Strategies to beat the Tories

There are five broad strategies to beat the Tories. The first four are frequently discussed, albeit to varying extents, by journalists and pressure groups. They are also seen by some politicians as viable strategies for beating the Tories.

The 5th concerns the grand alliance, which we have never seen discussed, which is why we built this website . . .

1. Opposition parties develop more appealing policies separately to win more votes

Opposition parties should ensure policies appeal to voters. Journalists use this as a hook to set out what they think Labour, Lib Dem or Green party policies should include. Parties favour this approach if they think they can win on their own.

ProsCons
This is essentially how parties operate already, so is the preferred option for those in the Labour or Lib Dem parties who feel the tide is turning in their favour.

This approach is limited unless the Tory Party implodes.

Any rise to power based on a Tory implosion will probably be short-lived. The Tories will seek to sell new policies (while keeping their self-interested agenda fundamentally intact) to win back voters.

In any case, such now are the electoral and other obstacles that no one party is likely to beat the Tories anyway.
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2. Opposition parties tacitly encourage supporters to vote tactically

Opposition parties tacitly encourage supporters to lend their votes to another opposition party, or at least campaign half-heartedly, if they feel they are unlikely to win themselves in a particular constituency, while the party to whom they lend their votes has a reasonable chance of success. This strategy is often backed up by previous voting figures for each constituency.

ProsCons
Votes for opposition parties will not be split as they are when each party tries to win in a constituency.
An approach that relies on individual voters to work out who is most likely to win in their constituency is leaving too many things to chance, such as how well-informed or otherwise an individual voter is.

Tactical voting is more likely to work in a by-election because less is at stake and voters feel safe to protest. But they may well revert in a general election.

Because of all this, and the other measures the Tories are employing to rig the system, there is too big a risk that informal tactical voting will not deliver constituencies on the scale needed to swing a general election.
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3. Opposition parties form a ‘progressive pact’ with a commitment to introducing PR

Opposition parties retain their identity but cooperate in elections, by one party standing aside for a party more likely to win. Often, such pacts are proposed in combination with calls to endorse proportional representation should the parties be able to form a government.

ProsCons
Votes for opposition parties will not be split as they are when each party tries to win in a constituency.

Voters cannot easily be moved around in blocks, and may object to the party they are now being asked to support.

Smaller parties in pacts may be disappointed by the failure of the larger party to carry through their promise to support PR.

In the event of a hung parliament following a general election, one party within a progessive pact might be tempted to coalesce instead with the Tories.
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4. Opposition parties form a single-party progressive alliance, without necessarily committing to PR

Opposition parties who are similarly aligned combine forces, effectively as a single party. This is usually seen as constituting a progressive alliance of the left. It would not necessarily establish PR as an objective. Once such a new progressive alliance were formed, it could relish first past the post because it could then govern without any need to collaborate further.

ProsCons
Collaborating parties would put aside old differences and not plunder each other’s voting pool.

All parties are alliances of some kind; collaborating with another party may deter some members from giving support. So, the alliance may not garner as many votes as had been anticipated.

Left-behind members of the collaborating parties may set up their own party.

Old disagreements between collaborating parties may resurface.

If such an alliance were to gain power under first past the post, it too could potentially further secure its grip on power through antidemocratic means, in much the same way as the Tory Party is currently doing. Replacing the Tory Party with this kind of mirror image would therefore be highly undesirable from the viewpoint of ensuring the long-term health of a flourishing democracy.

This particular scenario could also be presented by right-wing media as providing a Trojan horse for a Labour Party which is itself a Trojan horse for Marxism.

Forming a new party for the long term would be a slow process, and by the time it were achieved the Tory Party would be likely to have strengthened its grip on power so firmly that such a progressive alliance party would be unlikely to make sufficient headway in any case.

Arrangements that keep FPTP intact risk extremist, authoritarian, government in the future – a threat that the right-wing press uses with enthusiasm against Labour, but not against the Tories.
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5. Opposition parties form a grand alliance

Parties opposed to the Tory government form a short term, grand alliance-type single party, fielding the best candidate in each constituency. They establish PR and other constitutional reforms in order to ensure proper democracy in the UK. Then parties move forward according to their own groupings and own policies, working within a system of PR.

ProsCons
The qualification for membership of a grand alliance is the desire to replace a system that can create corrupt, incompetent, anti-democratic government. 

This is a cause with potentially huge appeal, across a wider spectrum than an electoral pact or progressive alliance could hope to reach.

A binding agreement between parties to form a grand alliance would remove any temptation any one party might feel to coalesce instead with the Tories in the event of a hung parliament after a general election. Under a progressive pact, this possibility could not be ruled out.

Once in government, a grand alliance’s particular breadth of support will give it an unprecedented mandate to tackle the range of urgent problems facing the country.

This will not be an alliance of particular political ideals aimed at forming a long-term alliance. It should therefore be dissolved after a limited period, ideally one five-year parliamentary term, once it has tackled the most urgent problems.  
Once a democratic future has been secured under PR, members of the then-former grand alliance will be entitled to realign however they think fit. This will enable them to revert to distinctive party identities and policies, or form viable new ones.
Many in Labour do not want to forgo the opportunity to win outright under first-past-the-post.

Many Lib Dems want to maintain their distinctive party identity, to have a chance of ‘holding the balance of power’ after a general election, as they did in 2010.

Opposition parties in general too often think their time has come, and would rather risk staying in opposition than give up on their aspiration of long-term success.
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