Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Labour and an electoral pact

It is becoming increasingly clear that the 2015 election is, as the pundits would say, "difficult to call". Almost anything can happen in the six months remaining, and millions of votes are still up for grabs, as are most of the seats. Are there any "safe" Tory or Labour seats any more?
 There are many similarities with the 1906 situation; the Tory government had made itself extremely unpopular with the ordinary people, with gaffes like the Taff Vale case, divisions were appearing in the ruling party over tariff reform, and a new party was emerging, grabbing support from all sides. With the resignation of the PM, an election loomed, and  the Liberals, unsure of victory, played it safe by making an electoral pact with Labour, agreeing not to oppose them in thirty constituencies. The result was, of course a resounding defeat for the Tories, twenty-seven seats for Labour and a huge majority for the Liberals.
     In 2015, the Tory party also will command little support from the ordinary people, after five years of unfair austerity, tax cuts for the rich and unbelievably callous legislation directed against the weakest members of society, but there still remains huge questions about where their votes will go; undoubtedly the Tories will lose votes to Ukip, but so will Labour, and the Opposition`s problems don`t end there, as there is the possibility of losing almost all their seats in Scotland. Labour`s projected moderate policies have failed to prevent support haemorrhaging to its newest rivals, and it seems unlikely there will be a much-needed shift to the left to regain lost votes.
     No-one can predict with any accuracy the election result, but what is certain is that every seat will count in the formation of the new government, and coalitions are likely. As Labour could not possibly think of joining up with the duplicitous Lib Dems, even though for some unknown reason they will still have some representation in parliament, some pre-election thinking is required, especially as resources will inevitably be tight. Does it not make sense to spend the most money in constituencies where the main rival is Tory or Ukip rather than a party whose policies might be judged by some to be similar to those of Labour? 
       Could a pact be made with the SNP so that Labour could at least hold on to a dozen seats in Scotland? Unlikely, as polls suggest an SNP whitewash, with the Labour vote down to 20% in some, unless some of their people could be guaranteed places in Labour`s cabinet. A Green deal is more of a possibility; two of Labour`s target seats are Brighton Pavilion, whose current MP is the excellent Caroline Lucas, the Green party`s only MP at the moment, and Holborn and St Pancras, where the Green party leader, Natalie Bennett is standing. There will undoubtedly be other seats where a split Labour /Green vote could let in a Tory or, more likely, a Ukip candidate. The policies of the Green party are radical and to the left of Labour, so much so they like the description of themselves as "watermelons - green on the outside, red in the centre". Not only do they prefer re-nationalisation of the railways, but the 50% tax rate applied to all those earning £100,000 plus, a minimum wage at 60% of the national average, and the ending of university tuition fees and Trident. In Wales, too, Plaid Cymru`s domestic policies aim for social justice and a fairer distribution of wealth.
     Would it not be sensible for Labour to think now of making electoral pacts with parties prior to the election, rather than trying, and perhaps failing, to do deals from a position of weakness after the votes have been counted? What happened after the 2010 election, with the result being five years of Tory-inspired austerity, should be a salutary lesson for Labour. If the same were to happen again, but this time with Ukip as the Tories` partner in crime, heaven help us. Opposition groupings would have to be re-aligned and who would bet against one of them being a left-wing party with policies also aimed at protecting the environment? A Green Labour party! 

    One of the worst scenarios after the election is a Labour party struggling to form a majority government, aiming to ally with parties with broadly similar views, but being shunned because of pre-election animosity. Those differences should be ironed-out now!

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