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Why The Progressive Alliance Is A Non-Starter For Liberal Democrats

03/05/2017 08:22
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With every opinion poll that passes, the crushing realisation that the Tory stranglehold on Britain is getting closer and closer to reality sets in.

In futile attempts to resist the tide of a robotic Prime Minister driven by vacuous soundbites, several people on the anti-Tory roster have called for a so-called 'Progressive Alliance' between Labour, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats.

There is no set definition on what is meant by 'progressive', at least there isn't from people calling for this alliance. Labour are left-of-centre economically, but not more so than the Greens, who are generally civil libertarians, but not to the extent of the Liberal Democrats, who are further to the right economically of both parties.

In fact, the only over-arching commonality of the three parties seems to be that they don't like the Tories very much. Yet, our visions for the future of the United Kingdom are fundamentally different.

It is hard, and nigh on idiotic to argue against political parties working together to reach common goals, and under the somewhat unfair First-Past-the-Post electoral system, there is tactical credence to the argument. Of course, what is often forgotten when engaging in political debate is that all sides are trying to make things better - but have different rationales to achieve that.

However, what is troubling about calls for a 'Progressive Alliance' for my party is that it requires it to become an extension of the Labour Party, which is by far the largest of the three, and the only one currently capable of governing alone.

But simply put, the Liberal Democrats do not exist to act as an external pressure group for the Labour Party. Whilst they may be marginally preferred to the traditional enemy in the Conservatives, there are plenty within the Lib Dems, myself included, who find both equally unpalatable.

Why would the party want to alienate half of its membership by helping to elect a party it has rightly derided as the worst opposition in the history of British democracy?

Labour have actually held more in common with the Conservatives themselves on the biggest issue of the day, Brexit, than the Liberal Democrats - by voting through Article 50 without a single concession on securing the rights of EU nationals or Single Market membership. Which is why a coalition with either has been ruled out by the party.

A 'Progressive Alliance' will only patronise the electorate and reinforce the binary nature of politics that has left the country so divided. By treating the Lib Dems and Greens as sidekicks and interchangeable with one of the two main parties, we will only stoke the tribality on which Labour and the Tories thrive. We have got to get better at politicking in this country - and plurality will be crucial to that process.

Despite all of this, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are often still lumped together. The economic ideologies of the Lib Dem membership are broad; from socialists on the left, to neoliberal anarcho-capitalists on the right - but it is fundamentally united by one thing - it's commitment to liberalism.
The Labour Party has often traded on an underserved reputation of being a socially permissive soft-liberal party but has time after time failed to make any stand resembling liberalism.

They continue to support the failed status quo of the war on drugs, they have persistently cowered to the anti-immigration rhetoric of the right, and worst of all waved through the government's disgustingly draconian Snooper's Charter without a second thought.

I'll tell a lie, I did research the definition of political 'progressivism' before writing this article and it is underpinned by a desire for social reform. However, it is clear to me that Labour's historical unwillingness to radically approach the big social issues of our time makes them as regressive as they come.

Not only would a tactical allegiance with the Labour Party by unendearing to large swathes of Lib Dem supporters and tactically silly - it would be fallacious. Labour are no progressives at all, and the Liberal Democrats should stand on their own two feet.

Thanks, but no thanks.

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