Flying a Kite
OK – It has been a while since my last Blog post. I have been busy fighting elections, both local and European as well as organising the next Green Liberal Democrat summer conference in Nottingham for 15th June. So, in some ways this post is one outcome of several weeks/months of quite intensive politicking on my part.
As you will see from the sub-heading I am taking the opportunity to “Fly a kite”. It is an idea that popped into my head recently, one early morning on waking. I may have said this before, but I take these ideas seriously because they are usually the end point of some serious sub-conscious brain working analysis which has happened whilst my conscious mind has been sleeping. It is a process which seems to involve no biased prejudicial thoughts (not that I would ever admit to being prejudiced anyway! But conscious value-judgements do sometimes err on the side of stereotype and I feel pretty sure on the basis of over 70 years of life experience that these early morning “light-bulb” moments do not contain overt value-judgements in that way.)
The background to my “Kite” is that there has been a whole lot of complaining that the Remain parties failed to get our acts together for the European elections on 23 May. In fact we did not do badly even having said this, but there are indications that we could actually have done better with some pre-planning. There has been quite a lot of tribalistic blaming going on, on Facebook, as to who was really responsible for this lack of act-getting-togetherness.
You may be pleased to know I am not about to get into that at all, but to pose a tentative solution which could avoid a similar problem whenever the next General election turns up. Some people suggest that this may be as soon as sometime within the next six month, but I am not disposed to believe that. It would require quite a few Tory turkeys voting for Christmas and I suspect they will avoid that at all costs. If that happens there may not be sufficient time to get this kite flying before the election process overtakes us, so for the moment let us assume that we have at least 12 months grace.
It also looks as though Change UK has now hit Zombie status with six of the eleven MPs now going independent, so unless they are revived by a mass exodus of Tories if Boris succeeds to Conservative leadership, I think we may safely ignore them. Certainly the public seems already to have done so!
However, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party are still buoyant and will no doubt each be seeking to maximise their growth in popular support. The latest YouGov poll places Brexit on 26%, Lib Dem and Labour on 20%, with Conservatives languishing on 18% and Green Party on 9%.
The trouble is that the First Past the Post system will be unkind to one or other or both of our parties in many seats around the country and splitting the vote may let others (notably Brexit Party, one shudders to state) slip into winning positions. As a Green Liberal Democrat, I would very much like to encourage Lib Dems and the Green Party to fight a combined ticket, as you may imagine, which would notionally give us 29% at the TOP of the pile. However, there are several strands of tribalism that may prevent that from happening, not least from the joint leaders of the Green Party at their recent conference. It might happen in a few places, but it might not be tolerated in others. But, there may be another way….
So, here it is. My idea is that we import a notion from the USA, the idea of having a PRIMARY election process involving both parties in the most sensitive seats – i.e. those seats where both parties think they may have a winning chance. We give all registered members of both parties in such a constituency a vote to choose their agreed candidate and then both parties would throw their full support behind the agreed candidate.
Such a system does not require a merging of the parties to work, but it would require a very high level of trust and we are going to have to work to engender that trust over quite an extended period, perhaps at a regional level, sooner rather than later.
It is likely that most of the votes cast would follow party lines, but that may have two benefits. The first is that local parties will know well in advance that they should be getting busy recruiting new members – which will be good for both parties anyway. And even if the vote does go along the party line, the result will then reflect the actually strength on the ground of each party, which is fundamental to fighting a successful election anyway.
What it will avoid, is our two parties wasting energy fighting each other, when we should be spending our time fighting the REAL opposition, whether it be Brexit Party or the Tories or Labour, depending upon the area.
In a real Four-way split nationally it is not beyond the bounds of possibility we could see a Liberal /Green government – or, at the very least a Liberal and Green LED government with support from an emasculated Labour Party (which would have to choose a new leader, because the results of the Euro election showed that Lib Dems beat Labour in Islington!)
The FIRST item of business would then be to change the electoral system to bring in Proportional Representation. If the General election that produces this result was called before Brexit was settled, changing the electoral system would have to be the second item of business – the first item being the Revocation of Article 50 – WHAT A RELIEF THAT WOULD BE!