Much has been written since Brexit about the need for a Progressive Alliance within British politics. This initiative has not materialised as opposition parties have failed to work together. Apart from Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, Labour moderates like Lisa Nandi, Chukka Umana and Dan Jarvis and Shirley Williams of the Liberal Democrats; no party leader has yet responded positively. The reasons are vested in tribalism, as no-one wants to take the lead, possibly lose their Party identity, or receive the ire of their members. They are thinking party not Country!
This sad, if understandable attitude, is allowing a most draconian right wing Tory government to have free rein to do whatever they wish. With no effective opposition, there is the real danger of perpetual Tory Government and by allowing Theresa May to pack the Electoral Commission on the boundary review, with her acolytes, other parties become irrelevant. The current Conservative Government was elected by only 24% of those entitled to vote so has no political legitimacy. The electorate never voted for the present Prime Minister or gave her a mandate to propagate her repressive views.
The idea of a Progressive Alliance is not new. The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats preceded our entry into the EU and was formed in 1953; being the second oldest political group in the European Parliament, adopting its present name in 2009 as a Centre-left group of social-democrats.
In her Guardian article (December 16, 2016) Shirley Williams confirms that the Conservative Government under Theresa May is ‘divided on issues from social care to education.’ Williams goes on ‘But to protect those in need, parties of the centre and left must overcome their tribal differences.’
On most important issues, opposition parties have shared concerns, principles and convictions on subjects like social care for the elderly, the continuation of free health care for the sick through the NHS, the support for comprehensive education and the opposition to new grammar schools. There is little reason why they cannot work together to form a strong opposition on these and related issues.
When Brexit negotiations begin in earnest we will quickly see the erosion of hard won protections such as workers’ rights, parental leave and holidays, plunging the Just About Managing (JAMs) into deeper debt and restricting their achievement. Upward mobility will be but a dream. The limitation on free movement of skilled workers will decimate the NHS and care for the elderly with no protection for the poor and vulnerable. That excludes loss of initiatives on climate change, regulations on drugs, animal welfare etc. To preserve all we hold dear in a civilised society, we must develop a strong opposition.
Williams recognises ‘Parties of the centre and left are highly unlikely to merge or become one party.’ She proposes a coming together on specific issues that embody the common ground and every party shares. We must not loose to an oppressive and tyrannical Conservative agenda the values we all share on the liberal left.
Williams opines :
‘The price of tribalism is conceding to the government so much that we value in our country.’
We must agree that these values should not be forfeited, the only way forward is by working together issue by issue for the good of the country and future generations.
Dr. Lesley Hendy