Tag Archives: progressive alliance

Matthew Parris opines on how Lib Dems can win by wooing Tories

Columnist Matthew Parris has been wandering a bit in recent years, step by step getting further away from the Conservative Party which he once represented as an MP. He was MP for West Derbyshire from 1979 to 1986, leaving politics to pursue a career in journalism. Since then, criticism of the Tories and their pursuit of Brexit have two of the major themes of his columns. Parris left the Tories in 2019, saying he was going to vote Lib Dem.

The week before the North Shropshire by-election, he wrote:

“We’ve got a wrong ’un in Downing Street. Does anyone have the balls to dislodge this impostor, or must cowering Tory outsource their courage to the voters of North Shropshire next week?”

We know what happened in North Shropshire. Today in The Times, Parris turns his attention to the Tiverton and Honiton by-election.

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Davey: We’ll work with others to out this indecent government

In a podcast interview for Politics Home, Ed Davey said there is no formal pact with Labour but it was simply rational behaviour for both parties to put their resources where they have the best chance of winning.

He said the Lib Dems intend to take on Labour in areas where we can think we can beat them.

The interview also covered Partygate, the economy and the cost of living crisis, Tiverton and Honiton, and Lib Dem values.

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Progressive Lib Dem Labour Partnership takes helm in Powys

Powys County Council is to be led by the Welsh Liberal Democrats for the first time since its creation, in a partnership with Welsh Labour. Previous administrations have been led by independents.

James Gibson-Watt, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Group Leader on Powys Council, was elected as Leader of the Council at the Council’s AGM this morning, becoming the first Welsh Liberal Democrat Council leader since 2012.

The agreement between the Welsh Liberal Democrats and Welsh Labour will focus on delivering a fresh and distinctive path to meet the serious challenges the county faces. A Green Party councillor is expected to join the partnership.

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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.
Posted in The Independent View | 15 Comments

An informal Lib-Lab pact makes sense – but is it a poison chalice for the Lib Dems?

On paper, an informal Lib-Lab pact at the next General Election makes sense. Whatever you want to call it – informal, non-aggressive, unofficial, secret – an agreement is reportedly in place, and it makes political sense.

It makes political sense as we are in a unique situation. The Lib Dems and Labour have not always been on friendly terms, particularly at the local level where campaigning styles often clash, and in some constituencies and Councils they never will be. Yet at the next General Election (if it takes place in 2024) the Conservatives will have been in power for 14 years, and for all their faults, have arguably played a good electoral strategy and outmanoeuvred Labour and the Lib Dems. If the Tories are to lose their majority, it will require a united front from the opposition to target the voters disillusioned by partygate, failing to see the benefits of Brexit and unlikely to benefit from levelling up.

Labour knows they can’t take on the Tories on their own. They are unlikely to regain seats in Scotland and will face an uphill struggle to win back ‘Red Wall’ seats in traditional Labour heartlands. The Party is also facing huge funding issues, with unions slashing donations, meaning resources are thin on the ground. The Lib Dems on the other hand know they can win traditional ‘Blue Wall’ seats, as demonstrated in Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire, to take crucial seats away from the Conservatives. And the Conservatives are worried about the local electoral machine that the Lib Dems have deployed in these by-elections. Making a speech at Conservative Spring Conference last weekend, Party Chairman Oliver Dowden said the Tories are “going to have to fight this one seat by seat… doorstep by doorstep” and that it needs “to be reminding people that the best way to tackle the cost of living locally”.

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Britain’s party system under Proportional Representation: where should the Liberal Democrats be placed?

The Liberal Democrats and Labour have entered into an informal electoral agreement to prevent anti-Conservative opposition being split at the next election. Giving Labour a free hand to rebuilding their Red Wall, they will give us equal freedom to dismantle the Blue Wall. With major trade union opposition to Proportional Representation having been removed, it might be possible that the replacement of First Past The Post with PR will be adopted by Labour as party policy and enacted by the next government.

Change to the electoral system will inevitably result in behavioural changes amongst those operating within the political system. With PR, voters can vote as they wish and expect to get their desired representatives rather than having to vote tactically for the lesser of two evils. And, politicians would be required to be more conciliatory and cooperative in order to win votes and form governments, the negative campaigning typical of FPTP likely being a liability. PR will also change the party system.

A Conservative- and Labour-dominated two-party plus system has naturally resulted from FPTP, the British electorate’s desire for a true multiparty system being long frustrated with the seat shares of third parties being unfairly suppressed. With Single Transferable Voting being our party’s preference, and hopefully that of Labour in the future, the British party system under PR is likely retain two major parties but would grant greater (proportional) influence to smaller parties. STV would allow the Liberal Democrats to reclaim our rightful position as Britain’s third party, with a fair and considerable seat share (fifty-nine if STV had been used at the last election, based on votes cast under FPTP). Within such a system, we should consider the role our party should play.

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FT says Labour and Lib Dems have informal pact for next general election

The Financial Times today reports that Labour will fight only a “minimal campaign” in most of the Lib Dems’ top 30 target seats at the next general election, in “an informal Lib-Lab plan to topple the Conservatives”.

Apparently, Keir Starmer has told colleagues that Labour must “ruthlessly focus” resources on its target seats in the general election freeing the ground for the Lib Dems to be the main challengers in some seats.

Labour is aiming to gain more than 125 seats to reach the 326 required to form a government. The Tories are worried by potential Lib Dem gains in the blue wall southern and rural heartlands after the wins in the Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire byelections.

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The Progressive Alliance isn’t progressing…

I’ll be honest – Compass and the whole “Progressive Alliance” debate frustrates me. Yes, I fully understand the principle of opposition parties working together in some as yet undefined way, but in my opinion the advocates of a Progressive Alliance are failing. Leaving aside what “Progressive” means (if anything), I’m still not clear what the “Alliance” bit means. Compass say they want to “stimulate the debate” but what are we even debating?

Cooperation could mean anything within a wide spectrum – from one party’s activists campaigning for another, through one party simply standing down, to standing but campaigning selectively, or passively standing and not campaigning at all.

The debate doesn’t seem to be moving forward, and it can’t until there are concrete proposals on fundamentals such as what cooperation looks like and, importantly, how target seats are apportioned.

Why do I care so much?

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Lessons from 97 Lib Dem/Labour co-operation – Compass/SLF podcast

Lib Dems and Labour swapping lists of target seats, co-operating on policy and not getting in each other’s way helped oust the Tories in 1997. What lessons can we learn from that today?

This week, I went along to the recording of Compass’s “It’s Bloody Complicated” podcast. Our own Duncan Brack, Compass’s Neal Lawson who was one of the fixers of the deals between Blair and Ashdown and YouGov’s Peter Kellner  who looked back to 1997 and the co-operation between Tony Blair and Paddy Ashdown.  The event was chaired by Compass’s Frances Foley

Duncan explained how, after the disappointment of the 1992 election, there were tentative attempts  to float idea of co-operation between non Conservative parties but Labour under John Smith were not interested.

When Blair became leader, there was significant co-operation including swapping information on target seats. Later on, Neal Lawson told of a meeting in a pub in Victoria where bits of paper were swapped.

A significant part of this was that information was fed  to the Mirror during the campaign. Their subsequent recommendations on tactical voting meant that we won 20 out of our 22 targets.

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Guardian – vote Liberal Democrat in North Shropshire

It would be fair to say that the relationship between Liberal Democrats and the Guardian has been somewhat lukewarm for some time. The likes of Polly “that Liberal Democrat idea is very good, vote Labour” Toynbee have given us a thorough kicking for doing a bunch of things in coalition that Labour would have probably done had they not lost in 2010. But I digress…

Today’s Guardian editorial, headed “The Guardian view on a byelection test: Labour voters should back the Lib Dems”, is perhaps a sign that the pragmatists are at the editorial helm. In a forceful piece, they note;

But

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The disconnect that many Lib Dems cannot see – or refuse to see

The word ‘tragedy’ is used in the literary world in a very specific sense: to denote a situation in which people can’t see what’s going on around them and how it’s destined to end in tears. I cannot help feeling we Liberal Democrats are in the middle of a tragedy we need to stop very soon before it’s too late.

Our autumn conference last month had a steady underlying seam of tribalism about it. The most outward sign was the motion to stand a candidate in every seat unless local members agree to stand aside. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong about this motion; it’s what it says about the underlying mood that worries me – that we are the Lib Dems and we don’t need to do business with anyone else, thank you.

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Party strategy motion passes – with amendment securing local members rights on standing candidates

This morning Conference passed the party strategy motion. One of the Federal Board’s key tasks is to bring a motion on party strategy to Conference for approval.

This one had lots of good stuff in it on developing a strong narrative, improving diversity and menber experience, developing our campaigning capacity and having a “one party” approach where we co-ordinate our effort.

There were four amendments, all of which passed and, I think, substantially improved it. Lib Dems for Racial Equality called for this party to finally pull its finger out and implement the Thornhill and Alderdice reviews and get out and engage with ethnic minority communities. The Parliamentary Candidates Association called for greater support for candidates and 10 members called for our progress towards net zero as a party to be expedited.

These three passed with little opposition. The drama was all around an amendment proposed by Federal Board member Simon McGrath. It called for us to stand a candidate in every seat at the next General Election unless local members agreed not to. Anyone who bears the scars of the Unite to Remain effort in 2019 will probably have some sympathy with this. However, others, including me, felt that it would bind any attempts to stand down in some places where it would be sensible to do so. I generally think we should stand everywhere, and I think that voices calling on us to stand down are generally from parties who wouldn’t do the same in return, but I felt we should give ourselves the flexibility.

ALDC Chair Prue Bray made such a good speech in support that I asked her if we could publish it. It’s just rammed with good sense about how we should work together and I love it.

I want to get rid of this government. Not because it’s Conservative but because it’s dreadful. It’s dreadful because it isn’t liberal, in its policies, values or behaviour. I want a liberal government, or at least one that we can exert the maximum liberal influence on. And the only way to get that is to get more Lib Dems elected. Labour aren’t liberal, nor are the Greens, the SNP or Plaid.

It’s us or nothing.

We won’t get more Lib Dems elected if we don’t stand, however tempting a pre-election pact might look. Unite to Remain looked tempting. It didn’t deliver anything.

When the battle is over, when the votes are counted, that’s the time to make pacts to further the progressive cause. And that’s why I strongly support amendment 3.

There are people who don’t agree. That’s fine, I don’t mind challenge. What I mind is people who tell me I am wrong without producing any supporting facts, and then go off and do whatever they want even if it’s completely against the interests of the party.

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We must stand a candidate in every constituency at the next General Election

Our Party has something to offer everyone in England Scotland and Wales and therefore it makes sense that we should stand a candidate in every seat (our friends in the Alliance Party do a great job in Northern Ireland).

That might seem like common sense – but at the last election we participated in the Unite to Remain Agreement by which we, the Greens and Plaid Cymru (Labour refused to participate) agreed to stand down in some constituencies – and it was a disaster. Not only did it make no difference to the results, but the way in which our local parties and PPCs were told they were standing down with no input from them caused huge problems.

If you agree we should stand a candidate everywhere, please support Amendment 3 to motion F23: Party Strategy, 10.55 on Sunday morning.

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The Guardian on Lib Dem strategy: Bringing down the “blue wall”

In an almost effusive leader column, today’s Guardian praises Ed Davey, Lib Dem strategy and calls the Chesham and Amersham victory stunning. It says the Liberal Democrats are determined to make that win just the first step in bringing down the Conservatives’ “blue wall”. Boris Johnson can’t be ejected from Downing Street without a Lib Dem revival. Although Ed Davey will not be telling delegates to go back to their constituencies and “prepare for government” there are good reasons to believe something is happening, including the May by-election results.

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Dick Newby writes: Are progressive alliances needed to win?

Ever since Boris won the 2019 General Election, there has been growing talk of the need for a “progressive alliance” to stop the Tories winning the next election.

Quite what this might involve is unclear. Some would like a national pact between Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Greens so only one party would stand in each seat, and others want simply to promote greater tactical voting and other parties to scale back their campaigning where another party is the main challenger.

Helpfully, the by-elections in both Batley and Spen and Chesham & Amersham give us some insight into how this could work and how voters might react.

Chesham & Amersham: a victory for tactical voting

Let’s take Chesham & Amersham first, where the Liberal Democrats started in firm second place. We fought a vigorous campaign and proved early Green party claims that they were going to be the main challenger wrong. People who were traditionally Labour voters, realising that their vote could make a difference, decided to tactically lend their vote to the Lib Dems – including some Party members and activists.

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A New Fair Deal for Oxfordshire

A couple months of ago, Oxfordshire changed. For the first time in 16 years, the Conservatives no longer had a majority on the County Council and instead, an alliance was formed between the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and the Labour Party to form an administration.  We named this the Oxfordshire Fair Deal Alliance, and I was elected the Leader of the new council.

For many years, I have been asked by voters why the opposition parties can’t work together to effect change. In the Witney by-election of 2016, Robert Courts won 45% of the vote – why, I was asked then, did Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems not get together and offer an effective and united challenge, breaking the Conservative dominance of local politics?  Perhaps that might have worked, but at the time, that was not an option.  But now, maybe things have started to shift.

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Batley & Spen – Labour win is shock but Lib Dems kept Tories out

First – huge congratulations to Kim Leadbeater. Brand new to politics, she was absolutely thrown to the wolves in this campaign, but she survived it. The fight between Labour and Galloway was bitter and divisive, the last thing this community needed. I hope that Kim will be a compassionate and healing MP and I wish her luck.

Honestly, as someone who has been campaigning and knocking on doors in this election, the result has come as a huge shock. I thought the Conservatives would walk it. Perhaps that tells you something about the areas we targeted – our locally held ward of Cleckheaton and our adjacent target of Birstall and Birkenshaw are very much Tory leaning. Our campaign focussed on keeping that local election vote with us, rather than letting it slide back to the Tories.

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Why we have a duty to form an Alliance

In 2019 Boris Johnson won a landslide victory. It left him with total power to inflict a heartless Brexit. Our young people face barriers if they want to study or work in Europe. Many people have found their lives badly affected.

How did this happen? What lessons can be learned from the 2019 election?

Firstly, Boris offered certainty after several years of Brexit indecision. Voters knew what they would get if they voted for him. Some ‘remain’ voters just wanted things settled.

Secondly our electoral system rewards big parties. The Tories won only 44% of votes, but they were the biggest party and won easily.

Posted in Op-eds | 38 Comments

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.

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The Progressive Alliance – A Fool’s Errand

In the few days since our remarkable victory in Chesham and Amersham, some are suggesting we shouldn’t campaign, or even stand, in Batley and Spen.

On the face of it, it makes sense. The Lib Dems are closer to Labour on most policies than we are to the Tories, so we could be taking votes from Labour and gift the seat to the blues.

However, that view relies on one massive assumption. One we consistently make internally, even though the evidence of our eyes and ears disproves it. We assume that with no Lib Dem, our voters are more likely to go Labour than Tory. This is categorically untrue. Our data shows us that our voters split almost perfectly in half when no Lib Dem candidate is available.

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So how might a progressive alliance work?

In today’s Guardian, our Layla Moran, Green MP Caroline Lucas and Labour MP Clive Lewis argue that we need progressive parties to come to an arrangement to beat the Tories.

Meanwhile the rightwing parties have consolidated, after the Tories swallowed the Brexit party whole. But progressives remain split, competing for the same voters – we divide; they conquer.

And yet poll after poll shows there is a progressive majority. We need to shape and win that majority.

This is why citizens are now using their votes wisely, to back the best-placed non-Tory; and why, under the radar, local parties are campaigning tactically to best direct their resources.

They argue against the tribalism that prevents progressive parties working together:

Old politics holds us back. The Labour rulebook demands the party stands candidates in every seat, regardless of whether doing so guarantees another Tory win. Local parties should be allowed to decide. But tribalism runs deep everywhere, and trust takes times to grow, with the inevitable result of another likely general election loss. We cannot allow that to happen. This self-defeating tribalism must go. While well-intentioned, party bureaucracies could be the last bastions of the old politics to fall. If this needs to be a grassroots alliance, then so be it.

Part of the problem with the idea of a progressive alliance was that loads of people think it’s a fab idea, but nobody has been able to set out how it might work in practice. But in recent years, there have been some good examples of where parties have worked together to our mutual gain.

Layla’s arrangement with the Greens in Oxfordshire has helped both parties and hurt the Tories badly. From Lib Dem wins in Oxford West and Abingdon in 2017 and 2019 to a joint administration of Lib Dem Labour and Green ousting the Tories from power in Oxfordshire County Council in May this year, this is a shining example of how a progressive alliance can work in practice. The test will be whether they can govern as cleverly as they have campaigned.

During the leadership election last year, Layla talked about how she had made great efforts to win over the Greens in the run up to her win in 2017. She went along to their meetings and talked to them and answered some tough questions. She put the effort into building up strong relationships with them on the ground.

However, the Unite to Remain effort at the 2019 election was doomed to failure, mainly because Labour refused to get involved and partly because it was imposed on seats in a way that was never going to work.

The last time Caroline Lucas faced a Lib Dem in her Brighton Pavilion seat was in 2015. Her then opponent Chris Bowers went on to co-edit The Alternative, an argument for a more progressive politics with her and Labour’s Lisa Nandy. I interviewed both Chris and Caroline for Lib Dem Voice back in 2016.

No progressive alliance would work without the co-operation of the Labour Party. In 1997, we and Labour by and large kept out of each other’s way except in places like Chesterfield where we were genuinely fighting each other for the seat. I was involved in that campaign and our move forward then put us in pole position for Paul Holmes to win in 2001.

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Where next?

It beggars belief that a party led by the most incompetent, lying and self-serving group in modern times can carry not quite all, but most, before it in an election. What are we to do?

First, thank goodness for those who have held back the Tory tide: Labour in Wales, those glorious patches of the UK where Liberal Democrats and Greens have prevailed and, the Scots who remain unimpressed by Tory falsehoods.

But overall the picture is dismal. How can this well-educated and well-informed electorate vote for a group who almost on a daily basis betray all that is decent and honourable about our country?

There are two options. Either there’s something wrong with the electorate or something wrong with the opposition.

Since we cannot “dissolve “ the electorate and find another, indeed it would be pompous and presumptuous to want to do so, we must look to the opposition, including ourselves.

It’s too early to tally all of the votes cast on this Super Thursday, but it is a fair bet that the total number of votes cast of what might loosely be called “progressive forces” (Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and many nationalists) will exceed the votes cast for the Tories.(In the “Landslide election of 2019 which gave Johnson his 80 seat majority, and ignoring the nationalists and others, it was 43% Tories and 46% “Progressive.”)

Either we allow the Tories to use their money, their control of much of the media, and their shameless disregard for truth to hang on to the reins of power for another couple of decades or we get together to stop them.

Yes, I know, this will provoke groans about “siren voices” from some of our stalwarts who have tried to work with Labour and been rebuffed by their self-righteous assumption that Labour and Labour alone have the recipe for the good society and we should get off their patch and let them get on with it.

But it is time to stop mentioning that and look for the possible foundations for a Progressive Alliance.

I believe it would be possible to form a united front under the broad umbrella of Truth, Fairness and Opportunity.

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Labour Progressive?

I keep hearing siren party voices yet again hankering after a “progressive alliance” against the Conservatives. I firmly agree with John Pardoe’s adage of old that “a hatred of the Conservative party is the beginning of political wisdom”, but I fear that the very idea of the Labour party being “progressive” is, frankly, risible. It is one of the besetting chimeras of Liberals to have a dream that one day the Labour party will change. No-one who has challenged Labour in its industrial fiefs will succumb to such a fanciful concept. Labour believes in hegemony and control, and it has done since its early days. Once Ramsay Macdonald had negotiated the 1903 Pact with the gullible Herbert Gladstone and established a parliamentary foothold of thirty MPs, it then pursued its myopic single party aim without deviation. It prefers to be in opposition and to lose than to share any power. There is no better example than the first Labour government of 1924 which preferred to fall and to go into the electoral wilderness than to have even a minimal co-operation with the Liberals. Even in 2010, there was no possibility of a Lib-Lab coalition once Douglas Alexander had stated that they under no circumstances would they co-operate with the Scottish Nationalists.

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Building a progressive alliance on the basis of the past, and now looking to the future

Clive Lewis, the Labour MP giving the Beveridge lecture to Liberal Democrats last week, admitted that some of his party believe that ‘labourism’ is the only progressive future. Certainly Lib Dems have to accept that Socialists who believe that Liberals will always defend capitalism against the workers will never accept us as a progressive party, and will consider any alliance as a mere tactical ploy. In a mirror image, there are plenty of Liberals who believe that Labour cannot shake off its Far-Left inheritance and will always aim for state control and management, with the soaking of the rich to enforce greater equality.

Yet if a majority of both our parties can focus on policies of social justice, full employment and moderate redistribution within the new challenge of climate change, we can surely begin to work together in more ways than is already happening in the All-Party Parliamentary Groups.

There is, as Clive Lewis said, a “shared tradition of the social liberal and the socialist”, based on “our common values embedded in our collective institutions… (and) our principled commitment to defend the human rights of all.”

For Liberal Democrats, the Thornhill General Election review instructed us that “we must reconnect with the electorate as a whole. We must give a fresh distinctive vision of a liberal Britain in the 21st century with policies that resonate with – and are relevant to – ordinary people.” Indeed, it must be the first requirement for both parties, to discover and strive to meet the needs of the electorate, among which measures of social justice and provision of jobs with fair pay will surely rank high.

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Liberal Democrats and Socialists: can we form a progressive alliance?

Last Thursday Clive Lewis a Labour MP was the first non-Liberal Democrat to give the Social Liberal Forum’s Beveridge lecture (you can access it HERE ) entitled ’21st-century progressive alliances & political re-alignment’. Clive Lewis called for ‘a progressive alliance of the mind’, involving individuals, campaigns and movements. After outlining the great challenges facing us all today, he said that there is a crisis of democracy in our country, with people turning to the wrong solutions such as Brexit and populism.

“Liberalism”, Clive continued, “is a powerful political philosophy with important things to say about individual freedom, democratic politics and the market economy and about how these interact” (time stamp in the video: 23.18). But he said that much conservative and liberal propaganda claims socialists want to snuff out the freedom of selfish individualism and mould it into a perfect collective (27.59), as a kind of Socialist ‘Borg’ (antagonists of Star Trek) wanting to assimilate liberalism. He said this was not true as “Most Socialists want to find ways of allowing more people to benefit from and have a say in the management of the co-operative processes in which they are already engaged in almost every aspect of their lives. That sounds remarkably like freedom and equality to me” (28.38).

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30 January 2020 – the overnight press release

Davey speech on Brexit – Progressives must fight on

Today, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey will make a keynote speech addressing party members and activists in Manchester ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Ed Davey will make a rallying call to pro-Europeans ahead of our departure from the EU, calling on them to continue to campaign for close association with our allies in the EU and for the progressive values we share.

Ed will call for the end of the Remain/Leave division in our country and for progressives to unite to tackle other serious divisions.

Ed will declare that …

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A Progressive Alliance for 2024

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

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

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

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Bar Charts!

I’ve had an idea about bar charts! It’s way outside my area of expertise, but indulge me.

Right, Northern Ireland has a unique set of parties and in Scotland and Wales the national parties have disrupted the ability of the LabCon duopoly to “game” First Past the Post. In England, though, LabCon game First Past the Post for all its worth. They do everything they can to maintain a dichotomy, “them or us”. Then they run a “project fear” on “them”.

Our campaigning tasks are to avoid being “them” and be an independent, viable, option.

I have previously suggested that we can avoid  being “them” by criticising neither duopoly party individually but only the duopoly as an unified entity.

As for establishing ourselves as real contenders, nationally this is going well.

Locally, though, I can see problems with the bar charts we use to make the case that we are a winning bet. Here we too often play exactly that “us and them” dichotomy that hurts us so much nationally. Nationally we need people to abandon voting for the least-worst-possible winner. Locally, though it’s all “only we can…” and “can’t win here”; straight out of the duopoly playbook. And all too often we dishonestly distort data to present the “story” we want to tell.

Now, after the elections for the European Parliament we have no need to distort as there is always some data that, fairly presented, will tell the story that we are in the race. In a constituency where we came second in 2017, that data can be presented. In my constituency, Lewisham and Deptford, we didn’t do so well in 2017 (to say the least). In the EU elections, though, we came first in Lewisham borough! That data can be used. In some areas of London we came third. Coming first in the region as a whole, though, allows that data to be used. What of a constituency where we did badly, in an electoral area where we did badly and a region where we didn’t do so well? The UK wide EU results put us in second place: those results will tell the story.

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Time for a Broad AllIance to take power?

“We must be more than a political party or we will cease to be one,” said the great writer G. K. Chesterton, when he was a Liberal. “Time and again historic victory has come to a little party with big ideas: but can anyone conceive anything with a mark of death more on its brow than a little party with little ideas,”

I am writing about the man at the moment and I believe he was right, and especially perhaps in the first of the two sentences.

Nor are we such a little party these days, but the ideas we …

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Why we don’t need a “remain alliance”

As somebody who joined the Liberal Democrats primarily to fight Brexit, I have since come to appreciate even greater the importance of fighting for liberal democratic values. What’s more, it is evidently how important this is for the entirety of the United Kingdom.

I used to be more sympathetic towards electoral pacts, in fact, at one time I was well on board with it. I’m still desperate to stop Brexit and so disappointed at what the leave campaigns achieved; especially as my wife is a EU citizen with only EU treaty rights currently protecting her status in the U.K. This really hurt us both and fuelled me to do what I could to stop Brexit. I am also thinking of my twin brother, Eddie (some here may know him), who is now living in France.

However, an article Mark Pack published titled “Standing for election isn’t just about winning”, encouraged me to stand as a paper candidate in the local elections and removed any doubt from me that electoral pacts are a bad idea. It drove home to me the importance of standing in every seat we can. This way we can build our core vote, keep track of potential target areas and give voters the choice they need for the good of democracy.

After all, if people cannot vote Lib Dem, what is the chance they will join? Or simply just lose the habit of voting for us? It could destroy our local bases for a long time.

I am aware that people have pointed towards past success for electoral pacts but is this a viable long term plan for a party of government? I am sceptical. Given our recent electoral successes; we are clearly the party for remaining in the EU, for the environment, for the economy and for liberal values.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 30 Comments
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