Why Tories won’t mind losing 1 election & why all eyes should be on Labour’s PR stance

It’s the day after the next General Election here in the UK and progressives are seemingly in a majority, if you mistakenly assume that all Labour MPs are progressive which of course they’re not. There is a lot of celebrating as the Conservatives have finally lost their majority but it will take a ‘coalition* of willing progressives’ to create a workable left of centre government. Here are a few reasons why that ‘progressive alliance’, for want of another term, is likely to fail in short order leading to another populist government of the right.

Firstly, Labour, who have won some extra seats, really aren’t looking much like progressives at all, having run a campaign based on a centre-right platform. The SNP are more progressive but their independence or bust approach to working with other parties is a big stumbling block when you consider that both Labour and, sadly from my perspective, the Lib Dems are firmly unionist in their outlook.

The Lib Dems, who have won a significant number of seats from the Tories, are in reality two differing types of Liberals – Economic Liberals (Nick Clegg was one I guess) and Social Liberals. Whilst they share numerous Liberal values the Social Liberals tend to be very much of the left in UK political terms although many of them baulk at being seen as of the left. However, they’re the ones who realised early on that that Nick Clegg’s negotiated coalition with the Conservatives back in 2010 was going to be a disaster. Of course, they were right as Clegg backed out of the Lib Dem’s flagship policy of opposing Student Tuition Fee increases. It was pretty much all downhill for the Libs from there onwards for the next 10 years.

Would the SNP, having seen what Clegg did to the Lib Dems, even for a moment, contemplate watering down their independence for Scotland stance to make working with unionists in other parties easier or even possible. Frankly, they would be mad too, so how can a multi-party progressive government be formed in a way that brings an independent Scotland to the fore?

It’s proportional representation stupid

And then there’s proportional representation, which for generations Labour has opposed; a position that’s exposed it as being anti-progressive. Labour’s pretty much on its own amongst all left of centre parties across Europe and beyond over its heel-dragging with regard to PR. They got close to backing PR in 2021, of course, and now seem to be in a position where they no longer oppose PR but don’t really back it with any great enthusiasm either. The problem is they can’t be trusted to see through a PR agenda by progressive parties who probably look upon Starmer’s party as being akin to Justin Trudeau’s Canadian Liberals. They, having previously backed/promoted PR, pretty much ran away from delivering it. The SNP, Lib Dems and Greens think Starmer’s lot will pull a similar trick, and they’d probably be right to fear such an outcome.

Labour’s still a Brext party?

Too many of Labour’s MPs continue to be right of centre or they represent white, working-class, right-wing leaning constituencies even when they’re progressively inclined themselves. This was of course the very bind that drew Labour into at best sitting on its hands and at worst enabling a Brexit which has probably damaged poorer areas of the UK more than anywhere else. Of course the Lib Dems, SNP and Greens were utterly opposed to Brexit so here’s another big sticking point which creates barriers to progressives being able to work with Labour.

And look who Labour will probably want to be Chancellor, one Rachel Reeves who’s infamous, with this progressive anyway, for her 2013 utterance that Labour will be tougher than the Tories when it comes to slashing benefits, or words to that effect. She’s going to go down well with progressives in the Greens, SNP and Lib Dems NOT.

So can a Tory opposition so disparate and so very different from each other really carry the day? It could but only on a very limited agenda and proportional representation would very much have to lead that agenda. A further Scots Independent referendum would clearly need to be part of it together with an unbreakable commitment to devolve many more powers to Scotland, N Ireland, Wales and the regions of England, whether the Scots referendum delivers independence or not. This latter point should get the Lib Dems onside as they have long proposed powerful regional governance for the whole of the UK as opposed to the very limited and messy decentralisation which presently exists in differing ways in different parts of the UK. The only other potential issue for this limited agenda could be an emergency financial NHS rescue package. Surely, all progressives could get behind such an initiative? But that’s about it and of course, if Labour will not implement PR then all bets should be off. Certainly, Ed Davey would not survive any brokered deal that simply props up a Starmer Government; he won’t get away with what Clegg did!

And the alternative for anything like a progressive way forward? A minority Labour Government which progressive parties would back but only on matters/policies, they agreed with. On that basis, Starmer’ would be thrown to the wolves if he tried to pursue any right of centre agendas. I’m sure there will be other barriers to non-Conservative parties working together, I’ve just picked out the obvious ones here!

A UK version of Trumpism, that’ll probably be our future

No matter which way you cut it the Tories may only be out of power for one election (under our warped First Past the Post system that is) and they could live with that outcome. Without proportional representation being enacted we’ll be back to Tory Governments most of the time and they’ll probably not be of the benign John Major-type either. Right-wing populism has taken over the Tory Party of old and putting it back in its box will be the devil’s job. No PR Labour? Then settle back for a UK version of Trumpism because that’ll probably be our future.

* Oh and one last thing the Lib Dems have previously ruled themselves out (under Tim Farron’s leadership) of participating in any future coalition government and who on earth could blame them after they were Clegged!

BoJo responds to Kia Strummer’s New Year message

Well cripes, Kia it’s so good of you helping us Tories stay in power. You’re turning out to be as supportive as Jez Corbyn over Brexit and here was old BoJo worrying you’d get Labour to adopt a coherent even progressive Brexit stance! By the way, we’ll have to get together soon and find a new incoherent unprogressive Brexit stance soon; think we’re being found out……. was amused by your ‘copycat’ 3 word new ‘Make Brexit Work’ slogan

Please keep on blocking that proportional representation lark. First past the post benefits we Tories massively, keeping Labour out of power three-quarters of the time. But that’s actually benefiting both of us; you like being in opposition and we like being in power, what’s not to like?

My one request is that you re-establish Labour’s long-held policy of stopping those bloody Lib Dems from winning at any cost. You’ve let me down twice in recent by-elections where those leftie damn Libs won. That’s your fault Kia; if you’d continued to hate those Libs even more than Tony Blair your troops would have ensured those by-elections were Tory holds. Get a bloody grip man, neither of us likes leftie progressives winning elections.

Oh and another thing, would you let us have Rachel Reeves on a free transfer? She’s been a right-wing mole in your party for too long now and my extremists are taking a liking to her. If old BoJo’s not careful she’ll become a hero of the white, working-class, right-wingers and that’s been my long-held position.

Well, Happy New Year old chap. I know I can rely on you far more than I can my own growing band of nutters and mutterers…….

Bootle – As seen by an article in the Liverpool Post

Bootle New Strand shopping centre

I found the article (linked below) by Joshi Herrmann in the Post very interesting.

www.livpost.co.uk/p/bootle-retains-optimistic-air?r=bhrt5&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web&utm_source=

I spent my whole working life in what used to be called Bootle’s ‘Mini-Whitehall’ i.e. the collection of 1960s office blocks full of civil servants. Those jobs were brought to Bootle throughout the 1970s and into the 80s as part of what some called ‘Exit London’. The idea was to bring decent jobs into a deprived area whilst saving government the high costs of buildings and employing people in the southeast. It always struck me as a good policy but now my former employer HMRC is upping sticks and moving into central Liverpool and abandoning Bootle. I have long struggled with the new policy direction as to me it seems to simply overturn a good idea with a poor one and Bootle has clearly lost out, not least with the spending power of civil servants in the likes of The Strand.

Bootle Town Hall

My other issue is the lack of political competition in Bootle as everyone knows that a Labour MP will be returned together with a collection of Labour councillors. To my mind, this breeds electoral stagnation and I think places like Bootle would benefit from a proportional electoral system (wouldn’t we all) maybe even more so than other communities. New ideas outside of a Labour Party which has always seemed to me to be rooted in political battles of the past may emerge, you never know.

I’d like to see Bootle do well, I really would but I also fear it’s a community where the far-right may try to exploit the poverty.

Progressives need to stop blaming the Tories for acting like Tories, it’s the failure of prgressive politics that has handed them power

There’s every danger that we progressives i.e. Libs, Greens and much of the Labour Party will continue to fall into the trap for the next 5 to 10 years of calling out our awful Tory Government for well, being Tories and doing what Tories do.

What we have to accept though is that because we could not put forward a credible progressive alternative to the Tories (and because our warped electoral system helped the Tories to win as usual) we invited the electorate to say to themselves ‘the Tories may be bad but they’re not as bad as the alternative/s’!

Corbynism has been an abject failure as it was always going to be and anyone still batting for it is in effect saying ‘we’d rather have a Tory government than sort ourselves out to become credible’. And those social democrats within the Labour Party who sat on their hands and said nothing whilst their own party was systematically ruining the chance of a progressive government your guilt is, in my view, the greatest. When Labour fails in the UK progressive politics usually follows it, Scotland being the obvious exception as Labour’s demise became the SNP’s chance to shine.

And of course we progressives love to kick lumps out of each other and blame other progressive parties for the failure of the left when actually we jointly hold the title of champions of delivering yet another Tory government because of our common unelectability cause.

The key to gaining an electable left of centre government is actually quite simple – progressive politics needs credible leaders that means no Corbyns and no Swinsons with their common hatred of each other seemingly being greater than their supposedly common cause against the Tories. And both Labour and Lib Dems need to sort out a credible working arrangement with the SNP by putting the issue of an independent Scotland to one side.

Then all the left of centre parties, including the Greens and Plaid Cymru, need to push for electoral reform and stand together on a pledge to implement it when a progressive government comes to power – no half hearted well maybe or squabbling about which form of PR brings the best advantage for each party, just do it. Oh and no Trudeau pledges on it either just to turn around and drop the pledge because no one can agree how to do it when it’s been in manifestos and power has been won. We’ll get one shot at it and if we fail it will be gone for another generation and the Tories will continue to be the party of government for at least two thirds of the time for ever more. Fair votes has to be a common cause for all progressives, those who claim to be progressives but who continue to back FPTP are actually not progressives at all but Tory enablers.

Tactical Voting – Yep on board with it but beware……

The link below is to a Guardian newspaper article on tactical voting and it’s worth a read:-

www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/nov/03/best-for-britain-tactical-voting-only-way-stop-brexit

Because of our warped 1st Past the Post electoral system we are often placed in a situation where we have to vote for a candidate/party we don’t really support to stop a candidate/party whom we really dislike from being elected. Under a fair/proportional voting system this would not be necessary but we are where we are until we get fair votes.

There are probably two types of anti-Tory/anti-Brexit voters who are looking for advice as to how to vote so as to maximise the possibility of stopping a Tory/Brexit supporting candidate from winning in their constituency. Firstly, there’s the simple issue of trying to stop a Tory being elected and in England it will almost always be a case of voting for either the Lib Dem or Labour candidate who is more likely to beat the Tory. There will be, of course, a very small number of constituencies where the Green is more likely to beat the Tory than the Lib or Lab candidates.

For me the complication is where you want to stop a Brexiteer candidate winning in your constituency because of course there will be significant numbers of of Labour candidates who are Brexiteers.

OK, in this scenario, you know you want the Tory/Brexit Party candidate to be beaten so if there’s a Lib Dem candidate the answer is clear as the Lib Dems are openly opposed to Brexit. However, what if you are being told that the Labour candidate is best placed to beat the Tory? The answer is to try to look very carefully at the Labour candidate to see if they are/could be a Brexiteer too.

The problem here is that many Labour candidates and former Labour MP’s have kept very quiet about their Brexit views so getting to the bottom of what they think about Brexit can be hard going if not impossible. I’m guessing that central Labour advice to their candidates has been to keep quiet as there have been too many of them saying little or nothing even when asked directly! And just because your sitting Labour MP, who is trying to get re-elected at the upcoming GE, voted to Remain in the 2016 Referendum it does not necessarily mean they will stick to being a Remainer after the GE. Remember Labour Party policy is not to come down on either side of the Brexit debate before the GE and they actually want to negotiate another Brexit Deal with the EU for us to leave, if they get elected. So unless your Labour candidate is in effect breaking with Labour policy and is saying they will support Remain after the GE you could end up voting for a Labour candidate who will back Brexit!

Be warned a Labour vote could inadvertently be a vote for Brexit even if your intention is to vote Labour to stop Brexit.

And then looking at the telescope from the other end what do you do if you are faced with multiple Brexiteer candidates in your constituency and you want to stop Brexit? In this scenario the Labour, Tory, UKIP & Brexit Party candidates are all Brexiteers. The answer is of course is to vote for Lib Dem.

Oh for a fair electoral system where we could simply vote for the candidate/s we liked the most!

Local Elections – Are Rotten Borough’s creeping back into out creaking democracy?

The Electoral Reform Society has an illuminating and worrying article on it’s website – see link below:-

www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Election-Cancelled-Uncontested-Seats-Breifing-April-19-ERS-EMBARGOED.pdf

Quote from the ERS article – ‘Since moving to a proportional voting system (STV) for local elections in 2007, the scourge of uncontested seats has almost vanished in Scotland.’

The article is sobering indeed because of the number of seats where a single candidate is unopposed and where the electorate for the wards where this happens is denied a vote because there is no election – they get the only nominated person whether they like it or not.

Of course those of us who have been campaigning for electoral reform for generations know what the solution is – proportional representation via the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system in multi-member seats, be that for Council, Westminster or EU elections. Presently in England we only have a vaguely proportional system (where the number of seats a party gets is near to the % of votes that party receives) for EU elections.

My thanks to Bob Robinson for the lead to this posting