The Benefits of a Non-Aggression Pact for Labour’s future
Recently we saw Tony Blair suggest the idea of the Labour party cooperating more frequently with the Liberal Democrats. This is not surprising from Blair considering the previous cooperation between him and Paddy Ashdown at the time of the 1997 General election.
However, instead of focusing on what unites the parties we saw a situation of party politics and hostility between the Lib Dems and Labour in the 2019 general election. There were constituencies such as Canterbury where the Lib Dem candidate has repeatedly stood down to attempt to secure a victory for Labour. However, instead of respecting this decision we saw Lib Dem HQ put another candidate in this seat. The same goes of course for Labour who should have stood down in seats like Richmond Park to help secure that for the lib dems. Although socialism and liberalism may be entirely different ideologies, we must take identity out of the situation and focus on pragmatism instead and ultimately opposing the tories.
Our aim needs to be to focus on our biggest failure in terms of cross-party cooperation. That failure lies in our handling of discussions and attitudes toward the other parties. We often see ourselves resorting to petty insults like branding the lib dems "Yellow-Tories" before even considering what benefit we can be to each other through organisation and cooperation. Big party politics is not the be all and end all of real meaningful change. Instead the most significant impacts an MP can have is their work for their constituents. Achieving this can be done through having committed activists running in marginal constituencies. Regardless of whether they’re a Lib Dem, Green, SNP, Plaid or Labour candidate we should all be aiming to get behind a passionate individual committed to improving the lives of the most vulnerable individuals in society. These broad coalitions of support focusing on real constituent issues to effectively organise are how we promote real change and a new progressive force of politics.
Four years is a long time until the next election, with Brexit and Covid-19 fallout inevitable. A Labour party led by a former prosecutor, backed by a strong new shadow cabinet team, should be an immaculate opposition to Johnson’s chaos and his cabinet. To beat a majority of 80 in one election is a significant climb. By that time, Labour and the Lib Dems may be ready to make a deal to block another Tory win. Ultimately this idea should be for the greater good of both parties who were detrimentally impacted by the 2019 election and allow for both to rise from the ashes of defeat.
The Labour party needs to set out to do this nationally and regionally. I really hope those in the Lib Dems will encourage reform and steer towards cooperation, just as the Greens and others have done. The true test of whether we will succeed will be in the forthcoming council, assembly and mayoral elections. We shouldn’t be aiming for significant changes initially however, where it is most vital both parties should aim for realistic changes.
Keir Starmer now has a significant challenge. Not only should he aim to appeal to all strands within the party he must also engage the support of the broader electorate. The problems we saw with Corbyn’s tenure of only focusing on our leftist base need to be eliminated unless we wish to continually fail.
During the leadership election when queried Starmer has been quoted as saying “there’s a case for reform, because of the millions of votes wasted every election in safe seats”. Make Votes Matter reports that three-quarters of Labour members back proportional representation. This is hardly a shocking revelation, since it took an average of 51,000 people to elect a Labour MP in December, only 38,000 for each Tory. This is another separate argument to consider. While we in the meantime must focus on the short-term of aiming to maximise non-tory gains the long-term goal should be to head toward a system of PR on grounds of fairness and proper democracy.
The next few years will be a gruelling uphill battle, watching the Tories make changes while Labour can only critique from the side-lines. It is clear the party should listen to the likes of Blair and Layla Moran: a temporary pact may be the best chance of preventing another slaughter at the polls. Ultimately our principles of doing this are based on the idea that party politics shouldn’t be aggressive and small minded but instead we must focus our energy at what's at stake and the greater good. This being stopping the Conservatives.