For the UK to have a decent democratic future, parties opposing this Tory government should recognize the difficulty of winning a general election on their own and then holding on to power for sufficient time to make a difference. They must also recognize the consequences of failing to do so.
Under the Tory Party, the UK risks heading towards becoming a one-party state, and will suffer all the consequences stemming from this erosion of democracy. Even when it plummets in popularity, the Tories’ unique capacity to reconfigure from its various factions and its support from a right-wing media enables it to come back again and again. The Tory Party exists less to prosecute a specific political agenda than to enable a syndicate of factions whose common agenda is to retain power within the Tory tent. With its multiple facets, it can present an acceptable face to the electorate then revert to the direction required by its more ruthless factions and the party’s self-serving instincts for survival. Even with minority support amongst the electorate, it benefits from ‘first-past-the-post’ elections and various undemocraic measures for as long as opposition parties refuse to work together.
Whatever current opinion polls may say, there is no guarantee that the Tories will lose the next general election. Opinion polls always narrow, and then there is the possibility that the non-Tory vote will fragment in several directions as it so often has, and gift the Tories another majority by default.
Even if the Tories lose the next general election, history suggests they will be back in power after a relatively short time in opposition. The 3-term period of 1997-2010 for New Labour was an exception to the pattern of the past 100 years, in which the Conservatives have been the dominant political party and Labour has only held office for brief periods.
But whether the Conservatives retain power at the next general election or relinquish it briefly, the general trajectory on which the country is set remains the same. Thanks to years of self-interested and shortsighted Conservative policy, the United Kingdom risks becoming a failed state. Furthermore, the Conservatives are prepared to go to any underhand lengths to retain power. And, as their own failed energy policies continue to exacerbate the ever-greater difficulties created by the climate crisis, the lengths to which they will go in order to maintain or regain power are likely to become more underhand still.
Even a wholesale democratic renewal of the United Kingdom’s governing structures will still not in itself solve all the nation’s problems, but it will be an essential start. A grand alliance for democracy as way of bringing this about is, at least, worthy of discussion.
This website considers the idea of opposition parties collaborating to form a grand alliance to fight the next general election. This would be a single cooperating party, not just an electoral pact , seeking: 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. Then, after a certain period, members of the alliance should revert to their separate party identities to contest future elections, but now under a properly democratic system of proportional representation.
The grand alliance we are suggesting 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 emphasize: 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 will not favour any particular political party, and must be seen as wholly fair to all contributing parties. But is wil now properly reflect the choices of the electorate.
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 marginalized, the whole country would suffer from the lack of their contribution. Equally, many traditional Tories, marginalized 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 be realistic about how likely they are ever to win a general election on their own and then maintain power to make a difference. They must also recognize the consequences of their failing to do so.