The Case for a Progressive Alliance

The UK system of government is not fit for purpose. It evolved during an age of two party hegemony. Today we have a plethora of political parties and a huge pro-democracy civil society (over 750+ organisations at the last count), mainly because few people feel that the political system is working well and being inclusive.

This diversity regularly results in calls are for a Progressive Alliance to oppose the right-wing parties, chiefly the Conservative Party.  That concept is a very broad church.

After the Brexit vote of 2016 and the Conservative win in 2019, these calls have been increasing. The electoral maths in England, faced with a near-total hegemony for the SNP in Scotland, makes an Alliance the only viable option for removing a majority of 80 seats earned from a minority of the popular vote (44%). 

There has not been a majority government in the United Kingdom since 1931 when the Conservatives won 55% of the popular vote.  The level of participation in elections is also falling as people do not believe their vote makes a difference, as the political class largely carries on as usual.

In 2019 there was a 67.3% turn out for the General election, up from a nadir of 59.4%. These numbers must be put into context. There has been a general global trend since the 1980s of more people, especially those between 18 and 24, not registering to vote and many who are registered not voting.

This is an indicator of a dying democracy. if people cannot be bothered to vote we should all be worried.

But under our ‘First Past the Post’ system, can you blame them? Geography plays a massive part in elections and will favour the Conservatives even more if the proposed boundary changes go through. If you live in a ‘safe seat’ where one party wins every single election, your vote is effectively worthless. If you’re not heard you’ll eventually stop shouting. The problem is that this leads to political parties, and indeed many MPs, just ignoring you. Thanks to FPTP we’re caught in a negative feedback loop.

So to reinvigorate our politics, we need a new approach – and the most fundamental change we need is for Proportional Representation, which is an anchor for any Progressive Alliance. By agreeing to change the voting system, we would open up British politics for everyone’s benefit. All voices could be heard. Parties and candidates would have to work harder in every constituency in the country to do well at General Elections. Your vote would count so you would be more likely to use it. 

It’s Reboot’s view that a Progressive Alliance would also have to address our constitution and the state of the Union.  Devolution has created forces that will smash the Union apart unless the United Kingdom’s constitution is changed to reflect an equal relationship between the nations. England needs its own Parliament too. We hope that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would agree that some things need to be done together. We can work out how best to do them in a fair discussion of equals. We also need to address the UK Prime Minister’s role and the relationship of the government with Parliament.  Reboot believes regional citizen’s conventions, supported by expert advice,  are the way forward to inform and engage people in this change.

For Reboot, these are the three bottom lines for any short-term Progressive Alliance. In addition,  the Climate and social justice emergencies must be prioritised by any such government.

But first, we have to make it happen. Please join us and sign The Pledge.