clear fact – what the opposition parties have been doing until now really isn’t working – the Conservatives are still winning.

Talk of a progressive alliance is a direct response to this problem. It’s people trying to come up with a solution to change the narrative. To those that dismiss it out of hand, I suggest that they need to come up with other ways to do this – because if we keep doing the same thing, we can expect the same results.

With great apologies to my Scottish and Welsh friends, stopping the Tories is a mostly English problem. Of the 365 seats won by the Tories in 2019, 345 are in England. So that’s what I’m going to focus on in this article.

One of the main arguments I’ve seen deployed against a progressive alliance in recent days is that Liberal Democrat second preferences wouldn’t necessarily vote Labour. A lot of this has been based on local elections such as Mayoral and Police Commissioner elections where people have a 2nd vote to cast.

Trying to judge how people vote in General Elections based on how they vote in Local Elections is flawed at best. In the 2019 General Election in Hull, we secured around 1 in 20 of the votes. But in local elections, we are challenging Labour for control of the council. In Eastleigh, the Conservatives won a 15,000 majority at the General Election, but the Liberal Democrats hold 32 of the 39 council seats.

Local elections are different. They are vitally important for the future of our party and local communities, but fundamentally different to General Elections.

Let’s look at General Election opinion poll data. The last time the Liberal Democrats polled at 20% was in late October 2019 with Ipsos-Mori. That was up by around 13% from the 2017 General Election. The data shows that only 1 in 20 past Tories had switched to the Lib Dems, but 1 in 6 past Labour voters had switched. Labour’s best opinion poll rating since 2019 of 42% was in October 2020, in large part driven by a switch of 2019 Liberal Democrat voters to Labour.

Obviously this is national data and in some areas, things will work differently. However the clear trend of polls since 2019 is there is very little movement from Conservative to opposition parties. The main movements in General Election voting intention are votes bouncing between Labour, Green and the Liberal Democrats.

To stop a Conservative majority under First Past The Post, we need those opposition votes to be distributed effectively. We also need to win over more Conservative leaning voters.

That takes us onto the Labour Party. Why – because the reason most moderate Conservatives stayed Conservative in 2019 was fear of a Labour Government. That cost our party dearly in many places and will do so again if the core problem isn’t addressed.

The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn was toxic to many moderate Conservative voters. There was a sizable part of the 2019 Tory vote that did not like Boris Johnson, or Brexit – but they were far more scared by the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn government.

Hardly any Conservative voters switched from Tory to Labour in 2019. But the fear of a Corbyn government also stopped many moderate Conservatives switching to the Liberal Democrats too – no matter how much we claimed we wouldn’t put Corbyn in Downing Street. For the sake of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats in marginal fights with the Tories, Keir Starmer needs to move Labour away from the Corbynite agenda.

I get that cooperation with Labour is not going to be easy. Many Liberal Democrats joined our party because of the Iraq War and Labour’s introduction of tuition fees. At local level, we continue to have pitched battles against Labour, often in areas where Labour Councils have completely neglected their duties.

It’s also going to be hard for Labour to work with us – we went into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010. We backed austerity. We voted for the bedroom tax and tuition fees. Part of why we lost so many seats in 2015 was that Labour voters wouldn’t vote tactically for us any more.

We are two different parties, but right now, there is one common need. Not just for ourselves, but for the country. The Conservatives must be stopped.

One question I’ve seen in other articles, is whether Labour are a progressive party? I lean to broadly yes, although there are clearly some elements of the Labour Party that clearly are not.

Let’s also not forget that not every Liberal Democrat over the years has been progressive either – the number one cause of resignations in our party during coalition years was our introduction of same-sex marriages. The truth is there’s a good amount of common ground between Liberal Democrats and some parts of the Labour Party at least.

Bottom line – I’ve not met a Liberal Democrat who thinks we’ve got more in common with Boris Johnson than we have with Keir Starmer.

We know that an informal progressive alliance existed in the 1990s between the Liberal Democrats and Labour. Much like now, there was a feeling that the Conservatives could not be allowed to win again.

Paddy Ashdown famously dropped equidistance and Ed Davey, who worked closely with Paddy, said this last year – “Just as Paddy Ashdown did in the 1990s, I reject the idea of equidistance. I’m an anti-Conservative politician and have spent my life fighting the Tories, and winning. That’s how I would lead the party.”

That’s a pretty clear statement of where we stand.

So when it comes to how do we stop the Tories winning again, at the very least we must start talking behind the scenes. There are many seats that the Tories won in 2019 where the Liberal Democrats and Labour split the progressive vote.

Wimbledon on our side is clearly a seat that Labour’s efforts stopped us winning. Chipping Barnet on the Labour side is clearly a seat where our efforts probably stopped Labour winning. Bad feelings exist on both sides and there will be people in each party holding their noses about such a process, but this is a problem we have to tackle together.

The goal of an alliance needs to be how we make progressive votes count. In almost every poll Labour + Lib Dem + Green is significantly larger than the Conservative vote. Our First Past The Post electoral system makes this cooperation essential for opposition parties.

Once we have PR, we can fight each other as much as we like, but right now when we fight each other, then we hurt each other, and help the Tories.

Our success in Chesham & Amersham depended on us becoming the credible alternative to the Tories. If Labour had spent £100,000 and poured all their London activists into Chesham & Amersham, they could have stopped that happening. Conversely in Batley and Spen, it’s clear that only Labour can stop the Tories winning. If we poured our resources in, targeting liberal minded Labour voters, we could make it much harder for Labour to beat the Tories. I’m glad we’re not.

One final question – should the progressive alliance be more than an informal arrangement? The truth is I don’t know. We need lots of data and research to really understand what its impact could be and I’m open to whatever the results say.

If the data shows a Liberal Democrat candidate will take more votes off the Tories than Labour in a Con/Lab marginal, then clearly we should stand. If the data shows that Labour or the Green Party standing down would cost us more Tory swing voters than we would gain from Labour/Green Party, then we don’t do that. Let’s understand how voters would view different types of a progressive alliance. These are extraordinary times and let’s not make too many assumptions.

Let’s see what works and go from there – because winning really matters.

One thing we can be sure of is this – most voters will look at the next General Election as having two potential outcomes. Either the Tories win again, or there’s a non-Tory government that will be led by Labour. Sadly, there isn’t another outcome and there’s no doubt which side of that the Liberal Democrats have to be on.

Because we can’t allow a Conservative dynasty that will roll back everything liberals believe in. Let’s be crystal clear about the end goal – it’s not just removing the Conservatives from office, it’s changing the electoral and political system that has played a huge role in the broken politics that’s playing out before us right now.

As Liberal Democrats, let’s have a healthy and respectful debate about how we change the narrative – whether that’s a progressive alliance (of whatever kind!) or something else. Let’s keep our eyes on the mission – we simply can’t let the Conservatives win again at the next election.

Let’s celebrate last week’s amazing win and let’s find a way to take back our country and grow our party in the process.

* Shaun Robets is a former Director of Campaigns for the Liberal Democrats

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70 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 27th Jun '21 - 11:15am

    I agree with much of this article – unless we are willing to allow the Conservatives to keep on winning power on a minority of the national vote, the Liberal Democrats must be willing to have a plan to minimise the extent to which FPTP works in their favour and, secondly, to make clear that all Liberal Democrat MPs will actively vote in install a new ‘non-Conservative’ government after the next election. I suspect the best hope will be a minority Labour Government, backed in confidence votes by the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, SDLP and the Greens, but we have to make clear that that is our intention so our campaign will not be hindered by continual questions of what we will do in a hung parliament situation. Clarity on this matter will make it far easier to attract Labour tactical votes we need to win seats from the Tories where we are the close challengers. We must also make clear that we will join no formal coalition again unless STV is part of the package to be delivered at the very start of the new parliamentary session. I realise the SNP would likely demand the power to hold a second independence referendum as the price of their support for a minority Labour government – that is something we, as Democrats, must be willing to accept.

  • Jenny Barnes 27th Jun '21 - 11:24am

    “The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn was toxic to many moderate Conservative voters”

    Mmm. I’d expect moderate Conservatives to vote Tory anyway. Unfortunately, the Labour party under Starmer is toxic to many Labour voters, which is a somewhat bigger problem.

  • Simon Foster 27th Jun '21 - 11:38am

    The main barrier to any progressive alliance:

    Which party doesn’t believe in PR?

    Labour

    Which party had it written into its constitution that it won’t stand down candidates?

    Labour

    Both red lines for Lib Dems and Greens.

    In the meantime you’ll get deals between the Lib Dem’s and Greens at General Elections in some seats and in places like Oxfordshire at a local level.

  • I’m in favour of the aims of a “Progressive Alliance” and it could work in some circumstances, but wanting it to work and getting it to work are two different things.

    Many make the mistake of assuming those sceptical of the effectiveness of the crude “stand a single anti-Tory candidate” are OK with the Tories holding onto their majority at the next election or that they think the current system works. An attempted repeat of the non-aggression pact between Labour and ourselves in 1997 would be more effective in most constituencies. One of the reasons it worked so well was that it was subtle and didn’t rub it in the faces of Labour supporters who think we’re worse than the Tories, or Tories who think Labour are a bunch of Marxists. Critically, most criticism was focused on the Tories, not each other.

    Arguably the pact worked too well & Blair felt no need to bring in the promised electoral reform. PR needs to be front and centre of any and all new discussions and needs to be the primary reason for any public pacts.

    It’s interesting to see people using C&A to prove the need for or benefits of a “Progressive Alliance” when actually C&A showed what’s possible without a formal pact. It shows that if you want to take a big chunk out of a large Tory majority then you need to persuade soft Tories first, and that most Labour & Green knew what to do. Too often the ‘persuade people who voted Tory last time to vote differently’ aspect is forgotten about. Worse, some activists seem to think winning votes from former Tories is selling out.

    I support a formal pact in some constituencies where there is a candidate that is acceptable to all relevant local parties and who commits to vocal support of PR. Until the Labour party supports PR we can just hope to agree to avoid needless aggression in unwinnable seats. A bit of honesty would be a starting point. I get that Labour don’t like what we did in the coalition, but I still see their activists spreading lies about what happened & how – determined to keep us as the bogey man. I’m sure the same can be said for some of our load and loads of Labour’s most vocal activists seem to be quick to believe the convenient lies spread about members of their own party, so we shouldn’t take it personally.

    In other words, even in seats where there’s an obvious case for selecting a single anti-Tory/pro-PR candidate, there’s a lot of bridge building to be done between grassroots activists.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Jun '21 - 11:51am

    The article is very sensible. I agree with it a lot.

    A couple of thoughts now though.

    The Johnson govt is to the left of Cameron and May on economics and societal help. Let us not go too far, on the personalisation of Johnson as unfit, unserstand that yes, but his policies on austerity are far from right wing, so far, and New Labour, and Cameron, and Clegg were right wing on economics, in those credit crunch years.

    And, this party is two thirds liberal, classical, social, one third social democrat. It is not a liberal party only and I believe we need to be far broader in thinking, and therefore references only to liberals.

  • Peter Martin 27th Jun '21 - 11:56am

    @ Shaun,

    You might want to ask yourself why the LibDems won, against all the odds, in C&A and if they still would have done had they been in some sort of so-called “progressive alliance” with Labour.

    The campaign wasn’t about reducing poverty or the introduction of a UBI or the raising of tax revenues via a LVT or improving the NHS which are close to the hearts of social liberals. Sarah Green had the good sense to stay away from all that, and Brexit too, and concentrate on picking up the antidevelopment vote. She stood on a very conservative platform – albeit with a small c.

    The winning formula, as shown by Sarah Green, for the Lib Dems is to therefore move strongly to the right and split the right wing vote. That’s where the pickings are. You’re unlikely to win anything much at if you define yourself as being on the left and in alliance with Labour.

  • Graham Jeffs 27th Jun '21 - 12:28pm

    ‘Progressive Alliance’? Cloud-cuckoo land. Would seem to suggest other parties are progressive. Evidence?

    Politics needs to be much more positive than merely being anti-Conservative. Anyone can be anti-Conservative. So what!

  • Yes to any alliance that does away with the abuses of democracy in this country / since we have a hereditary monarchy and largely clique-appointed ‘upper house’ the broken FOTP system functions as a sort of zombie guard for the right, and just like the Republicans in the US they won’t surrender it until it’s taken from them. Blair’s biggest failure was not to deliver some sort of ER, and we will pay the price until somehow the ability of a party receiving 42-44% of the vote to govern with a huge ‘majority’ is ended. Funnily enough this proportion seems to keep governments in power all over the place – almost always conservative or worse. I asked at the last election that we correctly start led a process of de-legitimising the Johnson government. It is not democratically elected and has no majority of votes cast and we should make the point daily and also that the sort of rotten politics it shows are what happens when self interested oligarchies cling to outdated systems to keep control. The Brexiters argued for decades to change the world, sadly; and those who want a genuinely democratic state should do the same. Not sure banging big blue boxes with little orange hammers is quite the response.

    The country is in a major democratic crisis and the opposition must put differences aside and work together, quietly if need be, to bring real change.

  • Barry Lofty 27th Jun '21 - 1:06pm

    Common sense should dictate that opposition party’s would sense the disastrous path we are on and come to a reasonable solution, but politicians from the top down invariably don’t use common sense. My only hope is that Johnson has his Thatcher moment,(poll tax), and we take it from there, at my time of life that at least would be of some consolation, along with a few more by election gains for the Lib Dems!!

  • Roger Billins 27th Jun '21 - 1:34pm

    Here in Stratford upon Avon, the County Council elections saw us lose 2 seats to the Cons and fail to gain a target seat. In another ward, the Greens mounted a credible challenge to the Cons. in all cases, one factor was the active presence of candidates from the other progressive parties. One consequence of this has been the creation of a Zoom group of Lib Dems, Greens and Labour to see whether there is a way of us working together. This has included working groups considering such things as joint campaigns on local issues. Everybody is open but tentative. I am optimistic that something can be achieved, but we do need to bring the electorate with us.

  • Paul Barker 27th Jun '21 - 1:42pm

    I have been following Politics closely for more than half a Century & I have read hundreds of articles announcing with absolute certainty that Labour/The Tories can never win again or that The Liberals/ Libdems are dead.

    Politics now is completely dominated by Covid, it tells us nothing about what will happen after Covid.

    Labour, sigh. Yes there are “Progressive” elements in Labour but there are also Reactionary elements who want to live in various imaginary Golden Ages of the past.

    Yes the movement for Electral Reform in Labour has grown, it is possible to imagine that Labour Conference could vote for “Fair Votes” but that would only be the first step – they would still need to win over The Leadership, The MPs & The Unions.
    That is all in the possible Future though, right now the best we can hope for from Labour is an unspoken “Non-Agression Pact’ & the more we talk about “Deals” with Labour the harder it becomes for them to agree even to that.

    We need to stop talking about possible Alliances with Labour – even talking helps The Tories.

  • John & Simon – you raise a good point about what counts as Progressive.

    I’m growing more and more uneasy with the term “Progressive Alliance” in part because people have their idea of what is progressive, and for those most politically active it’s usually about far more than not being Tory.

    LibDems usually frame progressive in terms of civil liberties, being socially liberal. We are against the death penalty and don’t think people should be criminalised for recreational drug use that doesn’t hurt anyone else and advocate for freedom of movement. It’s about electoral reform, decentralisation and taking an evidence-based approach to policy.

    In Labour progressive is often code for being economically left wing, and for some, the more left wing the more progressive. Some of them don’t think we’re left wing enough to be progressive, and we think they are too obsessed with centralisation and being ‘tough on crime/drugs’ to be progressive.

    The term encourages belligerent members of relevant parties to bicker about why the other parties are not as progressive, not progressive enough, or not progressive at all. Instead of working together, we end up going over old arguments.

    There’s also a big cringe factor in declaring that we are progressive and everyone who disagrees is not. Whether intended or not, that’s how it comes across.

    I’m also a bit uncomfortable because some groups appear to have taken ownership of the term, and whilst it’s fantastic that there are groups not officially affiliated to any one party eager to facilitate cooperation, I worry that they become fixated on promoting their view of how things should work, or possibly even their own campaign. Padding their own part, so to speak. That said, there’s definitely a role for any groups that can identify areas of common ground and describe actual policy positions likely to appeal.

    If we can reframe it to being a ‘democratic alliance’ created with a view to gaining electoral reform, amongst parties that have some other things in common (ie not UKIP), then we’re on safer territory.

  • neil James sandison 27th Jun '21 - 3:02pm

    Rogers Billings is that just in Stratford ? In some parts of Warwickshire Labour still consistently vote against our amendments or abstain on environmental issues for example . so much work needed to bring lazy Labour up to speed . Greens beginning to realise a non aggression pact is probable in both theirs and our interest as we cancelled each other out in the local council elections in many wards and divisions . If we can secure in the first instances common agreement on PR and reform of the House of Lords then wider issues like health and housing could also become common causes by building trust across the divide in progressive politics but will require Labour to recognise alliances are partnerships of equals not that we and the greens not just their stepping stones to power who can be forgotten about when a replacement government has been installed .

  • Shouldn’t Lib Dems be adamant this time and demand commitment to PR for any co-operation? Only support Labour candidates, if they commit to PR, only commit to wider co-operation with Labour, if it commits to PR.

  • John Marriott 27th Jun '21 - 4:11pm

    Whether an ‘alliance’ or an ‘understanding’,
    Whether it’s ‘progressive’ or not,
    Let’s have some OPPOSITION and make it ‘aggressive’,
    It might just be our last shot!

  • Fiona 27th Jun ’21 – 2:52pm…………….ILibDems usually frame progressive in terms of civil liberties, being socially liberal. We are against the death penalty and don’t think people should be criminalised for recreational drug use that doesn’t hurt anyone else and advocate for freedom of movement. It’s about electoral reform, decentralisation and taking an evidence-based approach to policy.
    In Labour progressive is often code for being economically left wing, and for some, the more left wing the more progressive………….

    A strange world we live in when a party that introduced the NHS, social security, abolished the death penalty, decriminalised homosexuality, outlawed racial discrimination, established the Open University, equal pay act, the National Minimum Wage, devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement,
    introduced Civil Partnerships, the Equality Act, the Human Rights Act, cancelled debt for the world’s poorest countries, world’s first Climate Change Act, etc., are not deemed ‘progessive’ by a party that whist in government agreed to secret courts, a bedroom tax, tripled tuition fees, ravaged the NHS (under the guise of ‘re-organisation), etc..

    Glass houses and stones come to mind..

  • lynne featherstone 27th Jun '21 - 5:48pm

    The real challenge is that the people like the Conservatives, voted for them and gave them a stonking majority. Not sure gaming the system is the answer. And Labour may have been a bit progressive in the past (although 90 days detention without charge and ID cards weren’t obviously so) – but they’ve gone off any progressiveness of late! And they would just treat us as adjuncts to their obvious superiority (their view). And Greens should just be eaten! I want us to promote liberalism – and still trust that the people will come (one day).

  • Brad Barrows 27th Jun '21 - 6:10pm

    @lynne featherstone
    I have to disagree with your view that “the people like the Conservatives”. The truth is that a minority of voters like the Conservatives. Most of ‘the people’ don’t like the Conservatives. Secondly, ‘the people’ didn’t give them a stonking majority, the voting system did. Thirdly, it is not ‘gaming the system’ to try to ensure that the anti-Conservative majority of voters acting achieve a majority of seats – it is preventing the system treating the majority unfairly.

  • Brad Barrows 27th Jun '21 - 6:12pm

    Sorry, ‘acting’ should be ‘actually’.

  • “The Conservatives must be stopped.”

    Would this “progressive alliance” include an immediate ban on Lib Dem councillors coalitioning with Conservative ones at a local level, or would you allow that to continue and leave yourself open to the expectation that you’d do the same nationally if it turned out the Conservatives were – like 2010 – short of a majority but only just, and so the 2010 logic of “Con+LD is the only stable majority government possible” applied?

    Both possible answers to that question seem to be bad ones.

    “For the sake of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats in marginal fights with the Tories, Keir Starmer needs to move Labour away from the Corbynite agenda.”

    If you don’t believe he’s already done that, then there’s absolutely nothing he can possibly do to convince you of it short of defecting to the Conservative Party himself. And, of course, nothing which will convince the Conservative voters either.

  • ‘The Conservative must be stopped’ Does that mean all Lib Dem voters think: “We want a Labour government?” Or that members think: “We should campaign for one”?
    Labour have targeted us in recent years far harder than they have the Tories. I’ve read that Labour sent in 40 MPS to C&A, for instance.
    Old QI question the other day: “Name the 3rd largest party?” Answer: the Co-operative Party. They agreed to a pact with Labour and were swallowed whole.

  • Nonconformistradical 27th Jun '21 - 6:55pm

    @expats
    “A strange world we live in when a party that introduced…..”
    William Beveridge was a Liberal
    https://liberalhistory.org.uk/history/beveridge-william-lord-beveridge/

    The social reforms of the Wilson government were instigated by the then Home Secretary – one Roy Jenkins.
    https://liberalhistory.org.uk/history/jenkins-roy-lord-jenkins/

    This particular Liberal – myself – had time for Harold Wilson – apart from the OU and the social reforms introduced on his watch he kept the UK out of the Vietnam war.

  • Brad Barrows 27th Jun '21 - 7:22pm

    @Cassie
    Yes, that is an old QI question – the current answer is Scottish National Party, with the Co operative Party 4th and the Liberal Democrats 5th.

  • john oundle 27th Jun '21 - 7:30pm

    Simon Foster

    ‘Which party had it written into its constitution that it won’t stand down candidates?

    Labour.

    Labour not putting up candidates would be a PR disaster.

    ‘Thrown the towel in here’ ‘Can’t win here’ ‘No longer a national party’ etc.

  • An interesting article. But I feel the author is painting a picture of the current Government that grossly exaggerated and plain wrong in places. To take a couple of examples:

    “Racism in the UK, no such thing.” This is a total distortion. Basically no-one in the Government is saying there’s no such thing as racism in the UK. There’s certainly a big disagreement between the parties about the *extent* to which racism exists, but pretty much everyone in all parties agrees there is racism and it needs to be ended.

    “Right to protest, on its way out” This is nonsense. I assume it’s a reference to the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill. That bill essentially makes it easier for the police to prevent protests that would constitute a public nuisance. You can argue about whether or not that’s a good thing, but it certainly doesn’t stop people protesting – it just means (roughly) that people protesting via public demonstrations will have to be more careful how they behave on those demonstrations. And remember these days, most effective protest happens online, through the media, and through letters to MPs and councillors etc. – none of which is changing. Only the relatively tiny amount of protest that happens via public demonstrations is impacted by the bill.

    “Don’t like the flag, leave.” Really????? When has the Government said that? Frankly, I think the author of this article has made that up. If I’m wrong, someone please show me where the Government has said that?

    Personally I don’t much like the Conservatives, but if you’re assessing whether a progressive alliance is worth while, then you need to work from reality, not from making up falsehoods about them. Personally I think that the reality is, once you take away the exaggerations, the Tories are no more unpleasant than a majority Labour Government would be.

  • David Evershed 28th Jun '21 - 1:50am

    A “progressive alliance” with the Labour Party would show we hate the Conservative Party more than we love the Liberal Democrats.

    Not a good basis to attract votes or supporters.

  • I would like to put forward a different argument in favour of a progressive alliance which is that it doesn’t actually matter whether the Lib Dem’s standing aside benefits Labour because there is a perception that we split the centre-left vote and the PA removes that perception.

    A PA would mean that Labour would reciprocate by standing aside in Lib Dem target seats. Whilst it is not entirely clear what would happen in a Lab-Con marginal if there was no Lib Dem candidate, there is surely no doubt that it would help Lib Dem candidates enormously if there was no Lab candidate and Lab were advocating voting for the LD candidate?

  • One of the problems, as some have suggested, is that “progressive” like “centre” can vary in meaning in different contexts. In the 1950s and 1960s Conservatives stood as Progressives in some parts of the North. There are still many places in the North, where describing Labour as progressive is not a useful concept. That being said I do not have a problem with an electoral agreement for PR followed by a short parliament (declared in advance) initiated by a coming together of particular parties (including Labour – name them, don’t hang labels on them!). Alas for it to happen it would probably need Labour to move first and they would need to be talking about it now.

  • There was an article recently on “Labour List” – the Labour equivalent of this site. It was titled –
    “There already is a Progressive Alliance – its called The Labour Party.”

  • The logical conclusion to this argument is for the Liberal Democrats to disband.

    The Conservatives will lose power at some point: all governments do. A “Progressive Alliance” might make that happen sooner than later – but probably won’t. And if a “Progressive Alliance” does win an election, just being against the Tories isn’t the basis for an effective government – and will make it easier for the Conservatives to regain power quickly.

  • Paul Barker. Indeed – and one of the problems with managing the sort of alliance that is the Labour Party is the danger of running out of energy for other battles after fighting your way to control of the party.

  • It does not work.
    Try this out. The fall out from the Hancock affair looks more serious than the clinch itself. It is more than possible that he could be forced out of his seat.
    Figures last time, Cons 65%, Labour 20%, Lib Dem 9%, anyone going to suggest we stand down? Of course not. Not beyond bounds of possibility we might win. Perhaps we should start working it soon, lot of ground to make up, hardly any candidates in the District elections this year.
    I rest my case

  • In all this argument about a progressive alliance, we must remember that it is not currently clear what the Labour party stands for. I agree with the need for some kind of working together to remove this Tory government and stop their trend to right wing control of the country, but we also need the positives about what an alternative government would do on a whole range of matters and that is not yet worked out; to some extent we are not clear, the Greens also and even less clear what Labour would do if in power.
    Is there not also the battle within Labour between those who look to its past and those who rightly see that it has to change to survive ?

  • Peter Davies 28th Jun '21 - 12:52pm

    @Theakes At the last election, there were indeed serious tactical voting sites telling voters in that sort of seat that they could get rid of the Tories if only the Lib Dem voters switched to Labour. I don’t see much point in either Labour or us putting outside resources into that seat. He’ll hang on for his pension and take all non-executive directorships he’s owed. Labour round there should head for Ipswich for the general. We should head to Cambridgeshire.

  • The idea of Labour as a “Progressive Alliance isnt completely absurd if you are looking at Labour History. Labour was founded as an Alliance of Unions & “Socialist” groups, the latter a very odd mix indeed. For Labours first Decade there was no “Labour Party” that you could join, you could only be “Labour” by joining an Affiliate organisation.

    The problem is that the Labour Alliance was entirely based on Class Politics, a category that is now Dead in Electoral terms. All the evidence suggests that “Class”, however defined is no longer a significant factor in predicting how we Vote – the big Factors are Age, Education & the size of the Town we live in.

    Labour are trapped in the Past & however Progressive they try to be they are continually dragged back by an overpowering Nostalgia. The whole Labour Movement has been built facing Backwards.

  • Peter Martin 28th Jun '21 - 1:09pm

    ” …. voters have had a single party {of the right} to vote for. But progressive or left leaning voters, in England at least, are splitting their votes across Labour, Green and Liberal Democrats.”

    It follows, to even things up, that voters need at least another rightish party. Somewhat, ironically, therefore, the best way for the Lib Dems to spike the Tory guns would be to position themselves as a right-of-centre pro EU , pro capitalist, pro free market party with a strong emphasis on protecting the natural environment of Tory voters in affluent seats.

  • Peter Martin 28th Jun '21 - 1:33pm

    @ Paul Barker,

    “Labour are trapped in the Past & however Progressive they try to be they are continually dragged back by an overpowering Nostalgia. The whole Labour Movement has been built facing Backwards.”

    This sounds like the sort of thing we’d read on Conservativehome. Many LibDems will feel the same, which casts doubt on any claim that the LibDems, as a grouping, can be regarded as either of the left or as natural allies of the Labour Party. This doesn’t apply to ‘Social Liberal’ Lib Dems but they would need to be in an overwhelming majority and they would need to be in all key party positions for any alliance to be workable.

    But, they aren’t.

  • Some astute comments from Paul Barker and Chris Rennard. Paul writes “Class Politics, a category that is now Dead in Electoral terms. All the evidence suggests that “Class”, however defined is no longer a significant factor in predicting how we Vote – the big Factors are Age, Education & the size of the Town we live in.” That is quite likely the case, but it doesn’t obviate the issue of competing interests among groups in society generally.
    “A government has the power to allocate among the different individuals and groups within a society the benefits and costs of living in that society.
    This fundamental fact of political life is the primary source of political conflict within a society. It is the basic cause of continuing competition for political influence–continuing competition among private groups and individuals for the ability to influence, condition, and shape the official decisions of those who hold formal positions in the government and who decide how the formal-legal authority of government is to be used. The government’s uneven and unequal allocation of resources and values is the primary source and basic cause of continuing competition for political power–continuing competition for political authority and for political influence.
    Any decision or action taken by the government is likely to be favorable to some segments of the society and detrimental to others, or to have the effect of allocating greater benefits and rewards to some segments than are distributed to others. Hence, there is continuing political conflict within the society, continuing conflict among different segments of the society over who will have more and who will have less of what the government allocates– ongoing, unending controversy and competition over who in the society will receive more of the benefits, rewards, and advantages allocated by the government and who will bear more of the governmentally imposed burdens and costs”
    ” In becoming active participants in the political process, individuals and groups seek to acquire and exercise political power and to prevent or minimize its acquisition and exercise by individuals and groups whose interests are in conflict with their own.” (Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr. -POLITICS & GOVERNMENT: THE ESSENTIALS)
    A national party of government has to be able to represent the interests of a broad enough segment of society to acquire power. Over the past century only the Conservative and Labour party have been able to achieve that level of representation. The question is Why?

  • Peter Hirst 28th Jun '21 - 2:02pm

    What Chesham and Amersham shows is where the circumstances are right the electorate whatever their political persuasion will vote for change in the direction of a better politics. Electoral and constitutional reform is a fundamental part of that dissatisfaction because it effects the process rather than the outcomes. It is fortunate that there is sufficient hope and belief that this is possible though it will not last indefinitely.

  • neil James sandison 28th Jun '21 - 2:15pm

    Building bridges to progress requires a strength in our leadership which sadly has not been there since Kennedy or Ashdown . There is potential within our ranks to find that leadership . For a leadership with a good sense of direction on where we should go and with whom we can work but whilst we split hairs on what is and is not a progressive the Tories will continue to divide and conquer and continue to lead this country into the blind alley of English nationalism that will break up the United Kingdom.

  • @Theakes in your rush to disagree with me you missed my point. I’m not saying that nothing Labour has done counts as progressive, or that anyone in the party thinks that way.

    The point, that you help to prove, is that different people have different ideas of what it means and they will argue about it, which is one of the biggest barriers to forming an effective alliance. As I pointed out, some in Labour think we’re not progressive (enough), even though we support many policies that can reasonably be described as progressive which they don’t back, and vice versa. The point being that we’re all a bit biased and are likely to list the policies we agree with as progressive. Wasting time and energy arguing about it is as useful as arguing about whose dad is the biggest.

    The progressive policy most relevant to an electoral pact is surely that of electoral reform. It doesn’t matter if we disagree on other policies, or whether or how many marks out of ten we give each other for progressiveness – if we agree the current electoral system is unfair and needs to change. There’s plenty of evidence for progressive policies (as widely understood by most people) to be easier to implement in countries that have PR.

    So I say ditch the term ‘progressive’ for something more useful and if people like using the term to feel good about themselves, they can comfort themselves with the long-lasting progressive benefits of PR over FPTP.

  • John Marriott 28th Jun '21 - 3:40pm

    What the result in C & A shows is that, if you want to register a protest vote, you pick the candidate of the party that finished second last time. If its candidate is personable and clearly has a brain and can speak with sincerity and mounts an effective the chances of success are far better than even.

    Whether it was HS2 or building lots of new homes, the chances are that many people probably for the first time ever failed to vote Conservative not out of a desire for political change but because of what was about to appear and what potentially might appear in their backyard. Either way, it’s a win. Make the most of it.

  • Peter Wrigley 27th Jun ’21 – 6:17pm…………….Thank you “Expats” for some examples of progressive policies introduced by Labour. Of course, Labour is not a Liberal party. They were founded as the political wing of the Trade Union Movement and their priority is naturally and indeterminably jobs, pay and employment conditions. Ours is the largest measure of individual freedom compatible with the freedom of others (that incudes “freedom from” as will as “freedom to.”……………………….

    Peter, regarding “their priority is naturally and indeterminably jobs, pay and employment conditions”..of the 16 Labour achievements listed 11 were nothing to do with pay, etc…In fact those most reluctant to accept decriminalising homosexuality, outlawing racial discrimination, etc. were those workers in unionised employment..And as for “Ours is the largest measure of individual freedom compatible with the freedom of others” those three I listed, regarding our time in government, were all contrary to those aims…

    Nonconformistradical 27th Jun ’21 – 6:55pm…@expats…..”
    William Beveridge was a Liberal

    I can’t disagree with that..However, it is ine thing to make recommendations and something else to implement them. If Churchill had won what would have happened to the report?

  • James Fowler 28th Jun '21 - 10:14pm

    This article undermines itself by its partisanship and its gross simplifications. There is no such thing as one big unitary block of conservatives facing off against one big, but fragmented, block of progressives. That’s a great story, but isn’t true and it damages our cause because it suggests that we can ignore everyone in the conservative block (if only we pulled together) and we can somehow game the system in our favour (because no-one would notice and our own voters are interchangeable anyway). Both assumptions are badly wrong. As ever, I am in favour of coalitions and alliances of almost all types, but this kind of crude agglomeration will fail. We can play a small, but useful, part in removing this particularly right wing Tory government by keeping our distance from all other parties for the time being.

  • Andrew Tampion 29th Jun '21 - 6:54am

    James Fowler makes some very good points which I endorse.
    As far as Chesham and Amersham is concerned it was a good result but should not be over played. Orpington, before I was born, was also a good result but didn’t change much. There is no reason to think that any spectacular bye election result will change the system either. Indeed comparing Orpington with Chesham and Amersham is interesting. At Orpington the turn out at the 1962 bye election was similar to the previous general election. Whereas at Chesham and Amersham the bye election turn out was 50% compared to 75% at the 2019 general election. This leads me to conclude that most Conservatives withheld their vote rather than voted LibDem. So there is nothing to say that the Conservatives won’t regain the seat at the next general election.

  • Roger Billins 29th Jun '21 - 10:22am

    I live in a large rural ward in Stratford with two large villages and scattered hamlets. We have patiently built up a delivery team so that in the General Election, we delivered 4 leaflets to every remote farmhouse and some got more ! In the recent county council election, one deliverer had defected to the Greens and one refused to deliver because of what he perceived to be the Party’s hostility to a progressive alliance. Subsequently, two more key people have made it clear that they won’t deliver unless some local deal with the Greens is secured. That is why we are talking locally to the Greens. So far none of our supporters (including one ex Cons member) has expressed any opposition.

  • lynne featherstone 29th Jun '21 - 11:35am

    Brad Barrows: I was speaking under the system we have which yes – is certainly unfair – but Labour won’t change it when they get into power despite faint moments of hope. THey just wait for buggins turn. Informal alliances – fine. Unite to Remain demonstrated the issue: Labour wouldn’t partake and the Greens shafted us.

  • George Thomas 29th Jun '21 - 5:58pm

    This is a very interesting article. Think there needs to be a separation between being anti-conservative and anti-Conservative, but we simply cannot continue to be lead by a government which believes passionately in austerity followed by brexit followed by an anti-devolution (and therefore anti-UK) politics. Their “big idea” has been wrong for over a decade and yet 40% plus of voters still approve.

  • John Shoesmith 30th Jun '21 - 9:40am

    There are many people I know who just dislike Johnson. While he remains in command they feel ashamed to be British. They don’t much care about the differences between Labour, Green, and Libdem – in local elections they just ask one question – ‘Who has the best chance of beating the Tories?’ The answer isn’t always clear.

    In the next General Election I think they will have a second question. If they vote against Johnson and the parliamentary majority is a mixture of Labour, Libdems and Greens, what will happen and will they get a chaotic period as in 2016 to 2019?

    Answer those two questions and we can win, and do a huge amount of good for this country and its young people.

  • With England beating Germany in the Euro football tournament, looking well placed to go further in the competition and the world cup in Qatar next year there could be an early election in 2022 before the feel good factor of the end of lockdown and economic recovery wears off or inflation begins to accelerate after next summer.
    Harold Wilson called an early general election in the summer of 1970, hoping to tap into a similar national euphoria that had accompanied England’s World Cup win four years earlier in 1966. As it was England were dumped out of the tournament by West Germany and four days later Wilson was dumped out of Downing Street by Ted Heath.
    A lot can depend on sentiment at any given time or as Macmillan quipped “events dear boy, events”

  • Shaun Roberts 30th Jun '21 - 7:25pm

    Thanks for the comments – this is a good INTERNAL debate for the party to be having.

    To be really clear – I do believe that some kind of progressive alliance is vital with our current electoral system if we’re going to stop the Tories winning again. But that’s only part of the solution – it’s also vital that the Liberal Democrats develop a strong political identity and vision. That’s essential to winning seats at General Elections.

    I’d like to make 3 points in response to some of the other comments –

    1)Whether you’re a progressive or just a non-Conservative, you have the same problem – our political system. It’s stacked in favour of the Conservatives right now and while they are in power, they are moving to stack it further in the forthcoming Elections Bill. Progressives and non-Conservatives can and should agree that the system, particularly the voting system, must change.

    2)It’s this broken political system that is forcing non-Conservative parties to consider whether some degree of cooperation is in their own interests – regardless of the obvious disagreements that exist between the parties. What this cooperation ends up looking like depends on what the data says – needs to be thoroughly tested. Let’s do what will work best.

    3)This isn’t just about activists/members of the different parties. Its about progressive voters. In Chesham & Amersham, we saw that Labour and Green voters lend their votes to the Liberal Democrats to beat the Tories. In 2019, we saw Liberal Democrat voters in seats where Labour was the strongest challenger, switch to Labour to do the same thing. There’s a lot of progressive voters out there who don’t have the same hang-ups about cooperation as we do and a lot of them are quite frustrated right now!

  • Robert Hercliffe 1st Jul '21 - 6:13pm

    Two points. First, whether it is true or not that the Tories would gain as many votes as Labour where we stand down (I doubt this very much), it also needs to be considered where votes will go to where Labour stands down. To the Tories? Of course not. So a pact can defeat the Tories and any pact that gives us cabinet seats in a coalition government, and the immediate introduction of PR without a referendum, is worth it.
    Second. Who are the naysayers? Sadly there are some notorious facebook groups who oppose progressive alliance that were set up without declaring their interests. I can think of two set up and run by people who ran as our candidates in recent elections but failed to win. Obviously, if we stand people down, they will not get a chance to be candidates at the next election and I sympathise. However, I think it is utterly disgraceful that they are prepared to damage the party’s long term interests to further their careers by opposing progressive alliance. Especially as they never appear to be interested in offering any realistic alternative to a pact as a means of winning the PR we need to survive as a party

  • One thing that has seriously, almost irrevocably damaged this party has been our participation in alliance, coalition whatever one wants to call it. Another arrangement and we will be finally signing our death warrant. Can we please, please accept the reality instead of day-dreaming. I ask again are we going to stand down at Suffolk West if there is a by election, nobody responded to the question because the answer is obviously No, and everyone knows that.

  • Alex Macfie 1st Jul '21 - 8:02pm

    Robert Hercliffe: In Tory~Labour battlegrounds, the Labour-leaning Lib Dem vote has already shifted to Labour as a tactical anti-Tory vote. So the people still in the Lib Dem column are the die-hard Lib Dem voters and the people who waver between us and the Tories. This is why the Tories will benefit more than Labour if we stand aside in seats where we don’t have a chance of winning.

    “…Where votes will go to where Labour stands down. To the Tories? Of course not.” Really? The 2019 GE was won on the back of people switching directly from Labour to the Tories in the Red Wall. But such voters exist in LibDem~Tory battleground seats as well. Blue Labour voters switching to the Tories probably cost us Carshalton & Wallington as well as a potential gain in Cheltenham. So it is entirely possible in a seat where Labour have been aggressively squeezed, all the Labour voters who’d consider voting for us tactically have already done so, and if Labour doesn’t stand, what’s left of the Labour vote includes some Blue Labour voters who will probably switch to the Tories. Also some loyal Labourites might stay at home rather than voting Lib Dem in the privacy of the ballot box.

  • Trying to inject a bit of realism….

    1. Most voters would view PR as the ultimate Westminster-Bubble issue. People are typically concerned about jobs, their wages, schools, the environment, etc. A progressive alliance mainly aimed at bringing in PR will look to most ordinary voters like a stitch-up by out-of-touch politicians. Yes, I know that’s not fair, but the real World is rarely fair.

    2. Similarly, any attempt by a hung parliament to introduce PR without a referendum would be widely seen as an undemocratic stitch-up – and would be quickly reversed by the Tories if they ever go the chance to do so – which isn’t totally implausible even after a subsequent PR-based election:- The Tory vote share is often not /that/ far below 50%.

    3. Almost all LibDem targets are Tory-held. You need to attract Tory voters to gain those seats. Any attempt to semi-officially ally the LibDems with Labour will repel most of those voters, while making very little difference to the likelihood of Labour supporters in those seats voting tactically. (Even if Labour was willing to play ball, which they are very obviously not willing to do at a national level).

    4. Voters tend to respect parties that have firm principles and stick to them. (And vote for them if those principle seem sufficiently aligned with their own values, and they instinctively trust those parties).

    Putting all those together, I would say that all this talk of a progressive alliance is probably doing the LibDems more harm than good and really needs to stop. Maybe some local arrangements with the Greens in some target seats may be useful. Anything more will just lose the LibDems both votes and respect. The best path for the LibDems is to present themselves as a unique party with its own principles (which you are), fighting in its own right. Yes, the current electoral system is unfair but it’s what we have to work with. Target resources to make the best you can of the system, and convince people that the LibDems could make a better difference to their lives than either Labour or the Tories. Yes it’s not a quick fix – it’s a slow slog, but it’s the only plausible way forward I can see.

  • @ Simon R. ” Voters tend to respect parties that have firm principles and stick to them”.

    Now that’s an interesting idea especially with reference to student fees, raising VAT, welfare ‘reform’, NHS ‘reform’, social care, privatising the Royal Mail. local government (lack of) funding and the bedroom tax.

  • Nonconformistradical 1st Jul '21 - 10:38pm

    @Simon R
    “Most voters would view PR as the ultimate Westminster-Bubble issue. ”
    Might that be down at least partly to making a poor job of getting the message over?

    “People are typically concerned about jobs, their wages, schools, the environment, etc.”
    Indeed – which is my point about putting over the PR message – getting through PR a parliament which better represents the people – which the FPTP stitch-up doesn’t. A parliament which better represents the people might actually do a better job of dealing with these policy issues.

  • Alex Macfie: “The 2019 GE was won on the back of people switching directly from Labour to the Tories in the Red Wall.”

    Not as straightforward as that. Labour lost as many votes to people not voting as they did to the Tories and they lost votes to the Lib Dem’s as well. Votes they lost to abstentions + LD was more than the votes they lost to the Tories.

    https://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/blogs/pseph_transition2019.html

    “Blue Labour voters switching to the Tories probably cost us Carshalton & Wallington as well as a potential gain in Cheltenham”

    Far more to do with Lib Dem’s not holding their own leave voters. According to You Gov out of 2017 LD leave vote, 30% voted LD in 2019 whilst 46% voted Con. Lab held 52% of their 2017 leave vote.
    https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/12/17/how-britain-voted-2019-general-election

  • @Nonconformistradical “A parliament which better represents the people might actually do a better job of dealing with these policy issues.” – That’s a hard sell unless the people you’re trying to convince ALREADY believe that the LibDems would do a better job than anyone else on those issues. To someone who doesn’t already believe that, or who thinks the Tories aren’t doing much worse than anyone else would, there’s no reason to believe PR would make much difference to their lives. That’s why I think you stand a much better chance of convincing people on PR if you can convince them first that the LibDems are going to good for them on issues that they already care about.

  • Andrew Southgate 2nd Jul '21 - 11:42pm

    Simon R said it better than I could.
    The only counter argument is that the Labour Party are like elephants with small brains and very long memories. They have never forgiven us over the 2010 coalition and would prefer to heroically lose an election than ally with the ‘yellow tories.’ t
    Allying with Labour for just one term could put this history to bed and show that we can work with Labour.

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Jul '21 - 8:54am

    @Simon R
    “That’s a hard sell unless the people you’re trying to convince ALREADY believe that the LibDems would do a better job than anyone else on those issues”

    It is indeed a hard sell. But it might not be so much about specific issues, rather about convincing voters that our ‘democracy’ is so broken that it serves no-one except different minorities of vested interests in different parts of the country.

    And maybe without necessarily trying to convince voters from the standpoint of a particular political party?

    Political reform is a cross-party issue. Our problem at present seems to be that Labour is too divided on the issue to participate in cross-party campaigning.

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Jul '21 - 9:50am

    Marco: Be very careful when applying national polling surveys to local results. There simply wasn’t enough of a Lib Dem vote or swing to make a difference to the result in the vast majority of Red Wall seats. Take Blyth Valley, the first Tory gain of the night which set the pattern

    Conservative 42.7 +5.8
    Labour Co-op 40.9 -15.0
    Brexit Party 8.3 New
    Liberal Democrats 2,151 5.3 +0.7
    Green 1,146 2.8 +0.6

    Now one could contrive a scenario where a large cohort of Labour voters switched to the Lib Dems en masse, and a similar sized Lib Dem cohort went to the Tories. This would just about cover the rise in the Tory vote, but it would result in a near-complete turnover in the Lib Dem vote. It seems more plausible that Labour voters went straight over to the Tory or Brexit Party. Lib Dems were barely present in Red Wall local campaigns, so we probably simply held onto our loyal core vote.

    Labour switching to Lib Dems didn’t happen to any great extent in the Red Wall. It was a result of tactical or principled switching in Remain areas. We can argue until the cows come home over its effect in seats like Kensington, but this split vote was only an issue in a handful of such seats, and wasn’t an issue at all for Lab vs Lib Dem in the Red Wall. The Tory~Brexit split is another matter, and the Tory gain in Hartlepool can be regarded as unfinished business from the last GE.

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Jul '21 - 10:39am

    Apropos Carshalton & Wallington and Cheltenham, you are again crudely interpolating national voting shifts onto specific local areas. Lib Dems did indeed lose many Leave voters between 2017 and 2019, but this was principally in Leave-voting areas where we were strong before the referendum. It was almost certainly responsible for our loss of Eastbourne and North Norfolk (the latter a double-whammy with the loss of Norman Lamb’s personal vote). But Cheltenham is a majority-Remain seat, and the surface movement was Labour losing vote share to both Lib Dems and (to a smaller extent) Tories. Local activists there attribute the Tory uplift to Blue Labour switching.
    C&W is historically a Con~LibDem battleground, but Labour has lately been gaining ground, and has strength in local government. When delivering there in 2017 I remember seeing evidence of Labour activity. The surface movements look like a straight swing of 4 points from Labour (in 3rd place) to Tories. Of course this isn’t the whole story, and there was certainly movement in all directions. Lib Dems may have gained some tactical switchers from Labour, and certainly lost votes to the Tories because of the Corbyn factor. But this swinging and counter-swinging probably isn’t responsible for the entire vote movement; a lot of the Labour vote is Blue Labour or just Lexity, and some of it will have gone to the Tories, enabling them to take the seat.

  • @ Alex Macfie

    To clarify, I was not accusing the Lib Dem’s of being responsible for Labour losing seats in the red wall. I was challenging the narrative that Labour lost because they lost leave voters due to their position on Brexit. Their defeat had many causes and they lost votes in all directions and equal numbers of remainers and leavers without winning back enough previously lost voters.

    As for Carshalton and Wallington I would point out that in 2010 Labour received 8.7% and the LD’s held the seat. In 2019 they received 12.4% and the Tories gained it. So we can’t blame Labour for losing votes. We probably gained remain voters from Lab but lost more leave voters to Con.

  • John Littler 4th Jul '21 - 7:33pm

    3/4 of Labour members including the vast majority in the south & Scotland, now believe strongly in PR. A majority of Labour branches have put in Conference motions supporting a motion for PR and former vocal opponents of PR such as Andy Burnham, now say they support it. Most MP”s with seats to potentially lose from changing the system might have a problem, but most are playing cards close to their chest and are not declaring.

    Now that the FPTP voting system is working so strongly for the Tories and that most PR systems would offer Labour more seats, we may see Labour turning on this issue to do what it normally does and work issues in it’s own favour. Starmer has said he is going to be radical and AV can hardly be an option after that was so soundly rejected in the 2011 Ref., with Labour having played games in offering it in the 2010 manifesto and then Milliband later withdrawing support.

    I will be the old troupers of Labour and it’s back bencher time servers opposing PR, who see FPTP protecting it’s position as 2nd, a faint possibility of future monopoly power and with all the public money that opposition brings them.

    One can but hope.

  • Paul Barker 5th Jul '21 - 11:17am

    @John Littler
    I dont want us to get too excited about the genuine shifts towards Electoral Reform in Labour, this is just the first step. Labour Conference does not decide Labour Policy & Labour Members can only influence Policy if they are prepared to Fight.
    The big Powers in Labour are The Leadership, The MPs & The Big Unions & I dont see many signs of any of them shifting.

    My personal Nightmare is that Labour support Fair Votes & on that basis The Libdems join a Coalition. Our support collapses as it did in 2010, we get a Vote in Parliament & then we lose because of Labour Rebels voting with The Tories. Everybody laughs at us & most Voters view of The Libdems as nice but pathetic is confirmed.

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