Posts Tagged ‘progressive alliance’

I’ve avoided writing about politics so far this run, and – to be honest – it’s not been that difficult. There’s nothing I’ve felt that I could write about current British politics that I haven’t written before. Well, for the most part, anyway.

Corbyn is no longer Labour leader, which is nice. Johnson – who I named primus inter mendaces – is still Prime Minister… which is less nice.

And just last week, Labour just proscribed four groups for holding values ‘antithetical to Labour’s values’. (Which isn’t entirely a polite way of saying they’re a bunch of antisemitic pricks, but it isn’t not saying they’re a bunch of antisemitic pricks.)

The Lib Dems are somehow even less relevant right now than they were ten minutes after the 2015 election result was declared. And, oh, yeah, there’s Brexit. Remember that? That’s going just swimmingly.

And there’s been a pandemic. So there’s that.

I don’t really want to talk about any of the above. And since it’s my blog, I don’t have to. So there.

But I do want to spend a bit of time on something that’s been gaining traction on Twitter. Which has absolutely no relevance or impact, of course, upon what we laughingly call ‘real life’, but anyway.

It’s the idea of A Progressive Alliance. The idea being that parties who hate each other’s guts, but who all hate the Tories even more, get together for a one-time deal, don’t stand against each other at a general election, then sweep the board, kick the Tories out of office, form a government, then… well, erm, that’s up for discussion, apparently.

Lots of people have ideas what they should do, but there’s nothing they actually have to do. They’ve already done the main thing the alliance was formed to accomplish: prevent the Tories forming a government. OK, that’s not quite fair: the primary aim is to prevent the Tories from ever winning another election, from ever forming another government. Primarily, this will be achieved by reforming the electoral system, including instituting proportional representation.

(I do have to say that I wish more people were a tad more honest about why they’re pushing this progressive alliance thing. Lots of people are honest about it, but too many pushing the idea still maintain they’re doing it for ‘fairness’ and ‘so that everyone’s vote counts’. No, they’re not. They’re doing it so the people-they -want-to-win will win and the people-they-don’t-want-to-win won’t win.)

Now, often, I can say that this idea, or that idea, has been around since I first started following politics, and maybe before even then. I can’t say that about a progressive alliance. Not really. I genuinely don’t think the idea is that old.

When I was in my teens, there was the ‘Lib-Lab pact’, from early 1977 to mid-1978. Due to by-election losses, Labour couldn’t govern without Liberal support, and the Liberal Party gave them just enough support to get them through.

And it wasn’t the first such pact, although they’re not common in Westminster by any means; less of a union than a coalition, more formal than a ‘confidence and supply arrangement’ (where parties agree to support a government at least on the budget and on votes of confidence).

And of course there’s been, within the past decade, a formal coalition government that only ended at the 2015 general election, six years ago… and three general elections ago. It’s kind of weird to think that just over six years ago, we had a coalition government in Westminster.

A progressive alliance is neither of those. I guess you could call it a pact. I mean, you could call it whatever you want; it’s never going to happen.

Never. As in not ever.

There are so many reasons for this, and if you want detailed political analysis, I suggest you look for professional pundits to give you it.

For this post though, I’m going to concentrate on just four reasons.

One, which with goodwill on all sides could be overcome. (But won’t be.)

One, which with goodwill and fear on all sides, might, possibly, be overcome. (But won’t be.)

One which no one wants to admit to but if they did, they might just bring the public along. (But they won’t, so they won’t.)

And one… which kills the idea stone dead in its tracks.

All share one thing, but they’re addressing very different issues. I’m reminded of Matthew Parris’s superb piece on ‘the seven bad reasons people give why you should vote, why they’re all wrong, and the only reason that actually matters, but it matters SO much, it supersedes all the wrong ones‘.

Ok, he didn’t call it that, but he might as well have done.

Well, that last of the reasons I mention above – the ‘ kill it stone dead’ one – might as well be called “the reason that matters SO much, that a progressive alliance won’t ever happen”.

OK, so the reason which with goodwill on all sides could be overcome. (But won’t be.)

Party rules might be bent at times to allow parties not to stand a candidate for election in a parliamentary seat, but most parties have rules against campaigning for another party, and especially campaigning against your own party’s candidate.

Now there’s a big difference, I acknowledge, between campaigning for another party who’s standing against a candidate of your own party on the one hand, and campaigning for a candidate of another party when your party isn’t putting up a candidate on the other.

BUT that assumes that if the main party instructs a local constituency party not to put up a candidate, that the local party is going to listen and obey.

And I think many constituency parties won’t obey; they’ll tell the party headquarters to go fuck themselves, especially when it’s one of the main parties. You’re going to have to get hundreds of local parties to agree not to stand a candidate, and then get the local party to campaign for another party’s candidate to be the MP for that constituency. Forget about trust issues – I’ll deal with them in a minute, I promise – you’re asking people who’ve campaigned for years to win a seat, for decades in some cases,… to not even try this time around. And more, to actively help someone else do it.

Even if you can get them to agree to that, who decides, for a start, who has to stand down? Do you go for ‘who came second last time?’ What if the last election was an anomaly? Do you go for the average vote over the past five elections? Or does the decision get made beyond the closed doors in what used to be called ‘smoke filled meetings’?

Who decides who’s included in this alliance for a start, and decides whose judgement carries more weight?

(One of my favourite quotes about US constitutional law is ‘the purpose of the Supreme Court is to answer two questions: Who decides…? And who decides who decides?”)

Would it make sense for every party to be counted equally? Really? Labour has – even now – over 200 MPs, the Green Party has… 1. SNP don’t fight seats outside Scotland, so are they only going to have to stand down candidates in Scotland? Yeah, that’s going to go down well north of the border. Lib Dems a decade ago had 60+ seats; now they have a dozen. Should they be punished now because they were in a coalition in 2010? Why? They have a different leadership now.

If it’s votes not seats that count, then Labour have to ‘give’ more. Will they? Why would they?

So, yeah, all of those can be dealt with, if everyone is willing to give a little, or give a lot in some cases. But it needs everyone to go along with it. And they won’t.

OK, moving on: The reason which, with goodwill and fear on all sides, might, possibly, be overcome. (But won’t be.)

People don’t vote in an election for one thing. Or at least, not everyone votes for the same reason. Not everyone votes for the same party for the same reason. It’s why manifestos (too long, admittedly) have umpteen pledges and umpteen promises and contain appeals to contradictory demographics. And parties assume, with some justification, granted, that each demographic group will actually believe that they’ll get what they want from a government of that party, while the stuff the group doesn’t like in the manifesto… probably won’t happen.

How can a manifesto with hundreds of policies be consistent throughout? It can’t be. It just can’t be. Parties know that, and they hope like hell that it’s just consistent enough to get people to vote for them.

Problem is that if you want a progressive alliance, all of that is an obstacle, a fucking huge one.

If Labour and the SNP and the Lib Dems and the Green Party and Plaid Cymru agreed on anything beyond ‘we’d like to be elected please’, or more accurately, if they didn’t disagree on shitloads that each party holds very dear to their heart, such an alliance would already be taking place.

And it’s not. And it won’t.

And even if it was, and it did, parties are assuming that the public will vote for who the parties want them to, who they instruct the voters to. You’re asking people who’ve voted Labour their entire lives to vote for another party… and then assuming that they’ll vote for you again later, when it suits you. It’s arrogant, and the public aren’t that stupid.

I mean, portions of the voting public are very stupid, but even that portion isn’t that stupid.

Which brings us on to the next reason.

The reason which no one wants to admit to but if they did, they might bring the public along. (But they won’t, so they won’t.)

The message given out isn’t the truth. The activists calling for this are treating the public like idiots. More than that, they’re treating the public like idiots with the memories of goldfish.

Activists and parties who want this are effectively saying to the public:

This is for the best. Listen to us, the people who care, the people you should trust. Listen to the politicians, you know, those people you can always trust. This is solely to ensure that your votes are reflected in parliament. Look, we can’t win without changing the electoral system. And we don’t like that we can’t win. We’d rather win. And, yes, we know we asked you if you wanted to change the voting system only a decade back… and you said a clear and loud ‘fuck no!’ But we know better than you and since we can’t win without changing it, and we’d really like to win… we’re going to go shit or bust and hope like fuck you’ll let us do it, because… We Know Best.”

Yeah. Not entirely sure that’s a wining play.

OK, and now The Big Reason why a progressive alliance won’t happen.

The reason a progressive alliance won\t happen, no matter how much people protest they want one…? Because it involves doing something that party activists, that party members, Do Not Want To Do, And Will Not Do: believe people who are members of other parties, councillors from other parties, MPs from other parties who have voted for things you loathe and detest…

…are not bad people.

That’s it, that’s the problem. Long ago, it’s not wholly a recent thing – though it’s more openly acknowledged these days – people in other parties, people who’ve voted for things you despise, who’ve supported politicians you loathe, detest and wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire… were good people with bad ideas.

That went the way of the dodo decades ago.

When people inside the party can’t stand each other (Tories at war over Europe and austerity, Labour at war over antisemitism and Brexit), you’re seriously asking people to trust, campaign for, defend and support people in other parties? Are you kidding?

You’re asking people in Labour to not only forgive but irrevocably do so, the Lib Dems for 2010-2015, to forgive the SNP for wiping out Labour in Scotland. You’re asking the SNP to work with Labour, for the Lib Dems to forgive Labour activists for regarding them as Tory fellating scum? You’re asking the Greens to support parties who won’t support green issues?

I repeat: who are you kidding?

You’re asking a demographic whose tribalism is one of their foremost attributes (for good or bad) to abandon – even if temporarily – that tribalism and support another tribe? Many tribes? While saying ‘it’s only temporary, but we’ll pretend is isn’t to con the voters..’

Once again: who are you kidding?

Not. A. Chance.

You want people to trust people they don’t trust, to recommend people they don’t like, to campaign for people they don’t believe. And to tell the public to vote for people they don’t respect.

Yeah, how do you think that’s going to go?

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.