A big opportunity to push for PR

A big opportunity for a push towards Proportional Representation now presents

The opposition parties’ cooperative achievement in parliament has been remarkable. They and all of us owe a huge debt of gratitude to the admirable 21 Tory MPs who have risked sacrificing their party career futures.

But even allowing for the 21, the government’s working majority is history. Painfully aware of this, it is transparently in bullying and cajoling mode trying to force a general election. Its poll ratings – inexplicably to some of us – look promising. They look unstoppable if you factor in a last-minute pact with the Brexit Party.

So far, the opposition parties are not biting. With a will they can organise themselves not only to turn down an early election but to hold one off for a long time. Let’s suppose, without taking anything for granted yet, that their efforts do end up materialising the following three conditions:

  • no deal is dead and buried this side of an election

  • a referendum with remain on the ballot is a collectively agreed policy

  • Article 50 is extended

The first two, once in place, make the EU extremely amenable to the third. We have the ingredients for a government of national unity (GNU). Why not keep the reactionary, confrontational populist leadership on the other side pinned where it can do little harm?

A GNU is not without problem but with the three conditions in place, it seems stupid to let it fall purely on the leadership issue. For short term purposes, that is relatively trivial alongside other far more significant aims and objectives. In other words, don’t get hung up on compromise, get down to negotiation.

Let’s start with electoral reform. The Liberal-Democrats: What’s wrong with ‘We want two or three in the cabinet but we aren’t that fussy about who leads provided that we get a meaningfully defined push towards real PR effected in the remainder of this parliament.’

The SNP: ‘We want three or four in the cabinet but we aren’t that fussy about who leads provided none here opposes our plans for Indy 2 nor interfere in campaigning north of the border,’ adding, ‘Scots are old enough and ugly enough to make up their minds on their own. And yes, despite the fact that we have benefited from FPTP, we also want PR because it is democratically fair.’

Labour: ‘We would want to lead and it is right, from our perspective, that Jeremy heads it. We have some red lines on policies we want to introduce early on. Here they are…….Agree to those and we could potentially steer things steadily towards a referendum in the spring. Condition is that we retain unity and we don’t start arranging alliances within alliances until the Brexit issue has cleared.’

Minor parties and independents: support could be crucial. A few are known to have wanted electoral reform for some time. A few more might now be seeing the need for it in the light of the current constitutional and trust crises and the troubling limitations of two-party politics exposed by Brexit  Most would favour a delayed election and very few do not want a referendum.

The 21: Would favour a referendum and a delayed election; presumably they have a lot of work to do first bringing their party back to ‘all nation Conservatism’ (their term not ours). Immersive working with Labour is out of the question. Issue by issue support on Brexit related decision making, however, is very feasible.

If there is no current legal or constitutional barrier to GNU containing the Tory-DUP pact powerless as late as 2022 if judicious to do so, surely the advantage has to be used. The opposition parties are already in the driving seat.

They must calm down and think carefully about how much they need to risk an early election:

this side of Brexit or a referendum, do Labour seriously think they can win enough votes to form the largest party?

look at the polls – where on Earth are they going to pick up the necessary votes from?

at this point, how can an election focus much attention away from issues other than unresolved Brexit?

the heat and volatility of the current situation is treacherous – this is not a re-run of 2017.

how can anyone block the Tories and BXP from forming a last minute pre-election pact?

imagine parliament when they install a populist stooge as speaker.

what chance of a referendum if the populists win the election?

what chance of Indy2 if English nationalistic populism gets a hold on power, and then the Scots will be wanting it desperately?

As far as this website is concerned, the most important issue of all. We’ve already said leave the EU and the chances for reform to PR slip deep down into the pan. Let the right-wing authoritarians get established and we risk things actually going in the opposite direction to PR. The base support loves “strongman government that will break the rules”.

We have an analogy for opposition parties spurning the opportunities when those three precious conditions above are in place. They would be like a small group of prisoners all in the ninth year of an eleven year sentence who have somehow managed to overpower and tie up the governor. Now instead of holding the governor hostage and negotiating a safe and careful passage to the outside they make a dash for the twenty foot tall front gate and try to scale it. They have at best a one in three chance of escaping and at least a two in three risk of capture. The penalty for failure is straight back to the cells with another five years added, all privileges withdrawn.

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