Progressive Alliance- To be or not to be? Discussion led by David Warren. Report by Oliver Farley
Thirteen met for this discussion, the 42nd in our series. David, with a background in the trade union movement and formally of the Labour Party opened the discussion with a brief review of the attempts to persuade earlier Governments to legislate for some form of PR. He mentioned the Jenkins Committee report in 1999 which recommended an additional member system.
Nothing came of this as it had not been seen in the interest of either of the major parties to shift to a more representative system. Over time various forms of electoral pact have been considered with the aim of parties which are aligned against the Conservatives accommodating each other for electoral success. David mentioned the pitfalls of parties actually standing down in each other’s favour as some wavering electors might be reluctant to transfer their allegiance to the left rather than the more centrist LibDem.
He has recently attended meeting by the Compass Group which aims to form a broad alliance between Labour, Libdems, Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru. The Labour MP Clive Lewis admits that the Labour Party needs to change. David had a less than encouraging experience with the ‘Make Votes Matter ‘group who seemed to be wholly Labour focused and were chilly towards the LibDems. Nevertheless, in David’s view the Labour Party has 2-3 months to make effective change.
He believes the Blairite wing is growing in influence and that Keir Starmer will quit if Labour lose the by-election of Batley and Spen. David recalled that Tony Blair and Pandy Ashdown had cooperated on policy setting a precedent. All this is seen as a precursor for pressure to advocate PR at the next conference.
At this point our discussion widened out to bigger issues with the question being asked ‘what do the LibDems stand for?’ A member of the group who had been prompted by Brexit to join the party demanded to know what our principles were and more importantly policies. There was a strong feeling that we should address matters of fundamental principle and wider direction rather than just making topical gestures.
It was felt we should be radical now- aim for the young and Green vote and in a post-Brexit world rethink the entire social contract with a new Beveridge style report.
Several members were enthused by the need for a more generous society and a focussed voice for the centre-left. Consensus politics was advocated with a recommendation to consult the writings of the journalist Jon Danzig.
Elements such as:
- Universal Basic Income
- Restructured Student Debt
- Worker representation in Boardrooms
- Active green policies -with practical implications
These were briefly discussed. A core issue was seen to be the lack of trust in politicians and politics, not helped by the current low-profile and poor image of Ed Davey . (e.g. The apparent silence by the LibDems over the controversial issue of historic racist emails by a member of the English Cricket team) A possible solution was having co-leaders so that competence could complement charismatic appeal.
At this point with time running out it was decided to pick up these main issues again in the 43rd meeting on Tuesday 13th July.