Wera Hobhouse MP: The Lib Dems’ door is open to a progressive alliance

Parties need to work together to boot out the Tories - and secure PR - writes the Lib Dem MP.

Wera Hobhouse is the Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, and a former leadership candidate.

The recent election results confirm that it is almost inevitable that the Conservatives will win the next General Election.

They will not come close to getting 50% of the popular vote. But First Past the Post will give them a decisive majority regardless.

That’s one reason why calls for forming a progressive alliance are being renewed. Interestingly, these calls come from the public at large. No political party on the centre left has yet made an active proposal.

I am in favour of a progressive alliance for the next General Election, but I recognise achieving it is far easier said than done.

Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens are genuinely distinct parties who represent different sections of the electorate, while each appealing broadly to centre and centre left and voters.

How do we work together, without denying our core values or the reasons why we exist as separate parties? Liberalism has been around for centuries for a reason, and the political ideas underpinning liberalism are not going away.

At the core of liberalism lies a good democracy. In the modern age, a good democracy means a range of political ideas to be fully represented and their diversity to be welcome and celebrated.

That is why we have fought for so long to change the voting system – because First Past the Post shoehorns debate into two blocks and stifles diversity. A proportional voting system delivers a more consensus-based democracy in which no single party dominates the political discourse.

For me, the prime objective for the Liberal Democrats of entering a progressive alliance is to achieve PR. Only a progressive alliance will deliver PR because the Conservatives will always oppose it and Labour is very unlikely to deliver it on its own.

Each of Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens have to consider their prime objective for a progressive alliance and the price they are prepared to pay.

For my party, our activists and voters are roughly split between two thirds who favour a Labour led government and a third who favour a Conservative-led government – as demonstrated by second preference voting in the recent mayoral elections.

If the Liberal Democrats agreed to a progressive alliance, a third of our current support could go. We would gain tactical support from Labour and Green voters, just as they should gain tactical support from a majority of our voters.

Within the progressive alliance, Labour, Lib Dem and Green would all gain seats against the Conservatives but lose some of their current distinct identity.

For my party, losing some of this identity would be the price for achieving proportional representation.

For Labour, if the main objective is to win power, would they be prepared to agree to a change in the voting system?

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