Uxbridge should not today be a Tory seat. The fact that it is down to a number of factors, elections always are, but the fact that the Lib Dem vote was more than the Tory victory over Labour cannot be avoided.
Compass calls these results Progressive Tragedies – seats where the progressive vote is larger than the regressive vote but the Tory party wins because progressives are divided. At the last election there were 62 of these tragedies, more than enough to take Johnson’s thumping majority away. If such tragedies are to be avoided at the next general election then progressive party leaders, and in particular Sir Keir Starmer and Sir Ed Davey, need to get their act together.
Labour should not, as some now fear, use this loss as an excuse to ‘cut the green crap’ in fear of losing votes to the Conservatives on issues such as ULEZ. As we have seen, the combined progressive vote in Uxbridge outweighed the Conservative vote. Going forward, if Labour determines to work together more closely with other progressives, it could avoid capitulating further on progressive issues. The Tories may have made the by-election a single issue campaign but they didn’t win – progressives just lost because the vote was split. Progressives must present a united front in order to achieve a just green transition for all.
What purpose did standing a candidate at all in Uxbridge and Ruislip do for the Liberal Democrats- particularly when the Labour candidate spoke in favour of “reform to our democratic system”? Under our corrupt first past the post voting system all it achieves is to allow the Tories to win on a minority of the vote. Over in Somerton and Frome, Labour’s 1000 votes could have been enough to deny the Liberal Democrats a win if that race had been closer. As things stand, at the next election there will be scores of seats in which progressives divide and the Tories will conquer.
It is exactly this kind of cross-party working to defeat the Tories and usher in proportional representation that Neal Lawson, Director of Compass, is in the process of being expelled from the Labour Party for advocating. It is entirely self-defeating.
Compass calls on the leaderships of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties to get round the table with the leadership of the Greens and decide who is best placed in which seats to defeat the Tories. This should form the basis of a one time only pact for the next general election, to win office and pass legislation in favour of electoral reform so that every subsequent election every vote is counted equally and the Tories cannot govern alone on a minority of the vote because the progressive vote splits.
As the Labour Party goes into a crucial weekend at its National Policy Forum it is essential that the Party emerges with the strongest possible backing for proportional representation, which is the step the Party membership, the unions and the country want to see happen. By backing electoral reform Labour can turbocharge cross party working and incentivise Liberal Democrat and Green voters to support the best-placed Labour candidates in the knowledge that at any subsequent election everyone’s votes will count equally. This is the big policy change which the Conservatives most fear.
At some stage soon, the Mid Bedfordshire by-election is likely to be called. As things stand this could well be yet another progressive tragedy.