With the general election just six short weeks away, there is a rising clamour – from some who consider themselves to be on the left for the forming of progressive electoral pacts as a strategy to defeat the Tories. They claim that somehow an alliance stretching from the Liberal Democrats – Cameron’s alliance lapdogs – via the Greens and others could possibly deliver the magic bullet that will blasts the Tories out of office in June.
I remember similar calls throughout the 1980s and 1990s which lead to nothing more than press chatter. The need to fill today’s endless online column inches, twittersphere and the running commentariat, tied to the old mainstream media, is today making that chatter sound even louder. But now, as then, such extra-Labour Party pacts represents only the politics of despair – not the politics or policies of hope. Now as in 1997, the Tories can be swept out of office by Labour on our own.
The idea that my enemy’s enemy is my friend is a narrowing of our political discourse to the lowest common denominator. The Fib-Dems manifesto will not advocate a £10 minimum wage, the re-nationalisation of our railways or, the repeal of anti-union laws.
Indeed, as the Tories’ 2010 alliance poodles, they ended up on the wrong side of progress and even abolished their own commitment to abolish tuition fees. Put simply, electoral alliances only usurp any kind of radical change. As we in Labour know, it’s difficult enough to put an election manifesto together when we are all in the same party, never mind undertaking a mission impossible of trying to cobble together policies emanating from people from different traditions and aspirations.
Why would voters fall for new electoral alliances? Why would staunch Labour supporters now put their cross against candidates who don’t represent either our shared party or any of our Labour values? Why would anyone we help deprive of voting for the party of their choice in any part of our country then deliver more people through the polling booths?
The reason we have political parties is because they stand for different visions for our democratic futures. Yes, there are areas where policies overlap but, there are also areas of huge difference. If you build an alliance based on consensus, the radical edges will be dropped like hot potatoes and voters will be left with less of a democratic choice.
In any case, Britain already has an established progressive coalition: it’s called the Labour Party. From social democrats to Marxists and, everything else in between, we have cohabited within our party for well over a century. Admittedly, like any other long-lasting relationship, at times, our partnership has been very rocky. Yet because our shared commitment to progress over reaction is bigger tags all of us, we have always managed to keep our show on the road. Labour Party members understand that together, we and our party are the vehicle by which social justice and progressive change can be delivered. Our party now has more members than ever and, our successful history in government speaks for itself!
So, we might not always agree with each other but, in the immortal words of Jo Cox, “We have more in common than that which divides us.” Now is the time to show it.
We are mostly a disciplined bunch who hang around even when things aren’t going our way because we know that politics can change very quickly. Labour represents the politics of hope. Without Labour candidates, there can be no hope of change in our constituencies or our country. If we deny our people, our Labour family members and those beyond who want to vote in the hope of a brighter more equal future, we condemn them to the politics of despair. That’s not the democratic way. It’s not the Labour way. And it is certainly not the way to deliver a Labour victory on June 8.
Labour candidates, Labour constituencies, and the Labour Party all make a difference. We make a difference most when we are in power. We all know Labour’s raison d’être is to beat the enemy of our people – the Tories and their divisive, destructive policies. The election is nigh and we now need all hands on Labour’s decks. Not ship-jumpers. That’s why as a socialist, over the next seven weeks, I will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Labour Party comrades, be they social democrats or Marxists, to deliver a Corbyn-led Labour government. Nothing else matters. Don’t panic. Focus. If you want to change our country for the better, don’t listen to useless chatter. Don’t let the twittersphere make a twit of you – or worse still a Tory! Join with Labour and together, let’s defeat the Tories and set our minds on the prize of a Labour government on June 9.
Manuel Cortes is general secretary of the TSSA.