Heidi Allen, the ex-Tory MP for South Cambridgeshire, has launched a new campaign called Unite to Remain. The essence of it is to create a Remain alliance, one in which certain parties step aside in seats to allow Remain parties who have a better chance of winning a clear run.
Allen herself pointed to the fact that Plaid and the Greens have stepped down in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election in a few weeks time.
“Our country is crying out for mature and progressive politics, not a Government elected to pursue old ideology from the Left or Right. We need to work together to increase the number of MPs who can bring this aspiration to life.”
I agree with Heidi on this point. However, Unite to Remain is a bad idea. The reason for this is Politics 101. In fact, I am tempted to call it the most important rule in politics: if something can be made to be simple, make it simple. Some things need to be complex to make any sense at all, but never make things more complex than they absolutely need to be.
A united Remain campaign can work in a one-off by-election, particularly when Boris Johnson is about to become the prime minister and the two parties who are stepping down might well have lost their deposits anyhow, so thin is their usual vote share in the constituency. Yet spread across 650 constituencies – or, at least, 564 when you take out Northern Ireland because of the different politics and Scotland because the SNP won’t play ball – it becomes mindbogglingly complex. Let’s look at just one seat as an example: Ceredigion. Currently held by Plaid after winning it off the Lib Dems by a mere 104 votes at the 2017 general election, it was a Lib Dem seat between 2005 and 2017. Before that, it was in Plaid’s hands from 1992 until 2005 (even surviving a 2000 by-election). In other words, here is a proper Lib Dem-Plaid Cymru marginal. What does the Remain alliance do here? The Lib Dems can argue that now that they are polling in the twenties, they are best placed to take it; Plaid can counter that they currently have it so they should be allowed to keep it. Who is right here? Neither, of course. They should just run against each other and see who wins.
Even if you could get over fights in seats contested by parties that are both Remain oriented, what happens if this Alliance manages to get a majority in parliament between them all? How does the government work in even the most basic terms? Surely even the smallest party can claim that they deserve a cabinet position, since they could well have won the seats they stood down in for the sake of the group. What about independents like Allen herself? How would they first into such a government?
This is overly complicated for me and I spent most of my waking life obsessing about this crap; it is way, way, way too complicated for the general voting public. Thankfully, there is something much simpler on hand than Unite to Remain: it’s called joining the Lib Dems.
Independents, Independent Groups for Change, please, just join the Lib Dems. You’re either going to do so or lose your seat – why not strengthen the Lib Dem surge with your joining and then work from there. Just keep it simple.
Paul Barker says
The TIGs are almost irrelevant to the question of an Alliance, the important Parties are The Libdems & Greens. Yes any deal would have to include the principles for a minimum program of Government, that could be settled if we keep our eyes on the prize.
South Cambridgeshire is basically a safe Tory seat, but given she’s left the Conservative party, becoming a Lib Dem is far and away her best bet of hanging on there.
But the Lib Dems have already selected their candidate for that constituency for the next election, and presumably he doesn’t see why he should stand aside for a defector. So that option’s not open to her.
So her only chance of hanging on at all is if the Lib Dems simply don’t stand against her.
And what does she suggest? Oh… that the Lib Dems shouldn’t stand against her.
The whole thing is so transparently self-serving that it’s absurd.
Paul W says
The Lib Dems are strong in South Cambridgeshire local government. That doesn’t mean to say that the local government Lib Dem vote will carry through to the parliamentary vote. But it helps. I would guess that Heidi Allen will be given a free run – what the French would call ‘desistement’ on the part of the Lib Dems – at the next election (assuming she intends to stand again).
The really interesting question is why Allen and most of her ex-TIG colleagues haven’t joined the Lib Dems before now.
I would guess that Heidi Allen will be given a free run – what the French would call ‘desistement’ on the part of the Lib Dems – at the next election (assuming she intends to stand again).
I don’t see any reason to think that. As I wrote, the Lib Dems have already picked a candidate. They intend to contest the seat, and I don’t see any willingness on their part to not do so. All I see is Allen begging them not to, because she knows she has no chance of keeping the seat in a Liberal Democrat candidate runs against her.
Paul W says
Well, perhaps the sitting Lib Dem PPC won’t stand down (they have been there before in the early 1980s). But all they will do is split the Remain vote between themselves, a fight that might spill over into other seats. To be honest I’m not bothered. It looks too much like minority party bald men (so to speak) fighting over a comb territory. The real fight will be elsewhere and on a bigger scale.
Susan McCormack says
Because the electoral system in this country is “first past the post” many of us have been unfairly treated for years, with MPs often having less than 50% of the total vote. The only long term answer is proportional voting. However we shall never get there unless the minority parties agree to work together.
The Cambridgeshire seat is not typical. Many seats will not yet have candidates from everyparty. It may not be possible to get agreement for a blanket agreement but we need one in any constituency where the “remain” vote in total looks likely to be greater than the “leave”. This is a one off, at a most crucial time. If we don’t agree a series of deals we shall see a Brexit minority doing untold damage.
Mark Lucas says
If the crucial point is to maximise the chances to stop Brexit or at least avoid a no-deal, there is no “simpler” option than persuading remainers to vote tactically at the next general election. I voted Lib-Dem at the European elections because they were proportional. Parliamentary elections, as Susan McCormach point out, are not. Every current sitting MP that is committed to remain – or at least a Poeple’s Vote, especially the most vocal advocates like Heidi Allen, deserves every Remainer’s support. We need the attention that these well-known faces bring to the crisis of our time. We need all the airtime recognised pro-EU personalities can grasp if we want the remain message to resonate with the electorate. If the Remain Parties cannot get together in a formal alliance, the best thing a remainer can do is to root for an organisation that fields no candidates, but campaigns like a party for sitting committed remainer MPs and a remainer candidate most likely to win a consitutuency whatever party they are from. Or in solid leave constituencies, perhaps a candidate that is against a no deal. Unless something better comes along, the goal of Unite to Remain remains the best chance we have of stopping the madness at this late hour.
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