Sunday, May 09, 2010

Where things stand after the UK election: the progressive alliance?

It is the morning after the day before the morning after the day before . . . and so on. The party winning the most votes and seats, but not an overall majority (the Conservative Party) are in talks with the party that came third (the Liberal Democrats). A deal between them would oust the party that came second (Labour) which is currently in power.

Much of the analysis has looked at what the Tories and Lib Dems would have in common. These items might include scrapping ID cards, cutting bureaucratic overspend, etc. Nevertheless, the two parties have far more difference than similarities. Virtually every Lib Dem supporter I have spoken with since the election threaten to switch their political allegiance to anyone but the Tories and Lib Dems if the latter do a deal with the former.

What has been coming out recently are overtures from other parties, including the Scottish National Party, to form "a progressive alliance" (see here). Indeed, this alliance would bring together virtually all parties but the Conservative Party. Its aim? Endorsement of progressive politics. Reform the voting system. Tackle the budget deficit while trying to secure frontline services, such as the NHS.

What is surprising to me is that while many parties may be interested in a deal with the Labour Party, it isn't clear who really wants a deal with the Tories. Sure, the Lib Dems are holding meetings now, but the speculation is that at best (for the Tories) the Lib Dems will agree not to vote against the Queen's Speech and key bills that Conservatives would like to see take shape. The only party that did have an interest in joining a coalition with the Conservatives -- the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) -- had the small, little problem of, well, losing every contest it entered: there will be no UUP MPs in the new Parliament.

Verdict? When the one party that wants to join forces with you loses every seat it contests, then you have a friend problem. The Conservatives may well fight against any attempt to make the UK's electoral system more fair because the fact is they can only gain power these days through the first-past-the-post (FPTP). As a whole, the UK is not a conservative or right-centre country. The evidence is that where the Tories come up short they have no genuine allies to find common cause . . . at least allies who might win at least one seat.

No comments: