Single progressive challenger to Tories wins seats

This is an independent view from Compass which is a centre-left pressure group, aligned with the Labour Party.

At the local elections, the Lib Dem vote rose by 14.1% in England where the party was the only progressive challenger to the Tories.

Neal Lawson, Director of Compass said:

“When progressives cooperate they win, when they compete they lose. Despite the party machines insisting on unilaterally standing candidates that can only benefit the right, progressives locally are cooperating to win under the radar. Progressives should only stand where they can win.”

An unprecedented number of contests saw only one progressive candidate standing. By accident and by local design, progressive parties not competing had a stunning impact on the Lib Dem vote, and those of Labour and Greens:

  • The Lib Dem vote rose by 14.1% where it was the only progressive challenger to the Tories.
  • The Labour vote rose by 6.1% where it was the only progressive challenger to the Tories.
  • The Greens vote rose by 20.2% where it was the only progressive challenger to the Tories. The Green figures are less robust because of the sample size but the impact of non-competition for the Green Party is very large.

Of the 432 elections these figures cover in England, Compass analysis shows the impact of a single progressive candidate meant somewhere in the order of 36 progressive candidates won who otherwise wouldn’t have if they faced progressive competition.

When the impact of non-competition is then applied to other seats in England where progressives did compete, then approximately 118 more seats could have been won by progressives if they had had a free run.

Before the local elections, Conservative Co-Chair Oliver Dowden wrote to Keir Starmer accusing him of a non-competition pact with Ed Davey. There was no pact – but now we know why Dowden is alarmed.

First Past the Post massively distorts votes to the benefit of the Tories because right-wing votes are consolidated around it.

Read more by or more about .
This entry was posted in The Independent View.


  • Brad Barrows 20th May '22 - 8:03am

    The only problem with this analysis is that many Liberal Democrats are closer to the Conservatives than to the progressive alternatives. So, for example, the Liberal Democrats had the choice of joining the Conservatives or the SNP to form a ruling administration in Aberdeenshire but have decided to back the Tories. Not what I wanted to see when I placed my number against the name of my Liberal Democrat candidate and, in fact, was willing for my vote to pass to any other candidate except the two Conservatives who were standing.

  • Andrew Ducker 20th May '22 - 10:24am

    This kind of non-competition is useful – and I think you’d find a huge amount of appetite for it, but only if the winners then move to a proportional voting system. Otherwise it’s not sustainable long-term.

  • Aha. Last night the Greens went from third to first at Ellel, Lancaster, they now have 11 councillors and have been running Lancaster for a year or so in company with an eco group. The Lib Dems 4%!!!! To be offer some balance the Lib Dems recently doubled their number of councillors to 4.
    Perhaps it will be better at Gedling next week.

  • No surprise there, Brad. I well remember how things went and what happened when it came to the Donald Trump golf course.

  • Tristan Ward 20th May '22 - 11:42am

    Since Compass is aligned to the Labour Party whose interest is in beating Liberal Democrats, it is doubtful whether any recommendations made by Compass are in the interests of of Lib Dems.

    Any party that throws up leaders like Foot, Corby and (to a lesser extent) Blair is probably not proegssive, and can never be if its policies include opposition to PR.

    If my local party decides not to stand a Lib Dem candidate I certainly won’t vote Labour.

  • I used to support the idea of local Pacts with The Greens (GPEW only) but there would be long-term consequences that would be bad for both Parties. Labour may end up supporting Electoral Reform, there have certainly been big shifts in the last few years – But we can’t rely on that. The only way change can be forced on Westminster is to get a big block of Libdems MPs. Any advances for The Greens just divides the Third Party Vote – they are too far behind us to get more than a handful of MPs but they are strong enough to block our growth.

  • I’m a member of Compass, and while I continue to support the overall advertised aims of the group, I can’t help but think that they only see the LibDems as a means to getting a Labour government. Yes, they sometimes encourage natural Labour/Green voters to vote LibDems if as a means to ditch the Tories, but when I listened to their podcasts, some of the language used by Neal, the director, can be a bit sneering. Nothing grand, just the way some things were phrased. I suspect it’s subconscious on his part.

    He’s also far too invested in the idea that Scotland is ‘lost’ to Labour, and seems to take most of his views on Scottish Labour and Scottish politics in general from Scottish nationalists. He’ll rail against the post-financial crash austerity, but seems really chilled about the probability of the severe austerity that would hit Scots if the SNP had their way.

  • John Littler 20th May '22 - 3:51pm

    Compass may have originated inside Labour, but their decision to leave it and forge a broader path is genuine. They have supported progressive candidates at elections across the board, including helping to get Layla Moran take Oxford West & Abingdon.

    Where Compass supported candidates, the swing was positive and higher than average.
    Whether individuals in it are current or ex Labour is largely irrelevant to their aims and you would expect the much larger party to have more people in other like minded organisations.

    This current Blukip Tory Party was subject to entryism by ex UKIp and Brexit Party members and as nasty as it is anti European and even unpopular in USA. I don’t see how the LIbDems could be equidistant between that and Starmer’s Labour. Who seems to broadly agree with Davey on the bread and butter issues.

    The Tories are incompetent, uncaring, have failed on growth and the public finances and are running the NHS and public services into disaster.

  • Chris Moore 20th May '22 - 3:51pm

    Brad and David have both forgotten to mention that in Aberdeen itself the SNP and the Lib Dems have just formed the new city government.

    They took over from a coalition of Conservatives, Labour and Independents.

  • Brad Barrows 20th May '22 - 5:58pm

    @Chris Moore
    To be fair, I did say that “many Liberal Democrats are closer to the Conservatives than to the progressive alternatives” and then illustrated this point by quoting the Aberdeenshire example. However I am happy to acknowledge that the 4 Liberal Democrat councillors in Aberdeen decided to join the 20 SNP councillors to rule city rather than form a unionist coalition with Labour (11) and Conservatives (8) and still rely on one of the two independents to have an overall majority.

  • Compass:

    No matter which progressive party we align with, it’s our ability to find common ground that sets us apart from a politics of fear and division. That’s our superpower

    The Lib Dems’ performance at the local elections is proof that cooperation works

    In places like Richmond, Compass members built the foundations for a grown-up politics. Alliance-building between Greens & Lib Dems left the Tories with just one seat and nine new seats for the Lib Dems

    In Woking, Lib Dems are set to take control of the council for the first time since 1996. We’re seeing the benefits of cooperation built over years between progressive parties

    Join us on Friday 27th May at 6pm to unpack how the local elections went for the Lib Dems & strategise with Compass members around the party conference.

    At Compass we won’t stop until a politics of trust & collaboration is prioritised over division

    Because the truth is, if progressives divide, then the Tories conquer

    Lib Dems are leading the way for a new politics based on cooperation & alliance-building
    Compass Party groups work within & between political parties to build the relationships, trust & cooperation we need to win

    And beyond the next election, we’ll need a Progressive Alliance to change how our electoral system so the Lib Dems get fair representation

    Will you join the Lib Dem Network at Compass & help shape the future of progressive politics?

    Join the only organisation campaigning for a Progressive Alliance that could win the next election & change politics for good.


  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st May '22 - 3:03pm

    The Green Party do not like the Liberal Democrats at national discussion or description stages. All they do is criticise this party, pre elections, after them. They are a party that local people like because they do not know their naysayers, far left supporters of protestors chained to transport!

    A progressive alliance with other parties needs to have a common and mainstream manifesto of the centre left. Not a hotch potch of cobbled together deals with parties who do not know enough about each other ion various ways.

    We could , like other countries, build an alliance. But UK politics is small c conservative, undemocratic systems, and parties.

    Have you seen how Labour handle selections?

  • Andrew Aitchison 21st May '22 - 5:06pm

    A pre-election alliance is fine if politics is one-dimensional; ie there is only one issue and different groups have degrees of “extremeness” in their policies on that issue.
    However, if there are multiple issues, as is clearly the case in Aberdeen, a pre-election pact between those who agree on one of the issues, may be a disaster for a voter who considers another issue more important.

  • Peter Hirst 21st May '22 - 5:18pm

    We wouldn’t need Compass, despite its laudable aims if we had a half decent electoral system where seats equalled votes, there was preferential voting and many more votes counted.

  • A cross-party Campaign for Reform should be based on a combination of:

    1. Prior to the next (final FPTP) UK election,
    a Campaign for Reform must focus solely on
    a Tactical Voting arrangement to force a hung Commons
    (by unilaterally ‘gifting’ marginal seats
    from the stronger of Con and Lab to the weaker of Con and Lab
    without any ‘whiff’ of the beneficiary party ‘returning the favour’).
    LD would be uniquely positioned with the ‘currently-un-productive’ elector power
    to ‘lead’ such an arrangement
    (i.e. ‘leading’ the SNP, Green, Reform, and PC parties).

    2. Following the next (final FPTP) UK election
    (i.e. in a hung Commons),
    a Campaign for Reform must focus solely on
    a Confidence and Supply arrangement
    with the least obstructive of Con or Lab;
    with control over the agenda for constitutional reform as the sole ‘red line’
    (i.e. not a standing alliance arrangement,
    not a standing coalition arrangement,
    and not anything like the 2010 ConDem arrangement).
    SNP would be uniquely positioned
    with the ‘currently un-productive’ seat power to ‘lead’ such an arrangement
    (i.e. ‘leading’ the LD, Green, Reform, and PC parties).

    The Campaign for Reform must not be seen to be trying
    to win the election for reformers, to win extra seats for reformers,
    to ‘trash’ Con, to ‘trash’ Lab, to ‘boost’ Con, or to ‘boost’ Lab.
    Indeed, the Campaign for Reform must be focused specifically and overtly
    on making sure that no party or standing arrangement ‘wins’ the election!

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