Exploding onto the scene with all the impact of a sodden paper bag landing in a puddle, someone has launched Progressive Alliance UK, seeking “to build a broad alliance of progressives from across the centre and left of British politics to end Conservative rule”. The aim is to somehow bring together everyone
vaguely nice progressive into one big electoral alliance that will enable the Tories to be defeated at the next election and allow for everyone to receive their very own unicorn.
I mock, but the idea does appear to be driven mostly by wishful thinking, imagining that ‘progressives’ will be able to overcome their differences thanks to a call for pragmatism and sweep to victory over the Tories. That there doesn’t seem to be much of a desire for pragmatism and co-operation from many of the supposed progressives right now isn’t acknowledged, with an assumption that all everyone needs to do is realise that this is is the only way to beat the Tories and come together to achieve it.
Trying to bring together the British centre-left/left/progressive/anti-Tory (delete as preferred) forces into one electoral alliance isn’t anything new, of course. The Liberal-Labour split has been lamented almost continually by some in the century or more since it happened. Realigning British politics to either unite the ‘progressive’ parties or creating a new party to achieve the same aim has been the dream of many politicians, though with at best limited success. Indeed, as I’ve written about somewhat extensively, the most successful anti-Tory alliance was perhaps the informal one of Blair and Ashdown in the 90s, rather than any formal arrangement.
This flags up what the problem would be for any ‘Progressive Alliance’ now. Blair and Ashdown not only got on well personally, they were close politically, which made working together a much easier prospect, even if they couldn’t persuade their parties to go for a formal alliance. Trying to put together any sort of alliance now would require Tim Farron and Jeremy Corbyn to suddenly discover a lot of common ground that doesn’t seem too evident in Farron’s latest call to Labour members to come and join the Liberal Democrats. And if you thought the problems of getting two parties into an electoral alliance were too easy to resolve, then the Progressive Alliance have a great challenge for you, as you’ll need to find a way to bring in the Greens and the SNP as well (poor Plaid Cymru don’t get a mention). I’m not quite sure who’s going to bridge that massive gap, if it even can be bridged, but it’ll take more than hopeful words on the internet to manage it.