Achieving a fair voting system via proportional representation (PR) is one of a host of vital changes that depend crucially on electoral collaboration. This should therefore be the immediate priority for democracy campaigners.
The need for electoral collaboration
The PR campaign currently jostles for attention with many others. These include calls for:
- Effective green policies
- Re-joining the EU
- Protecting our NHS against privatisation
- Fairer wealth distribution
- Universal basic income
- Improved living and mental health standards
- Better constitutional protections
- The urgent need to fix the cost-of-living crisis.
These campaigns are mostly driven by 12 years under a government of crippling austerity cuts, non-interventionist free-market profiteering and frightening tone deafness to the suffering caused. Activists give considerable resources (energy, time, funding, media promotion) to these campaigns. But only with a change of government do we stand a chance of realising them.
Labour, as the largest opposition party, is best placed to replace the current government. But research indicates that Labour will struggle to win alone in our ‘first past the post’ system. A swing of at least 10.5% is needed at the next general election to gain the 124 seats for a majority of just one. By contrast, according to research by Best For Britain, if Labour collaborates with the Lib Dems, Greens and other parties, it stands to acquire a working majority of up to 351 seats.
Target to win
To secure a change of government, constituency Labour candidates will need to work with other parties to maximise the number of Conservative seats they can win between them. Parties need to make pragmatic decisions on where they should focus their resources and on avoiding active election campaigning in seats where another party is the main Conservative challenger.
This kind of electoral collaboration at the constituency and county level is foundational – it is the necessary condition or lynchpin on which the success of other progressive campaigns hangs.
PR, for example, will never be adopted by a Conservative government, because it would replace the electoral system that keeps them in power and all-but-guarantees their re-election. The installation of PR depends essentially on Labour winning power. If Labour puts PR in its manifesto this will help secure the goodwill of other smaller parties and their willingness, in principle, to back Labour in a new government. But, if we want PR in reality, then we have to coax the Greens, Lib Dems and Labour to agree to also co-operate on getting Labour into power.
Tackling the issues that matter
Similarly, the Brexit-related loss of freedom of movement and vital workers, and the paralysis of import and export business by red tape, is pervasive. But the government is very unlikely to ever acknowledge these failures. They are resolutely stuck in a fantasy of success. Reversal of this damage can only happen with the formation of a new government, one that is open minded about future options.
Labour has made tiny steps towards building a better relationship with the EU, but it may take the Lib Dems to persuade it of the necessity for re-joining the single market or customs union. A Labour win followed by an alliance of some kind with other smaller parties will be essential for real progress on Brexit.
The same is true of climate activism. Evidence strongly suggests that the Conservative Party’s warm words on reversing climate change are hollow. The party is rife with influential climate-deniers, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, the newly appointed ‘energy secretary’. Its 19-member Net Zero Scrutiny Group blames the cost-of-living crisis on ‘green policies’. And it receives substantial funds from wealthy donors who back the pseudo-science of climate denial.
To avoid a climate tipping point, we need, minimally, to decarbonise by 2030, stop subsidising fossil fuel companies and invest in renewables. So, we need urgently to persuade the opposition parties to work together to enable the change of government that can kick-start these green policies.
Push for progressive change
A push for progressive change is already happening. Compass has regional groups working throughout England on fostering dialogue between the opposition parties. It will soon launch its Win As One campaign, the aim of which is to sidestep reticence ‘at the top’ by promoting an influential caucus of PR and alliance-supporting politicians.
But more activists need to join these fights now, whatever their specialist interest, to help build the cross-party commitment, trust, shared vision and co-operation that will create a new government and trigger the changes we so desperately need.
Electoral collaboration is our bridge to a more democratic, non-adversarial style of governance in which parties work together, power is shared, and policy is agreed via cross-party discussion and compromise. Only in this context will the other progressive policies we cherish stand any chance of being realised.
Electoral collaboration is the deck which all hands should be on.
You can download a pdf version of this article HERE. Please share.