The polls in recent weeks have been a little nerve-wracking, at least for anyone who believes that democratic politics has the potential to make a difference – for better or for worse.
They are in a sense exciting reading for anyone in the radical centre, but – if people are even a little bit thrilled – I would suggest that they think again.
Because when all four of the main four parties are running neck and neck on around plus or minus 20 points, with the Greens on ten, then – whatever anybody might hope when they cast their ballot – the vagaries of our peculiar voting system means that absolutely anything can happen.
That will probably not be a reasonable outcome and we have to think about it so that we can make sure, without PR, that the electoral forces of the radical centre don’t simply cancel each other out.
Last week, I proposed a solution last week. Which is that we should organise some kind of electoral alliance between the Lib Dems, Greens and TIGs, plus Plaid Cymru as well, for one election only – to save the planet. That should give us a winning total approaching 30 per cent – which should be enough, at least on these polls, to take power.
Most political parties where you suggest an idea like that immediately start telling you how tribal everyone else is, what a favour they would be doing their partner/rivals and how the other sides just don’t get it in some way. Next they will complain that your proposals are too expensive or too difficult, and of course, that is what people did – at first.
But overall, the first outing for my alliance for the planet has been received within a pretty positive way. They know, as I do, that – unless we can negotiate something bold – the voting system will destroy us and will deliver a majority to – well, who knows.
They also talked about the impossibility of negotiating much with Corbyn’s Labour (I think they are right) and how important it is to have some kind of alliance to stop Brexit.
I have to say I don’t really believe this. Brexit is too ephemeral an objective – though it is the issue that brought the radical centre together. It is also hugely dependent on ‘events’: the political alliance for humanity, to tackle the warming climate, has more potential to unite beyond the bunkers of Brexit.
So here is my proposition:
- This can’t just be an electoral alliance, or it will carry no conviction, inside or outside. All the parties involved will have to work together to achieve things locally to make the alliance a reality. Only then can we start talking about seats.
- There need to be some changes to electoral law so that candidates can be described accurately.
- All the UK-wide parties in the alliance should get a free run in seats they already hold, plus 20-30 others of their choice.
- The others should choose candidates through public open primaries in every constituency, to involve voters at an early stage. We will need to raise funds for this, but suggest that it might be done in a range of ways from place to place, and some will be more expensive than others.
- We will need an appeals process and a group of wise people to deal with conflicts about which party should fight where.
- We will also need a national joint programme for saving the planet, at least as far as the UK government is concerned.
I have no illusions that this will be easy or popular among the most inward-looking activists. But it could deliver government to the radical centre – at least those bits of it outside the old governing parties, and that is hugely important.
So, how about it? Is the prize possible and worth winning? And what will happen if we never try?