Moving towards a progressive alliance

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

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

Nationally, our party has fought some breathtaking campaigns in the last year. From the huge swing in Witney locally to the ensuing win in Richmond Park. But we could not have achieved this alone. In both these elections we asked voters who classically support other parties to help us, and they did. Moreover, in Richmond Park, Caroline Lucas bravely stood down the Green candidate despite local opposition. This was one of the more memorable moments of that campaign in terms of headlines and gave a clear signal to Green but also Labour voters to do the right thing. The large numbers who did as a result certainly contributed to our win. In OxWAb, and in all other marginal seats we need the same thing to happen in this General Election.

So how could we move to replicate this in this General Election context? Working with Labour is complicated, not least because of the national stance of Brexit but also they would have to defy their national Party. For the Greens however, I believe there is a case to do something at the national level and for us to stand down in their winnable seats where we are not in contention. I admit, that is not a long list, possibly one or two, but to do this would be a statement of principle. We already offer a lot to their voters with our strong environmental credentials, opposition to Brexit and a say on the final deal. But I believe we should do more.

Us standing down would not just return the favour for Richmond, but it is in our more immediate interest as it would send a clear signal to all voters in Lib Dem/Tory fights across the country and even in Lib Dem/Labour marginals like Cambridge, that we are able to lead from the front on a Progressive, anti-Brexit Alliance.

In a more ‘ordinary’ election, as much as they exist, I would not countenance such a measure. People should be able to have their say and vote with their hearts if they want to. Lord knows, one day when we achieve PR we won’t have to ask them. But in our broken electoral system it is a necessity.

In this election, as a party we have one clear aim: to win as many MPs who are opposed to Brexit as possible and create the strong opposition this country desperately needs. A progressive alliance of any flavour would undoubtedly help our cause.

These are extraordinary times and this is already an extraordinary election. I urge the Party to be brave and reach out. We and the country benefitted from this once, let’s do everything we can to do so again.

* Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon

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  • Absolutely! Well said.

  • Can the term ‘progressive alliance’ bear definition beyond the vaguest of concepts? For example, support for social services, the NHS etc is widespread not only in the traditional left but amongst many on the right. Arguments tend to be about funding; those who prioritise economic growth so as to afford the services we want are not necessarily reactionaries.

    Setting aside this vague and unnecessarily divisive terminology, a proposal for a tactical alliance with the Greens on the critical issue of how to deal with Brexit is worth exploring. Although highly unlikely, it could attract a handful of Labour and Tory candidates willing to defy their parties and stand on an explicit platform to remain in the single market.

    This is a good argument for such a specific alliance but please, let’s drop the term ‘progressive’.

  • Richard Malim 24th Apr '17 - 10:50am

    NO . LD must first appeal to the Soft Tory Remainer vote : First to keep the seats in Sheffield Hallam, Leeds NW, Orkney and Shetland; then to recover/ gain Cambridge, Dumbartonshire E, Edinburgh W, Burnley, Fife NE, Caithness etc., Ross etc.,Cardiff C and Gordon. That is 13 seats where the STR vote is essential and the pundits may suggest more. Richmond ?
    Then LD and Tory can fight like cats elsewhere

  • “NO . LD must first appeal to the Soft Tory Remainer vote”

    I think we already have taken a big stride towards this by ruling out a coalition with Corbyn et al.

    The Greens may have some illiberal tendancies and slightly wacky ideas, but they are fundamentally decent; any steps to soldify a tactical alliance on brexit would be welcome.

    I would also consider the possibilty of us standing down in a handful of pro-remain Tory seats (rushcliffe for example) would also send a strong message to these voters

  • Greens are a possibility, as are (maybe) Plaid and (even more maybe) SNP.

    Labour are neither progressive nor anti-brexit, so they are a dead loss and we should stop even thinking about it.

  • Andrew McCaig 24th Apr '17 - 11:12am

    There is just one seat other than Brighton that the Greens should win if they are ever going to win another seat, and that is Bristol West… Are we going to stand aside there? No!

    Here in Huddersfield the Greens got 6.9% and we got 5.8% last time – should we stand aside for them and risk losing another council seat next May through inactivity? (last May the Greens mounted a vigorous campaign in one of our seats, got 10% (up 4% since 2015), and we lost by <1%). The reality is that across the country at local level we are in direct competition with the Greens for the same voters…

  • I’m sorry, but the phrase ‘progressive alliance’ should be struck from our lexicon. Firstly, many of our new members and supporters have previously been moderate conservatives who feel disenfranchised by the Tory ‘lurch to the right.’ The phrase ‘progressive alliance’ sounds to them like some kind of unholy alliance of lefties, a line promulgated by Tory hardliners right now.

    Secondly, the Greens keep pushing the line because they are the only party with little to lose and something to gain from it.

    If there is any ‘alliance’ at all right now, it is an alliance against destructive hard brexit and we will be at the heart of it just be sticking to our long held principles.

  • Bill Le Breton 24th Apr '17 - 11:36am

    My great worry is that someone who calls for a ‘progressive alliance’ now, and has a very good chance of winning, will be quick to call for a progressive alliance or ‘a new party’ after the election.

  • I have said before that The Polls are reflecting the reality of a Year ago & that our strength on the ground is a lot higher than our current Polling.
    Greens might try to make a similar argument except that neither their performance in Elections or their Polling has improved, they seem to be on exactly the same level as in 2015, around 4%, they really arent very relevant. Where they help us, we should be grateful, otherwise we should ignore them.
    The only sort of Progressive Alliance thats going to work is everyone getting behind The Libdems.

  • I completely agree with you. We definitely shouldn’t stand in Brighton and should have a look and see if there’s anywhere else where it would make sense (probably not unfortunately because most seats where the Greens are strong we are also strong).

    We should also consider standing down for the Women’s Equality Party in Shipley – there’s zero chance of our winning it and who knows, she might have a chance, and it would again signal their supporters in other seats (if they have any? Who knows?) to support us.

  • John Littler 24th Apr '17 - 12:55pm

    Bristol West looks like a few dilemmas. But the bigger picture is Green support more widely elsewhere.

  • Come on Layla:
    1. Conservatives will smell a stitch, bang goes them voting for it
    2. Tried several times in the past at a local level, failed, Conservative vote solidified
    3. Greens only have Bristol West, on the swings since 2015 we are close to or in the lead. dare say Greens are perhaps fourth now
    4. If Greens want to stand down, that is up to them, WE MUST FIGHT EVERY SEAT
    5. Do not be seduced by Compass, they are left to the core and simply turn Conservatives off
    6. All this does is spoil our chances of a Bristol West MP again

    Forget the idea

  • Theakes, Layla hasn’t said anything about Bristol West, that was other commentators. The same arguments about Bristol can be made in Norwich and Sheffield, which are the other obvious contenders.

    The obvious one is Brighton in favour of Caroline Lucas, could talk about others but even that one would be hugely symbolic. And we’re not competitive in Brighton and we aren’t going to fight it – so why not take the far bigger win of signalling to Green voters all over the country that we will work with them on the big issues.

  • Simon McGrath 24th Apr '17 - 1:27pm

    All that standing down to help Caroline Lucas does is give the green credibility and encourage the view that we are much the same as them. None of which is helpful in the long term to electoral success for our party.
    Not to mention that their economic policy would be far far worse for the UK than Brexit

  • How can the Lib Dems be progressive when Tim Farron can’t say whether he thinks gay sex as opposed to homosexuality is a sin or not? The Coalition years mean Lib Dems have lost centre left voters and need to ne a liberal pro EU centre right party

  • @ theakes “Do not be seduced by Compass, they are left to the core and simply turn Conservatives off. All this does is spoil our chances of a Bristol West MP again”

    That’s a great rallying cry, theakes. “We’re not sure what we believe apart from reds under the beds ! But we want an MP !!!”.

  • Hansard Reader 24th Apr '17 - 2:35pm

    We need a cross-party decency alliance In Hayes & Harlington to defeat IRA groupie John McDonnell

  • Yeovil Yokel 24th Apr '17 - 2:48pm

    Laura G – I agree with you on Shipley, and Brighton. Symbolism is important: a couple of farming friends of mine are Remainer Greens, and if we support Caroline Lucas in Brighton they may be more likely to vote tactically to help us unseat the pro-Brexit Tory here in Paddy’s old constituency.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Apr '17 - 3:07pm

    By reputation and personality it is obvious Layla is a terrific candidate .

    She must stand , and should win, on her merit with no requirement for all this progressive alliance talk, now, and I say that as one who was in Labour only advocating it then in a party led by early Blair who seems today to be advocating it yet !

    When Corbyn resigns after a big Tory win and a good Liberal Democrat revival, we can have such talk, and only if Labour’s left . and tribalists on their old right , change their tune.

    Read two things those who talk of such things today.

    1: Labourlist

    2; Green policies !

  • Lorenzo Cherin 24th Apr '17 - 3:12pm


    I do advocate we support the candidacy of Caroline Lucas , as a recognition of support in Richmond and her attempts at more realistic and far less tribalistic attitudes.

  • No sordid deals. The voters have a right to the widest possible choice.

  • Hi JohnB I don’t understand your sentence but Tim Farron has said many times he does not believe that and has never said that he does, it is a classic fake news story. Also the Lib Dems are not and never have been a centre right party.

  • Until there is PR – or another alternative voting system where people can vote true to their principles and not just because they don’t like the main opposition – then every seat is needed to dislodge those who feel most secure in the inward looking and elitist politics of old. And on this theme, I saw a great quote by Clive Lewis who described this edition of the Tory party (and the 2010 version could be included) as more one party nation than one nation party.

    Forming an alliance with Green and Women’s party (and potentially Plaid if Brexit is the main concern) will be a lot easier to navigate and then further discussion can be held with the more sensible individuals in the Labour and Tory party as an ongoing challenge.

  • Richard Malim 24th Apr '17 - 9:29pm

    I actually have a vote in Bristol W. Advise me. In 2015 Labour smashed LD into a poor third place, with a 5600 majority over the Greens. That Labour majority is now as soft as icecream in a heatwave; back shd come the LD to bury the useless Greens (for whom no Tory of any stripe will ever vote anywhere) and suck up the Soft Tory Remainer vote, with some such as me who voted for Brexit [on the basis that the EU was hopelessly dishonest financially with no accounts signed off for n years] and LD in 2015 to try to keep out Labour then. The Tories here are moribund/incompetent

  • Jayne Mansfield 24th Apr '17 - 9:32pm

    @ Tim Hill,
    I agree.

    It seems that some who think that FPTP is undemocratic, would have no problem with what is in effect, a top down stitch up.

    Individuals have always been at liberty to vote tactically if that is what they wished to do.

  • Richard: yes, fortune telling’s a tricky business (imagine anyone saying in April 2015 that the Lib Dems membership would treble within two years!) but it seems that the Green vote has ebbed while the Lib Dem vote has resurged since 2015, so Bristol West on that basis is likely a Lab v Lib battle once more.

  • Simon Banks 25th Apr '17 - 9:15am

    Martin: Brighton Pavilion. Plaid Cymru are also far more reasonable potential allies than the SNP.

    They key has to be local agreement.

    As for the vagueness of the term “progressive”, I entirely agree. “You can’t stop progress” is neither a Liberal nor a radical saying. But prioritising economic growth while public services needed to sustain growth (including those that reduce a drift to criminality or extreme physical impairment) is a short-sighted strategy.

    I suggest an agenda around opposing a hard Brexit, defending the environment and cutting global warming, defending civil liberties, devolving power and doing more to help and empower the people at the bottom of the economic heap. That would unite us, Greens, the Plaid and Liberally-minded Labour.

  • Simon Banks 25th Apr '17 - 9:16am

    Sorry – “while CUTTING public services…”

  • Delighted Brighton Pavilion have heeded this call. Was very brave of them and they should be commended. Bravo!

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