Since the terrible murder of Jo Cox and the bonkers Brexit vote some interesting and positive developments are happening in British politics. A new progressive alliance may be emerging. In the week after the Brexit vote I posted a blog pondering how progressives might regroup and referring to a letter from the Green Party to the leaders of other potentially progressive parties. Since then Caroline Lucas, the Green MP (one of the authors of that letter), Lisa Nandy a Labour MP and Chris Bowers from the Lib Dems have written a book speculating about a progressive alliance. The title is ‘The Alternative: Towards a New Progressive Politics’. I’ve not read it yet.
Jonathon Porritt recently wrote a very good blog titled The Rudiments of a Progressive Alliance. He is supportive of the position put forward by Lucas, Nandy and Bowers. He is also a member of More United, which is a new bottom up attempt at building a progressive alliance that focuses on building a mass membership crowdfunding platform seeking to support candidates from any party that sign-up to their open, tolerant, sustainability focused principles. More United seems to me a very positive development in British politics. I’ve just signed-up as a supporter: why don’t you?
Another good blog on politics that I read this week was from George Monbiot, reviewing a book called ‘Democracy for Realists’ by Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels. It shows how people vote is very much more determined by a sense of social and cultural identity than by a rational analysis of policies.
More United seems to me to be the best hope of us getting beyond the adversarial tribal politics that has undermined good governance. It hopes to build a mass movement of people from many political parties, and from none, who want to see the emergence of a modern dynamic progressive alliance that can unite around particular candidates in particular constituencies, use Crowdfunding to support them to win elections and so to improve participatory and inclusive democracy. Their key principles seem to fit with a broadly held sense of inclusive, tolerant, pluralistic social identity that will be attractive to many people, and as Monbiot’s blog shows, this may be much more effective than huge tracts of detailed policy that most people don’t engage with anyway.
This week we’ve had two by-elections. In Batley and Spen, after Jo Cox’s tragic murder the Conservatives, Lib Dems, Greens and UKIP all decided not to stand. Quite rightly Tracey Brabin won the seat for Labour and a field of nine fringe, extremist and racist parties thankfully all lost their deposits. In effect a progressive alliance was working to make the best of the horrific circumstances following the murder of Jo Cox. The Witney by-election was a very different story. Robert Courts won it for the Tories. I was of course rooting for Larry Sanders, the Green candidate; however it was the Lib Dems candidate who did remarkably well, increasing the Lib Dems share of the total vote from 6.8% to 30.2%, an increase of 23.4%. Had there been an alliance where both Labour and Greens had withdrawn their candidates and backed the Lib Dems Liz Leffman might now be the MP for Witney. The combined votes of these three parties were greater than the Tory vote. Might such alliances happen in future? It is hard to tell, but a discourse, and grassroots organisations, exploring such possibilities can only be a good thing.