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?
James Skinner says
Yes is the answer to your question. An electoral alliance is absolutely essential – an alliance not only to defeat Brexit but to implement zero emission as quickly as is possible. Your proposals sound very practical and reasonable and should be adopted asap
David Boyle says
Thank you, James – please feel free to bring it up with anyone who might be interested!
Vern Hughes says
“Brexit is too ephemeral an objective – though it is the issue that brought the radical centre together.”
Did I really read this, David? I am a distant observer of UK politics, in Melbourne Australia, but I know that in the UK, and here, and everywhere else, the radical centre predated Brexit by about 150 years.
Brexit, surely, has simply re-presented a constellation of issues (statism, the political class, the representative character of our democracy, regional divisions in economy and polity) in a new and unavoidable way. And in this re-presentation of issues which are not new by any means, the radical centre has emerged as the most persuasive way of pulling a range of political sentiments together in a coherent way. That is, the radical centre, in this time, is a crystallisation of Brexit.
And yet, do I hear correctly? RADIX assumes the opposite – that the radical centre is an anti-Brexit thing?
My Goodness. We have to conclude that enthusiasts of the radical centre can adopt opposite positions on Brexit, and opposite positions on the electoral alliances emerging as the old order crumbles. Well, none of us should be surprised by this. These are new times in politics, after all.
David Boyle says
Sorry not to be a little clearer. My view is that you can absolutely be on both sides of the Brexit debate in the radical centre – up to a point. I’m not sure I will ever meet a radical centrist prepared, like Boris, to close Parliament to achieve it. But in the UK, there is no doubt that the way the antiBrexit parties have been working together so far as provided the opportunity for a deeper alliance of the radical centre.
Emphemeral isnt a v good word either. I meant that to build a political alliance you have to base it on something firmer that an issue that your opponents culd simply resolve, and may well do so.
Stephen Gwynne says
I am a deep ecologist at heart and most of my politics is concerned with creating an equitable balance between human and nonhuman prosperity. In this respect, after much deep thought, for me the most viable way forward is a global system of cooperating national sufficiency economies. Not in the vain of autarky, even though self sufficiency is important for deep forms of national security, but as an alternative to the illusion of never ending growth.
Therefore I find it ironic that the parties most supportive of the ecologically destructive EU free trade system in that frictionless trade dramatically increases carbon emissions and ecological degradation are the same people trying to save the planet.
Perhaps it isn’t ironic that those that seek to destroy our ecological means of survival through free trade supranationalism are the ones also trying to save our ecological means of survival through free trade supranationalism. Clearly this paradoxical situation makes no sense whatsoever.
However, a global (and European) system of cooperating national sufficiency economies not only builds up systemic resilience but it also teaches national citizens the value of their national ecology as the source of not only their survival but also the survival of nonhumans.
The bottom line of this approach is creating quality of life rather than quantity of life with a shift away from material intensive consumerism towards the non-material enrichment of our cultural, social and political lives. This means deeper forms of democracy which actively engage local citizens in the shaping of their local lived environments. A renewed ethic towards community building and civic associationism. A radical restructuring of our transportation systems to encourage people to ditch their cars and long term investment in national strategic industries which are predicated on circular economic activities utilising recyclable materials.
It also means planning reform to make it easier for people to set up a temporary low impact homestead on agricultural land with the view of facilitating urban dwellers to relocate to the rural with communitarian principles in mind.
A contentious issue that does need to be deliberated in how a fossil free society will be able to provide it enormous energy needs. Renewable energy technologies only provide fluctuating power and with their 40 year shelf life are only really useful in the event of a crisis or as the means to top up domestic electricity. For our extensive industrial needs, including the electrification of transport systems will undoubtedly require some form of clean nuclear power.
Overall, the quality of life systems I envisaged need to actively engage national populations whether in terms of work or play and need to be able to create a sense of national community which respects the national ecological world as both the source of survival and beauty in our lives. This means creating a sense of national consciousness which is deeply ecological, deeply associative and deeply rewarding and fulfilling.