For the UK to have a decent democratic future, opposition parties must recognize how unlikely they are ever to win a general election on their own and must also recognize the consequences of their failing to do so.
Under Johnson’s Tory Party, the UK is heading towards becoming a one-party state, and will suffer all the consequences stemming from this erosion of democracy. Even when the Tory Party plummets in popularity, its unique capacity to reconfigure itself from its various factions enables it to come back again and again. It can present an acceptable face to the electorate then, back in power, revert to the direction required by its ruthless right wing and its self-serving instincts. Even with minority support amongst the electorate, it can benefit from ‘first-past-the-post’ elections and various underhand measures for as long as opposition parties refuse to work together.
This website considers the idea of opposition parties collaborating to form a grand alliance to fight the next general election – a single cooperating party, not just an electoral pact – to gain power, introduce proportional representation and other reforms to maintain democracy and then, using the greater range of talents currently in opposition, address effectively the urgent issues facing the UK, such as the climate crisis and the cost of living crisis. The grand alliance should then revert after a certain period to separate party status, in a context in which parties can continue to have influence by contesting elections under a properly democratic system of proportional representation.
The grand alliance we are proposing is NOT the same as a “progressive alliance”. ‘Progressive alliance’ is an imprecise term, describing anything from a new long-term party, an electoral pact, or less formal local agreements between parties. For the reasons we give on this website, we believe a grand alliance would be much surer to succeed than any of these arrangements, as a means both of defeating the Tories and of ensuring the long-term survival of UK democracy.
We emphasise: a grand alliance is a means to an end, not an end in itself
We believe a grand alliance is the surest means of establishing a fairer system of democratic government for the UK. Once such improvements are in place and new democratic arrangements are in play, future governments should better reflect the will of the people and enable a better range of political talents to contribute. It is not designed to favour any particular political party, and must be seen as wholly fair to all contributing parties.
If any partner sees they are being disadvantaged in the makeup and management of the grand alliance, they may withdraw collaboration and thus weaken the alliance. The process of managing such an alliance to achieve a satisfactory end-point must therefore be exemplary. Its management should not favour any faction, no matter how powerful. Were a transition process to favour the most powerful faction, i.e. Labour, it would fail. That would be disastrous because if for example the Greens, with their commitment and expertise in a policy area that is particularly critical to all of our futures, were to be marginalised, the whole country would suffer from the lack of their contribution. Equally, many traditional Tories, marginalised by the increasing extremism of their party’s leadership, should be encouraged to consider the benefits of the grand alliance as a means of securing PR and ensuring that their principles too are represented in future government of the country.
As a first step towards establishing a grand alliance, then, a commission should be established to provide a balanced representation of views across the political spectrum. Commissioners would marshal support within their respective parties, identify the measures needed for better UK government, generate and test proposals to ensure they were beneficial to all parties, and identify and agree policies that would ensure effective government while the grand alliance party was in power — until elections by PR were established, and parties could go their separate ways to argue their cases with conviction while also being able to cooperate fruitfully in government.
Some factions might see the creation of such an even-handed and constructive commission as impossible, and spurn the opportunity to cooperate in a grand alliance. If so, given all the obstacles facing all the other potential routes to power, they should contemplate the consequences of what is by far the likeliest alternative: that -the UK will continue along its path towards a single party right-wing, failed state.
For the UK to have a decent future, opposition parties must recognize how unlikely they are ever to win a general election on their own and also recognize the consequences of their failing to do so.