We want change
Should we be surprised any more, after Brexit, after Trump and after Jeremy Corbyn winning the Labour leadership twice? In all the confusion that is bound to ensue in a hung parliament, the one thing we know is this – people hunger for change. Both our economic and democratic systems are in crisis – neither is working. The fall of free markets for the few and the rise of free social media for the many will ensure a permanent sense of dislocation until a new progressive settlement can be achieved. The question is how?
We don’t know what is going to happen next, it looks like a Tory/DUP minority regressive alliance. But that looks hard to sustain given the need to negotiate Brexit. Much more likely is another election sometime soon. Brace yourselves.
Labour has had a good campaign – by standing firmly on moral terrain the Party has tapped into this mood for change. But to win the 50 seats or more to govern can’t be achieved on the basis of one more heave. It will take a much more expansive political and cultural offer if we are to build on this encouraging result.
Cooperation is the future
That next phase must start with a clear-eyed view of what has happened. It looks like Labour has been a massive beneficiary of the Progressive Alliance led by Compass. Corbyn’s Labour has rightly attracted many left voters but many have lent Labour their vote. And we know that many candidates stood aside for the them in the interests of something much bigger than any one party. In Oxford West and Abingdon, Twickenham, Ealing Central, Workington, and scores more seats, progressives working together beat the Tories. If Labour nationally had cooperated with other progressive parties, then this result could have been so much better. It was so rewarding to see so many seats come in where the Progressive Alliance made all the difference – but so frustrating to watch results where it could have worked, like Richmond Park and St. Ives, if only Labour nationally had cooperated with others.
Labour needs to be generous and magnanimous, and show solidarity and fairness, with the Greens in particular, or that soft support will disappear.
People made the difference
And we all need to recognize that the remarkable development of this election is the way local campaigns, alliances and tactical voting have played a massive part in the result. It was people on the ground who negotiated to stand aside, to work together and to support each other. And is was a revived Labour membership base that has people on the ground. It wasn’t just May that lost last night, but the Mail and the Sun. At a superficial level this looks like the return to two party politics, but just below the surface the power of people to act and think for themselves and work together is now really starting to shape our politics. This trend is only going to be accelerated.
So too will be the demands for proportional representation. The only justification for first past the post is that it delivers strong government. That just isn’t true and more. After 2010, 2015 and now a truly hung parliament must come the recognition that stability comes from negotiated cooperation in government and the sharing of power. If there is to be a progressive majority for this country then it can be won and sustained via a commitment to introduce a fair voting system.
People now move from party to party – looking to find answers to their hunger for security and their need for freedom and a sustainable environment. Whatever looks like change, feels authentic and is anti establishment grabs their attention – until the crowd moves on. We can and must fight many things - inequality, climate change and wasted lives - but what we can’t and should not fight is the culture of our age: a culture of Likes and Shares, of cooperation and collaboration, networks and connections.
This is where the idea of the Progressive Alliance kicks in. Not only has it helped stop the Tories but it has given people a taste of the politics of the future in which people who share values fight the Tories, not each other in pursuit of a more equitable, democratic and sustainable society.
In the last six weeks our focus rightly has been on the transactional end of politics – of seats, candidates and votes. But the progressive alliance is about much more than this; it’s about doing politics differently in a spirit of collaboration and common purpose. And to win hearts and minds we must build support for our progressive goals and explain what a post neo-liberal sustainable economy looks like, how we build our relationship with Europe and establish a 21st century democracy. There can no radical social transformation without a radical; democratic transformation. It is clearer than ever that the UK needs a progressive alliance.
The next few days are going to be bumpy to say the least. All we now know is we must focus on the ideas, organization and relationships that will build the foundations of a new politics – a politics that can transform our country. We understand better now than ever the limits of the old politics and the limitlessness of the new. Change doesn’t come from Westminster, it comes to Westminster.
We should rejoice that the Tories have been stopped in their tracks and with it a rush to hard Brexit. And we should celebrate our role in that. But now the hard work begins of building on the extraordinary campaign we have just gone though. We want a politics of love and hope, that meets our dreams and goes beyond them, a politics that is as desirable as it is feasible. We now know we can do it – but only if we do it together.
Add your name if you want to a new type of politics:
You have been incredible in all this and we cannot thank you enough.
All at Compass & the Progressive Alliance