The Independent View: A letter to the Liberal Democrats

Dear Liberal Democrats,

As you anticipate your digital conference gathering at the weekend, I thought I would send some heartfelt reflections on the party’s progress and prospects.

As the Director of Compass my main concern is with effective cross party working in pursuit of what we call a good society – one that is much more equal, democratic and sustainable. But the issue of a so-called progressive alliance gets us to the dilemmas and challenges facing the party.

To have a change of government, and the only feasible/desirable alternative is a Labour led administration, requires extensive cross-party cooperation given the injustice of the current voting system.  Indeed, given the electoral mountain is higher than 1997 then it requires more cross-party work than 1997.  Back then Blair and Ashdown got on famously and squeezed the Tories morally, politically, and electorally.

Nothing like that is happening today. Of course, it takes two to tango and Labour as the biggest party should and must play its part.  Its vote on proportional representation at its conference will be key – and not just to be passed but written into the manifesto and acted on. But as a party more committed to democracy and pluralism than Labour – if you don’t show leadership on this what hope is there?

So why isn’t the party doing more?   Of course, it’s tough working across parties in a system designed to be adversarial. But if it was achieved in 1997 it can be again.  There is rumour of a non-aggression pact between the Starmer and Davey offices but there needs to be much more public policy alignment – not least because there was so much overlap in the 2019 manifesto as Compass set out here, and there could be much more next time. We pretty much want the same things.

The party is obviously worried that talk of working with Labour will scare some of the soft Tory voters it needs. But this can’t be ducked. Either Boris Johnson or Keir Starmer will be PM after the next election. Which one do we and the country want? We have to make the case or have it forced on us. We also need to show that a minority led Labour Government won’t be some ‘coalition of chaos’.  This only happens by working and planning for multi-party government now.  The numbers don’t lie and the Tories and their press will accuse progressives of being in cahoots whatever our parties say or do. We make a virtue of pluralism or we deny our own political values.

Some baulk at a progressive alliance where stand asides mean voters don’t have choice. But again, we can’t just run away from clear arguments. Voters under FPTP mostly don’t have have a meaningful choice and if parties locally can negotiate who is best to beat the corrupt voting system and help introduce PR then that’s their right. But even high levels of tactical campaigning and voting have to be invested in heavily now.

The next election could be as little as 12 months away. The Tories will go when they think they can win. Now progressive are divided and look set to lose.  Your party’s goal seems to be to double the number of MPs – but if this is right this simply isn’t good enough.  The goals has to be to change the government, the country’s political direction, not least to address the climate emergency and the voting system. Nothing less will do. Unless we will the means now not just to revive our parties but work more effectively together all will be lost.

* Neal Lawson is Executive Director of Compass and a member of the Labour party.

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This entry was posted in The Independent View.


  • This article sums up why the concept of a “progresssive alliance” is a load of patronising nonsense. We are where we are because the Liberal Democrats failed to capitalise on a period in government (we could have conducted community politics on a macro scale, but decided not too) and the Labour party felt the answer to everyone’s problems after a period of coalition government was to elect Jeremy Corbyn as its prospective prime minister.

    The rallying cry “let’s have a change of government” falls away very quickly when the prospective platform is little more “let’s change the electoral system because we don’t like the Tories”. Most people don’t care about the electoral system – they just want a vote every now and again to express their view. Most people also don’t care who’s in government because, Corbyn aside, there’s no real difference between any of the parties. Moreover, they don’t have much confidence in politicians of any flavour, largely because they expect them all to do largely the same things. They certainly don’t admire politicians who spend their time on superficial concepts (progressive alliance) rather than anything that’s actually going to improve their lives.

    How about this: Labour, go away, think of some actual policies that might make some sense and how to portray yourselves as a potential government. Liberal Democrats, focus on moving forward. (Step one, accept that the EU referendum took place five years ago and stop patronising people who voted “the wrong way”.)

    Like it or not, the Tories won the last election because they were able to communicate what they were about. When neither Labour or the Liberal Democrats cannot currently do so, there’s very little chance an alliance between the two will be able to do so either.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Sep '21 - 11:26am

    I admire and rate Neal and support these notions.

    But whatever we in this party do or say it is they in Labour now, who hate cross party work and believe in the, if not divine right, certainly natural right to go it alone, they are the ones to speak of and to the most.

    When you have the Adonis stance, he ex Lib Dem, SDP, whatever, thinking the Liberal Democrats ought to wrap up and en mass join Labour, arrogance is everywhere, as are those who say, it cannot be made to happen.

    I think if it does it must begin with knowing that if South Africa can do it and Northern Ireland did also, two parties who once were allies, can be now and in future.

    Mention Campbell – Bannerman as well as Ming Campbell, the Liberals helped Labour win!

  • I welcome Neal Lawsons piece but I would say two things which is that:

    1) Many of our supporters are adamant that a progressive alliance in elections won’t work because in a number of seats the Lib Dems take away more votes from the Tories than Labour.

    2) Whilst there is scope for a joint agenda as in 1997 (even broader if it covers social policy areas such as localism, housing, environment, improving gig economy etc) nevertheless many of us were really not fans of Labours 2019 manifesto at all and it is not clear if they have now moved on from 1970s style socialism.

  • Simon McGrath 16th Sep '21 - 12:04pm

    Can I apologise on behalf of the Lib Dems that we are not doing enough to facilitate the election of Labour MPs. Though I suppose if we wanted the election of Labour MPs we might think the logical way to achieve it was through the Labour Party.

  • Barry Howard 16th Sep '21 - 12:40pm

    Absolutely spot on.
    All opposition parties need to find common ground & cooperate to ensure that the candidate most likely to beat a Tory candidate in each constituency wins.
    Whatever form that cooperation can be agreed upon.
    We need to ensure that there is a majority in the HOC to get the Tories our & implement PR.
    PR should be the key to cooperation, so it may all hinge on Labour supporting PR.

  • Peter Martin 16th Sep '21 - 12:45pm

    The best way of helping the Labour Party would be for the Lib Dems to move well to the right when it is necessary to talk about National politics. If it isn’t then avoid the subject completely. Don’t talk about Brexit/Rejoining the EU, a UBI or about better welfare provision for the poor. Don’t advise anyone to vote Labour in preference to the Tories.

    Stick to pot-holes in the road, flooding in underpasses, preserving the Green belt etc. Safer Roads. Who’s not in favour of safer roads?

    Sarah Green knows how to do it. It’s a pity she’s taken down her campaign page. It could be used as a template for future elections. But thanks to the ‘wayback machine’ we still have it.

  • Paul Holmes 16th Sep '21 - 1:30pm

    As Neil Lawson says it takes two to Tango but it is Labour who would have to take the lead by offering to stand down Labour candidates in various seats.

    The Lib Dems did show a willingness to do this in 2019, the high handed way it was badly handled by Party bosses is a separate issue. Labour however refuse point blank to even consider this so its a non starter even if people think it would work -and we have had much discussion on LDV about why there is little evidence that it does.

    Even more crucial, as Ian Shires point out, is the issue of PR where Labour’s bad faith in 1997 means few would trust them to keep their promise even if it was made. Labour members may favour PR but Labour MP’s, massively reliant on their distorted numbers resulting from FPTP, do not. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

  • Russell Simpson 16th Sep '21 - 3:09pm

    The biggest obstacle to PR is surely the Labour party. I don’t think it would be desirable to stand down candidates. If Labour is serious about being in govt in 2024 thay need to put PR in manifesto (ref not req) and agree to not spend any money in any seats they either held or were 2nd.

  • John Bicknell 16th Sep '21 - 3:46pm

    If we accept Neal Lawson’s premise that “we pretty much want the same things”, then the logical step would be for the Lib Dems to stop pretending to be an independent political party, and become a constituent body within the Labour Party. It would be a form of dishonesty to do otherwise. Whilst the Lib Dems have any ambitions other than merely being the southern, suburban branch of Labour, then I don’t imagine that any ‘Progressive Alliance’ will go further than an anti-aggression pact, and I suspect that conversations are taking place behind the scenes to that effect.

  • If both parties are really serious about combining to form a coalition government then that is what should be presented to the electorate. A jointly supported manifesto that includes a binding commitment to electoral reform based on PR at its heart. Libdems could contest the 12 seats it currently holds, the 90 seats the party came second in at the 2019 election inc the Labour seats of Sheffield Hallam, Cambridge, Hamsptead & Kilburn etc. and the 33 seats where Labour came second, and the LibDem vote was greater than the Conservative margin of victory. The remaining 497 (exc NI seats) would be contested by Labour without a LibDem candidate.
    That is what a progressive alliance aiming for a coalition government looks like rather than jockeying for individual party advantage.

  • On the off chance Labour don’t decide to play ball, we need a Plan B.

    To come at this from the other direction, in my home town all we need is Reform UK (or whatever they call themselves these days) to stand a candidate and get a similar number of votes to what UKIP used to get (assuming that mostly comes from the Tory vote), and it’s job done.

    The minority of virulently anti-immigration, anti-lockdown voters is bigger than our Tory MP’s slim majority.

    Perhaps I should donate – it sounds easier and more likely to succeed than bringing Labour to the table to agree tactical stand-asides.

  • William Francis 16th Sep '21 - 5:41pm

    @Peter Martin.

    One successful by-election camapign in the London commuter belt is not the best model for a national strategy. Liberals do best in elections when they are radical. It was Grimonds radical non-socialist alternative that rescued the Liberals from the nadir of the 1950s. When voters were encouraged to “Change the face of Britain – Take power – Vote Liberal” the party won its greatest share of the national vote since 1929. When the party marketed itself as Left of Labour in the 2000s it had many dozens of seats. A fiercely pro-EU Liberal Democrats triumphed in the local and European elections in 2019.

    Liberal success didn’t necessarily harm Labour. Wilson won majorities in 1964 and 1974 despite a large Liberal vote, and Blair still won re-election in 2005 despite Lib Dem success.

  • @ Peter Martin “The best way of helping the Labour Party would be for the Lib Dems to move well to the right”

    Absolutely not as there are many voters of the left and centre who just don’t want to vote Labour in many cases because of Labours illiberal instincts. They vote for other parties or not at all.

    If the Lib Dem’s campaigned on a right leaning platform we would have no mandate at all to work with a Labour government and Labour would have no incentive to ditch FPTP.

    The best thing for progressive politics would have been if the Labour Party had never been formed in the first place – a view held by your most successful ever leader. But we are where we are.

  • Nonconformistradical 16th Sep '21 - 7:25pm

    I find it supremely ironic that while Neal Lawson’s OP is titled “The Independent View: A letter to the Liberal Democrats” at the end we are told that he is a member of the Labour Party.

    I have no problem with a member of the Labour Party promoting co-operation between Labour and LibDems via LDV. But please – without using the word “Independent” in that context!

  • Neal writes “The next election could be as little as 12 months away. The Tories will go when they think they can win.” If the Conservatives are set to gain between five and 10 seats when the boundary changes are implemented, as predicted by Tory peer and polling expert Lord Hayward then the election will be after the new constituencies are in place i.e. post summer of 2023.
    Current polling suggests a hung parliament with the Conservatives needing a partner to govern. So it may not just be Labour looking for an alliance.
    The current polling suggests the combined Labour and LibDem seats would be far short of a majority. The 2019 election saw Conservatives on 365 seats with a 43.6% vote share. Even with an election pact, the higher combined vote share in 2019 of 47.4% for Labour and LibDems may not result in an overall majority under FPTP. Consequently, the active cooperation of at least the SNP would be required to form a government and change the electoral system. Another Independence referendum for Scotland, anyone?

  • There is a great deal of truth in the comments made by Guy. I suspect that voters today have a low opinion of all politicians and parties. The voting is more concerned with eliminating candidates who are not wanted to end up with the best of a bad bunch.

    There are exceptions to this. Boris’s landslide victory was to tell politicians that when the public makes a democratic decision it expects that decision to be honoured. The Amersham and Chesham election was about telling Johnson that his misguided decision about HS2 was now destroying the chilterns area of natural beauty.

    The electoral judgement on Corbyn was clear. The electoral judgement on the large number of MPs who tried to scupper the Brexit vote by betraying their party was an amazing example of surgical precision as all of them were extracted from the political stage and rejected. Even shuffling from party to party did not save them.

    The electorate is now informed, non-partisan and willing to vote strategically. Voters can prioritise on particular policies and decide where their vote is best spent. That may no longer coincide with the traditional pattern of voting expected by the party managers. Big polarising issues like energy policy, long term Covid policy, Health Care, education and immigration policy may in the future be decided by strategic voting at elections which were not designed fpr that purpose.

    Parties that are ideologically set in their ways may have difficulty in coping with this change in electoral thinking.

  • James Fowler 16th Sep '21 - 8:37pm

    I respect Neal Lawson and Compass. However, we – and others – need to let go of the mirage of progressive alliance. If we really want to help Labour we need to be a convincingly Liberal party which attracts moderate Conservatives in the places Labour will never win, but we can. Alternatively, we can just ignore both big Parties at the moment and keep on burnishing distinct, Liberal credentials which means that when the time comes to form another coalition with either Party – provided they are in a moderate and sensible phase – we can do so the basis of having a core, Liberal vote that have lent us their support out of preference, rather than being everyone’s Rorschach test on to which they’ve projected their own beliefs – which are then inevitably disappointed. To me, that the true story of the last coalition. Either way, I think distinct Liberalism is the way forward.

  • Alex Macfie 16th Sep '21 - 9:10pm

    @Peter: “Surgical precision”? *All* MPs who opposed Brexit “were extracted from the political stage”? I must have missed it when all Lib Dems lost their seats, I must have been dreaming when Lib Dem Sarah Olney won her seat back from arch-Brexiteer Zac Goldsmith in the constituency where I live I must still be dreaming, because today I delivered her annual MP report to my flat block.
    This surgeon’s knife must also have been a bit wonky in other ways. Several prominent Lexiters, like Caroline Flint and Dennis Skinner, lost their seats. while many Labour remainers held on without much difficulty.”Surgical precision”? I wouldn’t trust that surgeon with my life.

  • Many good comments thanks. This has to boost the number of Lib Dem MPs. I don’t think it can just be about PR. It should also be about a just carbon transition. I look forward to working with all who want a change of government for a better society. And I’m only just in Labour

  • Paul Barker 16th Sep '21 - 9:22pm

    If Labour were to adopt Proportional Representation at their Conference that would be a huge step forward for the possibilities of a “Progressive Alliance but so far the only Labour Factions backing that idea are Momentum & the tiny “Open Labour”, both on the Left of The Party.
    The “Centrist” Factions closest to “Compass” are not simply opposing PR – they are against even talking about it. Perhaps Lawson is aiming his remarks at the wrong people.

  • If any group of political parties tried to tilt the election in this way then I would, despite any political allegiance, vote for the party they were trying to force out of government.
    The end does not justify the means. I understand that the Lib Dems and many other liberal and progressives truly believe the U.K. needs electoral and constitutional reform, but how this is brought about, in my opinion, also truly matters.
    To those people wishing for a progressive alliance with Labour that includes candidates standing down in various seats and an agreement to move to P.R. no referendum required, you scare me and I will oppose you with every fibre of my being, no matter how worthy, or otherwise your beliefs.
    Those that can convince you of absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

  • Alex Macfie 16th Sep '21 - 9:46pm

    Justin: I don’t support the idea of a “progressive alliance” as defined by our MPs standing aside for Labour or vice versa, but I think your argument is absurd. There is nothing inherently wrong with electoral pacts; they are a normal part of electoral politics all over the democratic world; I just happen to think a pact with Labour wouldn’t work because of the nature of the Lib Dem vote. The idea of voting Tory just because you don’t approve of the opposition forming a pact (as opposed to doing so because you don’t support one of the parties involved in the pact) is just silly. I suppose you’ll vote Tory in the next election because the opposition is “scuppering” Johnson’s landslide 2019 win.

  • @Alex Macafie, I am not against an electoral pact per se but rather how and why it might come about and I will say again any party deliberately standing down an removing in order removing choice from the voters in order to gain power by slight of hand does not sit well with me, neither does insisting to any partner that any significant electoral or constitutional change would not require a specific referendum. I am no great fan of Brexit but at least the Tories didn’t just stick in heir manifesto and use their majority to push it through, they had a referendum, which was then rightly challenged in the court and parliament. The fact that some on the site see no need to do likewise for a move to P.R. regardless of any merit in the argument, leaves me more than a little uneasy, as it does most of the people I shave discussed it with, as did Jo’s revoke policy.
    Those that crave power should never be allowed to have it.

  • Voice recognition software not working, good night all.

  • One last comment, their are some in the party that even now don’t seem to fully understand why Boris won or why Brexit happened, no I didn’t vote for either but I get why it happened. Stupidity and ignorance is the least of it but many are still convinced otherwise.

  • @Alex – I was referring to those in the Tory party who tried to scupper the result of their own government’s referendum. The electorate did not forgive them. They were considerable in number and none survived despite some changing parties more than once.

  • @Peter: The electoral politics was a lot more complex than that, as I think you know perfectly well. There was no great collective decision by the “electorate” to remove them, just like there was no great collective decision to punish other politicians who opposed Brexit. If there had been, then none of them would have survived.

  • The reason Blair and Paddy didn’t go for a full-on pact in 1997 is exactly the same reason why Ed and Starmer won’t this time round – neither of the party’s memberships will go for it. Indeed, those of us around in 1997 will remember that even the “non-agression”, silent deal which Paddy supported was not exactly welcomed enthusiastically in the Lib Dems.

    The 1997 option is probably the best one we can go with just now; but it will still have problems getting people to accept it. We will always have candidates whose egos are bigger than their vote share, and won’t accept that the party should divert funding and manpower away from a seat where we’ve never gained more than 10% of the vote to one nearby which we’re in with a chance of gaining.

  • Alex Macfie 17th Sep '21 - 7:46am

    Justin: You are seriously mistaken if you ascribe any honour to the process by which Brexit was reached just because it involved a referendum. The Brexit referendum wasn’t supposed to happen. It was included in the 2015 Tory manifesto as a juicy bone for the Brexiteer wing of the party, in the expectation that it could be ditched as the Lib Dems’ price for continuing in coalition. When Cameron unexpectedly (for him) won a majority in 2015GE, he found he had no choice but to implement the referendum. He then ran away when the referendum result wasn’t as expected. It was his own fault, as he was expecting Remain to triumph and wouldn’t allow the Remain campaign to run any attacks on his Leave-supporting party colleagues. Having authorised the dishonest campaign tactics of the No2AV campaign in 2011, he couldn’t handle it when those same tactics were used against him.
    Since then, each successive government has used the referendum result as the excuse for pursuing the hardest possible Brexit, and sought to silence any criticism or scrutiny of their actions on the basis that it’s the “will of the people”. This is why dictators love referendums so much. The politicians I hold in most contempt in this saga are the former Remainers who have abandoned their principles to join the new pro-Brexit consensus in pursuit of power — or who, like Cameron, just flounced off.

  • Alex, I haven’t suggested that it was honourable. I said at least they didn’t simply stick it in the manifesto and suggest that a specific endorsement by the electorate would not be needed, which is how some in the Lib Dems and on this site would like to drag P.R. over the line.
    I am aware of the history of Brexit, and as I said did not vote for it, thanks for your summary though.
    I’m not completely opposed to P.R. but I do think that such a significant change to our electoral system for the U.K. government is deserving of a full debate and endorsement via a binding referendum. What are those against the referendum path so afraid of…..that they might lose?

  • Alex Macfie 17th Sep '21 - 8:45am

    @Justin: There is no right to a “choice” at the polls, only the right to stand for election. Many constituencies were uncontested in Parliamentary elections up until about the 1960s, and it’s still not unknown at local level. There is nothing immoral about forming electoral pacts to get into power; it is simply a reflection of the system that forces such arrangements for fear of splitting the vote. We have to play the system as it is, not as we would like it to be, and it’s no good playing by Marquess of Queensberry rules when our opponents do not. Doing so is one reason why AV was lost in 2011, and why Brexit won in 2016.

    In any case, while I am wary of making the sort of sweeping statements that Peter (no surname) tends to make about what the electorate believes, it appears that voters tend not to agree with you. Of the 7 Lib Dem seats won in England in 2019GE, 5 involved a local pact with the Greens. In 4 of these, the Lib Dem won over 50%, so arguably didn’t even need the local Green support, and clearly the pact didn’t dent our support. It certainly never came up for me on the doorstep when I was convassing for Sarah Olney in 2019. Revoke came up a few times, although I question whether those who brought it up had any genuine intention of voting Lib Dem. Revoke was with hindsight a tactical error, and not explained very well in the national campaign, but the principle was sound — seeking an electoral mandate to replace a previous one is exactly what democracy is all about. Why should Lib Dems be bound by the result of an advisory referendum, which was won by dishonest means, in a previous Parliament, and which we would not have held had been in power?

  • Alex Macfie 17th Sep '21 - 8:52am

    @Justin: the reason the Brexiteers “didn’t simply stick it in the manifesto” is they didn’t have control over government policy at the time — the Tory leadership at the time was pro-EU (in a grudging sort of way). The Brexiteers sought a referendum for no reason other than they thought it was the easiest way they were likely to get what they wanted. Tories aren’t known for “honoring” referendum results either — when in Opposition they voted against the creation of the Scottish and Welsh devolved authorities that had been approved by advisory referendums.

    One reason why some of us are wary of any more referendums is the previous experience of them. There is no constitutional provision for referendums in this country, and so what’s ended up happening is the winners have made up the rules to suit themselves after their victory. If we must have any more referendums, then it will have to be like in Switzerland where they are always automatically binding and there are strict rules of campaign conduct, with the result possibly annulled if campaigners haven’t followed the rules.

  • Alex, I’m not any apologist for the conservatives, politics is a dirty business even the Lib Dems are not as pure and untarnished as some might argue.

    I don’t say that any incoming government should be bound by the decisions of another, obviously that would be incongruent with our political system.

    I assume those who campaign and ague for P.R. and or a federal U.K. intend those changes , if made, should be at least long term, if not permanent. All I am saying is that in my opinion the best way to achieve such significant change would be via a referendum, which would allow, in theory, for the subject to be fully analysed, debated and then voted upon. I agree that were P.R. or other electoral / constitutional changes to be decided by a referendum, it would need to be conducted under the Swiss model or something very similar and if possible even more robust.
    Anyway vive la difference, duty calls.

  • @Alex Macfie “Why should Lib Dems be bound by the result of an advisory referendum, which was won by dishonest means, in a previous Parliament, and which we would not have held had been in power?” How would you feel if – hypothetically – the Tories tried to use that argument to abolish the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly? Of if we managed to bring in PR through a referendum, and the Tories used the same argument to justify a manifesto commitment to return to FPTP?

  • Simon R: “How would you feel if – hypothetically – the Tories tried to use that argument to abolish the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly?”
    I would feel the same as if there hadn’t been a referendum — I would oppose it politically, while accepting that they would have a democratic mandate to do so in our Parliamentary democracy. They wouldn’t dare though — both bodies are too well established and accepted by all sections of society in those two nations, and there would be a major outcry if they did. It is unlikely that Brexit is ever going to reach the same level of public acceptance, especially as we are now seeing its real-world consequences with “Project Fear” becoming “Project Fact”.
    It would be the same thing with your other hypothesis. The Tories would have a right to put in their manifesto a commitment to bring back FPTP, just as they now have a democratic mandate to change to FPTP for Mayors and PCCs. Again, the fact that they have a mandate to do so does not change my political opposition to the move. What I don’t accept it the justification that the Tories are using for the change, that it is based on the rejection of AV in the 2011 referendum. But that was a narrow specific mandate (whether or not to change the voting system for Parliamentary elections) from a binding referendum, and it was also 10 years ago, so irrelevant both to current the political landscape and to the affected elections.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 17th Sep '21 - 12:25pm

    All of this is talk about matters at a parliamentary level, but local parties are engaged in local authorities too and that is where it gets messy.
    in 1997 Paddy and Blair may have been getting on well together, in the meantime we were being beaten up, chewed and spat out on the council. by labour.
    in 2017 we got a labour MP who was good, we didn’t disagree with him on anything, he stuck his neck out on both being anti Brexit and pro PR and many other issues too. We would have been happy to have him as our MP and he would have worked well with Lib Dems in parliament. But we had to have a candidate.
    however whilst that was going on, it was a very tough time for our lone Lib Dem councillor on the council. Also other local MPs were not of the same ilk, and other local councils had awful labour councillors.
    All of this has to be taken into account when talking about progressive alliances, you can’t divorce councillors from MPs and candidates.
    I don’t know the answer, but the question is far more complicated.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Sep '21 - 12:55pm


    In fact one of the really Blairite centre right of Labour, somewhat maverick members, Luke Akehurst, now backs pr and has publicly urged for it.


    If the two parties had got together since the 90’s we ought not have such awful councillors as we would be part of the voting for councillors. I think that over twenty years a merger of the centre left could happen, isolating the far left and centre right perhaps, within this, but bringing everyone from say Blair to Benn, types together, Liberal Democrats there clearly within the centre of that.

    The arrogance of the right and left of labour is an issue, as long as you get Neil Kinnock open to pr and cooperation understood, but Stephen Kinnock more keen to talk about moving the labour party onto Brexit terrain to get back the deserters to the Tories, we have a mismatch. I think its why I allude to South Africa and northern Ireland. If they can get together we all can on the progressive side of things.

  • Chris Millman 17th Sep '21 - 1:02pm

    Speaking as a Compass member (and of the Green Party) I would love to see a high degree of strategic cooperation between the progressive parties (which you might call an alliance) but I agree with Marco above that stand-asides are not the way to go because some Lib Dem and Green voters will vote Tory if denied their first preference. The option to vote for your party of choice should remain on the ballot paper. The opportunity for cooperation lies in the making of strategic decisions on where each party places it’s resources. Lib Dems have most to gain because of the high number of seats where only you can beat the Tories, but without cooperation, you can’t win ’em all.

  • Peter Hirst 17th Sep '21 - 2:19pm

    We can and should do more. We acted in the country’s interests following the 2010 election and we must again in the next GE. We can use the media, social media and our leaflets to inform the electorate of how they should vote in each constituency without standing down candidates. The priority must be to prevent another Conservative administration.

  • @Alex Macfie “I would oppose it politically, while accepting that they would have a democratic mandate to do so in our Parliamentary democracy” That’s an honest answer. But I would disagree: People vote for parties for all sorts of reasons: Maybe some specific policy in their manifesto; maybe a general impression that they are more trustworthy than the others; maybe a liking for the local candidate or for the party leader. And so on. You cannot assume that everyone who votes for a party supports everything in their manifesto. Add to that the issue that with our multi-party FPTP system, a party usually only needs about 40% support to get a majority in Parliament. For that reason, I would say that a recent referendum on a particular issue should normally take priority over a statement on that issue in an election manifesto.

  • @Chris Millman “but I agree with Marco above that stand-asides are not the way to go because some Lib Dem and Green voters will vote Tory if denied their first preference” Spot on. And for what it’s worth, I’m one of those people. I like the LibDems, agree with the liberal philosophy, and have even spent a few months wondering whether to join the LibDems. But if you stand aside in my constituency, forcing me to choose between Labour and the Tories, I’m voting Tory. There’s no way I’m going to vote for a party that seems to think that the solution to every problem is to nationalize it, demonize any private investment, and then promise to pay for everything by scapegoating and taxing anyone perceived as ‘rich’ or as not a worker. And I feel astonished that anyone can view such a party as ‘progressive’.

    On a more practical note, most LibDem target seats are Tory-held. So if the LibDems want more MPs, you need people to switch from the Tories a lot more than you need Labour switchers. Does anyone seriously think that allying with Labour could ever be a good tactic to pursuade those Tory voters to switch?

  • Alex Macfie 19th Sep '21 - 9:51am

    Lorenzo Cherin: The experience of nations defined by ethnic/nationalist sectarian conflict isn’t really relevant to the context of a progressive alliance between parties with an arguably similar agenda.
    As a liberal, I do not regard the alliance between the DUP and Sinn Fein necessarily a good thing. They actually have a lot in common and always have done — sectarianism, equivocation over or outright support for paramilitary violence and an equivocal relationship with democracy to name just three. It’s not actually that surprising that can actually get on, as they stand for similar sorts of things, just in different communities. Our sister party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, is the opposite of all of the things that the sectarian parties have in common. It’s similar in South Africa, where the two main sectarian parties merged while our sister party is the principal opposition.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Sep '21 - 12:50pm


    I see what you mean although disagree,

    You give me reason. It is because, in getting to the point of being able to work together, enemies become, if not friends, colleagues, and find the shared points of mutual agreements.

    I bring the comparison here due to the equal level of shared values in our case with best of moderates in other parties.

    The reason I do not think cameron was better in policy, than Johnson, nor the coalition any better , though Liberal Democrats did some good things, is that it gathered around a shared agenda I did not like, austerity, change for the worse.

    I hope a coalition of the centre to centre left might do far better. I do not rate the parties in the UK , or their leaders very much today. I live in hope for a better tomorrow and do not think, a few more Liberal democrats, with concerns that over do aspects of issues I do not feel so important, like Vaccine passports or the right to automatically demonstrate everywhere all the time, good enough.

  • Steve Magner 21st Sep '21 - 2:47pm

    Saying we are anti Tory when we jumped into bed with them only back in 2010 simply wont wash. Actions always speak louder than words. Do we take people as stupid with short memories or both??????

  • Alex Macfie 21st Sep '21 - 7:32pm

    Steve Magner: 2010 could be a lifetime away as far as UK politics is concerned. The UK has left the EU Very few of the key players in the Coalition are still around. In particular, all of the “Quad” have left active politics. Of the 12 current Lib Dem MPs, only 2 were there during the Coalition. Any Tory Coalition ministers who are still around have sworn loyalty to Dear Leader Johnson, who is presiding over a government that either has undone or is undoing all the Lib Dem achievements. The Tories have successfully disavowed the Coalition and all its works, so why should the Lib Dems feel hidebound by it?

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