The former Liberal Democrat candidate for Brighton, Chris Bowers, is, along with Caroline Lucas, Green Party leader, and Lisa Nandy, Labour's shadow energy secretary, putting together a book to be called "Power to the People." According to details provided in the Guardian by Rafael Behr there are to be contritions by Mhairi Black of the SNP, Norman Lamb, unsuccessful leadership contender for the Liberal Democrats, and Steve Read, a Labour front-bencher.
Behr comments that "[their] biggest problem is finding a definition for 'progressive' that isn't a fancy euphemism for 'hates Tories,'" and concludes his article: "A party that agrees only on what it is against , not what it is for, will leave much of the country cold."
Quite right, but Behr is either too pessimistic, or hasn't really thought hard enough about what the "progressive forces" are "for.|"
Way back in September the BBC published a list of "24 things that Jeremy Corbyn believes." These range from popular policies such as taxing the rich and cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion as a contribution to tackling the deficit, restrictions on the arms trade, and the return of rent control, to more obscure areas such as allowing the Chagos Islanders to return to their homes and giving every child an opportunity to learn a musical instrument. Personally I'm very much in favour of that last policy as at school you learn an awful lot of such as chemistry, physics, and even maths which, if you don't use it, you quickly forget, whereas if you learn to play a musical instrument that is a gift which can give pleasure for life.
My own list of areas where I am sure the progressive left can easily find agreement includes:
- a reduction in inequality;
- fairer taxation, particularly of "bads" (eg land hoarding) rather than "goods" (eg employment);
- encouragement of renewable energy and other green policies;
- a less grandiose foreign policy;
- restrictions on the arms trade;
- housing, housing, and yet more housing;
- decentralisation, "home rule" for Scotland and Wales, and the restoration of the powers and influence of local government;
- an end to pointless privatisations and encouragement of co-operative, mutual and not-for-profit enterprises;
- electoral reform;
- encouragement of long-termism in banking, commerce and industry; employee participation and profit sharing;.
- committed and co-operative participation in the EU and UN;
- support for the BBC and a more diverse media.
There is actually, as Behr recognises, a small majority among the electorate for progressive policies. The main obstacle to making it effective is the Labour party itself and its attitude to electoral reform, preferably by proportional representation by single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies, but let's not be picky. If their response were an enthusiastic "Yes!" then a successful alliance would surely be a winner.
If, however, Labour cling to the possibility that they may yet win a majority by themselves under the present unfair system and thus be able to put their own exclusive prescription for the good society into effect, then we're stuck with the Tory hegemony for years to come.