Sunday, 3 July 2022

Is hard--line Labour seeing the light?

 A "progressive alliance" of the centre-left parties (Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens, maybe some Nationalists) to defeat the Tories is flavour of the month amongst many political columnists, (see, for example, here) though less so among the  loyalists of all these parties.  One of the major obstacles to a formal alliance is a clause in the constitution of the Labour Party which insists that their party must (must) field a candidate in every parliamentary constituency in every  election.

The reasoning behind that is perfectly logical.  Labour purists believe that they are fighting a class "war"  for  the workers against the capitalists.  This belief may be backed up by adherence to the teachings of Karl Marx and the inevitability of the success of the proletariat, or, les pedantically, the Fabians, or Social Democrats such as Anthony Crossland in  "The Future of Socialism."  Theirs is  a "cause" which must be fought for in every corner of the land. 

  With equal fervour the Greens believe, quite rightly, that life on the planet is endangered if we carry on behaving as we are, so their cause must be prosecuted in every corner of the world.  We Liberals believe that Liberal Democracy itself, the battle to achieve the greatest possible measure of individual freedom compatible with the freedom of others, is on the back foot (as in the US, UK, Hungary, Russia and China, to name but some) and needs vigorous protection where it exists and proselytation where it doesn't.

 Although neither the Greens nor the Liberal Democrats have clauses in their constitutions demanding that they fight every seat, where groups of dedicated loyalists exist they are reluctant to stand aside. So the Tories, lacking any fundamental beliefs other than that they are the best rulers (and some believing that they are actually born to rule) grab, under our primitive electoral system, the reins of power more often than not in spite of their minority status.

 Fortunately, although a formal progressive alliance is for the moment not on the table, there are increasing signs, highly visible in the recent by-elections, that the parties least able to challenge the Tories, are wiling to to run low key campaigns and give the main challenger an almost free hand (as in  Wakefield, for Labour, and Tiverton and Honiton for the Liberal Democrats) 

 However these are by-elections: they may shake the government but will not change it. So habitual Tories are more likely to "lend " their votes to the challenging party, or deliberately stay at home.

 The big question is, will this "flexibility" extend to a General Eection, when there is the possibility of changing the party in power.

 Fortunately, there are signs that it might.

 An article by Paul Mason in this week's "The New European" appears under the headline "Only a progressive alliance can rid us of these morally bankrupt liars" and concludes:

"Even an informal electoral pact  could wipe the Tories out for a generation.  A short parliament, delivering PR and re-entry into the single market without any recourse to referendums, could be followed  by the first general election in which everybody's vote counts."

This is important becasue Mr Mason is not just a journalist  nor an academic philosopher in an ivory tower such as A C Grayling, but a left-wing Labour candidate.

 An article in last Friday's Guardian (1st July) which discusses accusations that  Sir Keir  Starmer is operating a purge against left-wing candidates, claims  that his defenders point to: 

 ". . .the  longlisting of avowedly left wing commentator Paul  Mason for Stretford and Urmston  in Greater Manchester, as proof candidates from that wing of the party  are not all being vetoed."

 Assuming it's the same Paul Mason, bring it on.



  1. It was common practice from 1870 to 1910 for the Labour and Liberal parties to field joint candidates.

    Or perhaps you are advocating bringing back the Liberal leadership "coupon" from the 1918 election, dividing candidates into those who hold such an endorsement and those who don't?

    1. The response to anonymous has to be "And your point is?" Closely followed by "Do give over."

  2. I would note that such an electoral alliance already exists in British politics, and it has for decades, between the Labour Party and the Co-operative Party, and nobody much comments on it.

    I would like to see Labour and the Liberal Democrats stand at the next election on a platform of going back into the single market and changing the voting system without seeking popular consent through referendums. But that's just because the faces of the lefties at 10:01pm on the 12th of December 2019 was one of the most hilarious sights ever and I would love to see it again.

    I suspect though that those now in charge of the Labour leadership are smarter than that, and intend to lie to the electorate again just like they lied in 2017 when they stood on a platform of respecting the referendum result onto to promptly try to overturn it by any means at their disposal. Which leads to two questions:

    1. Will the public fall for it a second time? If Keir Starmer comes out and says, 'We will not take the UK back into the single market', will anyone actually believe him; or will they remember his lies on the exact same subject five years ago? Presumably a lot of the Conservative negative campaigning will be trying to remind people: a clip of Keir saying they will not try to overturn the referendum, followed by a clip of him saying that they want a new referendum and Labour will campaign for Remain, followed by a clip of him saying Labour won't take the UK back into the single market, followed by a big caption: 'WILL YOU LET HIM FOOL YOU TWICE?'

    2. What happens if they public do fall for it, and we end up in what seems to be the likeliest scenario right now, a hung parliament with the Conservatives the largest single party but an overall anti-Conservative majority? Presumably the Labour party in that circumstance will be able to get us into the single market, as they all hate Brexit. But will they be able to force electoral reform on an unwilling population, without a referendum? I think that's less certain. There will be at least some Labour backbench rebels on that one (maybe even frontbench rebels, too). At which point it's a numbers game: say the Conservatives had 300 seats, the DUP 8, Sinn Fein 7. Counting out the speakers and deputies, that's 332 in the anti-Conservative coalition (the DUP won't join the Conservatives in government, but I doubt they'll join an anti-Conservative coalition either, and I would expect them to vote against any electoral reform: an effective majority of 24. So it would just take 12 Labour rebels to vote against an electoral reform bill that doesn't include a referendum and it's dead. Could you get 12 Labour rebels? I expect so. You could get 12 Labour rebels on practically anything.