There has been talk of a progressive alliance between Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green party. In this alliance each party would agree not to compete against each other for seats and, instead, let the party with the best chance of winning field a candidate, unhindered by the other two parties splitting the ‘progressive’ vote.
This presents a strong anti-Tory option, which only has three main drawbacks:
- It’s stupid
- It’s stupid
- It’s stupid
Let’s examine those problems one-by-one.
First off, it’s stupid
The Conservatives currently enjoy fairly wide support. They are polling within a few points of having half the country behind them. If they want to be sure of translating that polling success into actual voting success they have to come up with a plan that nearly half the country supports.
Undoubtedly it will be the usual Tory bit about opportunities for everybody who works hard, a strong economy so we have the money to fund the NHS and schools, etc, etc. It just needs to be a ‘steady as she goes’ job, a Foster’s lager of a manifesto, with nothing to offend anyone other than its blandness. They’re looking at gaining 90+ seats, so there’s no need to go in hard.
A progressive alliance changes that; if they are going to be white then the Tories need to be black. They’ll need to pick the carcass of UKIP to get at every last voter. May, seeking to free herself from the need to listen to the swivel-eyed loons on the right of her own party may end up having to pitch a whole manifesto towards them instead.
She wouldn’t even have to worry about the Lib Dems. Their vote would, they’d be well aware, be a proxy vote for Corbyn and his rainbow of incompetence making a pitch for running the country. As many of them are in the Lib Dems precisely to get away from Corbyn in the first place it’s hard to see that playing well. In the alliance there are 15-20 seats that the Lib Dems could take that would otherwise go Conservative. May only needs to persuade those yellow voters to stay at home, and as Corbyn is as pro-Brexit as she is (probably more so) she has all the ammo she needs to show that they have Hobson’s choice.
Secondly, it’s stupid
On current polling numbers a non-aggression treaty would cost the Tories seats, but still leave them the largest party, albeit 20-odd seats short of a majority. Labour would still trail 50 seats behind them, and the 25-or-so seats that the Lib Dems would pick up (if their voters turned out, and didn’t jump to the Tory side when they did) wouldn’t be enough to cover the gap.
The Greens would still be barely relevant. They’d still have a single seat, or two if they haggle hard over who stands in Bristol West.
So even if every Labour, Lib Dem and Green voter can be talked into getting out and voting for the alliance it’s still likely to lead to a massive, messy coalition guiding parliament through the uncharted straits of Brexit, with Captain Corbyn at the helm.
Finally, it’s really, really stupid
With the Conservatives and Lib-Lab-Green pact both short of a majority the balance of power, either in coalition or on a vote-by-vote basis, lies with the SNP.
With the SNP outside of the progressive alliance they’d lose two or three seats, still leaving them with enough to make them a powerful parliamentary force in a fragmented Westminster.
Inside the alliance, on the other hand, they’d make all Scottish constituencies a choice between voting for them or voting for the strongly unionist Conservatives. In effect the general election would become a second independence vote.
Once again the Conservatives would pitch to England the possibility of the SNP running the country, while shoring up their Scottish vote by playing up the threat to the union.
Even if the alliance survived this, and did as well as it possibly could, everybody knows the price of doing business with the SNP, and having Scotland exit the UK at around the time the Brexit negotiations come to a head, still leaving all of the major parties short of an overall majority, would be…an opportunity. A huge, steaming opportunity.
Is there a clever solution?
Not really, no.
Labour are going to be wiped out and there isn’t another option to oppose Brexit or Tory rule. So, I don’t know, either stay at home and hope that their crushing defeat is again the spur to get them to cleanse the party of the hard left, or vote Lib Dem and start building their numbers back up, ready for 2021…when it will be too late.
Depressing as shit, isn’t it?