We Divide. They Conquer: If Labour struggles to win alone, what is to be done?

The Tories have been in office for a long and miserable decade. Progressive parties have suffered four defeats in a row. Many of the advances the last Labour government put in place have been undone. The General Election a year ago was so bad it looks entirely possible that we could be talking about just that: the last Labour Government.

Today we publish We Divide, They Conquer: If Labour Struggles to win alone, what is to be done? The report digs deep into the extreme difficulty of Labour’s electoral position, through analysis of the 2019 result, upcoming boundary changes, and the scale of the challenge ahead if it is to win even a tiny majority at the next  election. It also shines a light on the folly of a split progressive vote, and the tragedy of missed opportunities for progressive collaboration. Finally, the report proposes a way forward for the parties of the Centre and the Left to unite around their many shared values and strategic aims.

Click here to read the report, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Click here to register for our cross-party Zoom rally with Caroline Lucas, Jon Cruddas, Layla Moran, Clive Lewis, and Tommy Sheppard. We’ll be marking the anniversary of the last election, and starting the work of alliance building we need to win next time.

3 thoughts on “We Divide. They Conquer: If Labour struggles to win alone, what is to be done?

  1. It’s good an see an umbrella organisation kind of approach towards progressive co-operation. The party’s will not make much headway on their own when our system is deeply tribal and the Labour party’s deeply split, hating itself as much as it thinks it hates the LibDems. I am not sure how the left of the Labour party can be bought round to this idea of co-operation, but it has to for it to work. Trust needs to be established on all sides of the political left if we are to achieve PR.

    Not only do we have Boundary changes in prospect, but also the regressive voter ID system that’s going to make it ever harder to get the less advantanged to vote. In addition there’s the assualt on the electoral commission that curbs the Tories election campaign spending. Indeed a mountain to climb.

    Progressives need to create a common message of electoral reform and HoL, our relationship with Europe, rebuilding local democracy, progressive simplified tax and growth economy, UBI, truly affordable house building, climate emergency, voting from age sixteen and reinvesting in less advantaged areas to name but a few.

    With the help of the disaster that Brexit will be the Tories could be losing swathes of one nation conservatives appalled at where the natural party of governement as ended up, and this is where a progressive alliance could help the switch. All of this would need the media on board, which is no easy task. Who knows the Tories could blow themselves up in their own Brexit civil war.

  2. Thank you Neal and Grace for a very useful report which helpfully, from my perspective, presents us with a stark picture of what the future could be if we do not find a way of establishing effective opposition to the current government, and with strategies that offer a cause for hope in the future.

    I like your emphasis on the need for Labour to review their political principles. I think it essential that they set down their principles in a concrete manner as soon as possible. They may excite scorn from the media and the government but there are four years to deal with them. Voters need to be entirely clear as to what it would mean to have a Labour led administration and to the values that underpin the policies adopted. We should not be worrying about short term popularity and what is happening in the polls. These will all change in a positive direction if we capture the hearts and minds of those in the electorate who have histories of voting for progressive parties and possibly the soft Tories you refer to in the report.

    We also need to fully understand how the progressive parties will collaborate within Parliament when successful at a general election. The lessons of the 2010 – 2015 Coalition were very harsh for the Liberal Democrats and such an outcome must be avoided if an alliance is to be retained. As the report comments, who would not want Sarah Lucas at the heart of a progressive administration. All supporting a progressive alliance must be clear as to how their representatives will carry their thinking into policy and legislative decision making. This will be essential to your concept of an Open Tribe.

    I agree with your thinking that local co-operation can initiate a progressive alliance but my opinion is that it will be essential for national leaders to be, at the very least, seen to be talking and debating together. They will need to communicate with their local constituency parties as to how to reduce the risk of tribalism and to avoid identifying candidates when they are not in the Party likely to be the representative of the Progressive Alliance.

    A focus of the work needs to be on the under 45 years age group with policies developed that will be of specific interest / value to them. They are the future (not me as I am 66!!!) and we need to be presenting them with ideas as to how co-operation will work. They may well expect the radicalism that the report also refers to should an alliance gain power. The Labour Manifesto of 2017 showed real support amongst the young for radical policies that will bring social justice. Let us not forget the positives we can learn from the Corbyn era.

    I hope Compass may help with campaigns on the work of the planned Boundary Commission. I live in a safe Tory seat in Kent but its boundaries are not reflective of the make up of local populations / centres. They are designed to ensure the return of a Tory to Parliament.

    No one can argue with the greater fairness of PR but this will need to be a manifesto commitment and a medium term aim.

    I think there is a danger of focusing the development of a progressive alliance solely on the purpose of winning in 2024. While we want to do that we do not want to see any alliance established falling apart if we do not win first time around. Perhaps in some way we could tie the anticipated timescale to that for achieving climate change.

    Thanks again Compass. Such a helpful report for stimulating fresh thinking.

  3. ‘ No one can argue with the greater fairness of PR but this will need to be a manifesto commitment and a medium term aim. ‘

    It should be a manifesto commitment but to be one of the first items of legislation for the new parliament not a ‘medium term aim’. The Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and Plaid etc should demand nothing less for their co-operation. As has been said so many times before, the ball is very much in Labour’s court.

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