Monday, May 08, 2017

Ten thoughts on the prospects for a progressive alliance

1. In Scotland, Yes lost the referendum, but the 45 per cent who backed it united behind the SNP and became an unstoppable force in first-past-the-post elections. But it is the 52 per cent who backed Leave who have united after the European referendum - or largely so - and united behind the Conservative Party. That is the problem that has made other parties dream of a progressive alliance.

2. Jeremy Corbyn is electorally toxic, which makes an electoral agreements between Labour and other parties impossible. He would drag them down with him. You may think this unfair, but it is a fact.

3. Prospects for cooperation between the Liberal Democrats and the Greens are limited because, with the exception of Brighton Pavilion, Green targets are Liberal Democrat targets too. And these days the Greens seem closer to Corbynite Labour than anyone else.

4. Two years ago the Liberal Democrats were in a coalition government with the Conservatives. Even with the game-changer of Brexit, it would puzzle the voters if we now announced that keeping them from power was more important than anything.

5. There are many good people in the Labour Party and we should seek to work with them. The comments by Vince Cable of Rupa Haq today were obviously true and not a gaffe.

6. So our line should be 'No coalition with Corbyn' and we should leave open the possibility of cooperation with Labour at some point in the future.

7. If we do have arrangements with the Labour Party they must be agreed locally - as has already happened in a handful seats - and not be imposed from the centre - it may be that the culture of the Labour Party makes this impossible. As a survivor of the Alliance years I remember the effort spent on seat negotiations and how little was gained from them.

8. The best arrangements are probably tacit ones where parties agree not to campaign in each other's target seats. This is more or less what happened between the Liberal Democrats and Labour in 1997 and it was very successful.

9. Remember that parties cannot deliver their voters en bloc to another party.

10. If the voters want to get rid of the Tories, they will organise themselves to do so, as 1997 proved. In more than one Liberal Democrat target seat, Labour came from third place to win.

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