08 May 2010

So what about this 'Progressive Alliance' then?

Alex Salmond has today floated the possibility of a 'Progressive Alliance', which basically would involve everyone but the Tories.

It would, of course, involve Labour (258 seats) and the LibDems (57). They still wouldn't command a majority (they'd have only 315), but it wouldn't obviously involve the SNP and Plaid, with nine seats together: that would yield a total of 324: enough under the circumstances, but would also involve the SDLP's three MPs, pushing it over the line. It would probably involve Caroline Lucas and the Alliance's Naomi Long as well. That makes 329 MPs.

And each of the parties involved has a precedent for working with others. The SDLP take the Labour Whip. I have it on the most excellent authority that Naomi Long will take the LibDem Whip. The SNP and Plaid are in close co-operation and sit together in the European Free Alliance Group in the European Parliament, which is tied up with the Greens so will have been working alongside Caroline Lucas for nearly eleven years.

As well as that, Labour are in coalition with Plaid in the Welsh Assembly, while they have been in Coalition with the LibDems in both Scotland (1999-2007) and Wales (2000-03). And as a result of the vote on the new Northern Irish Justice Minister, the SDLP's Margaret Ritchie now finds herself working with the Alliance's David Ford.

So the precedents are there. But really, it's not going to happen. And it shouldn't happen.

For this to work, it needs a massive array of parties to get round a table and negotiate - it's far too unwieldy. And it also requires a lot of people to get over a lot of psychological barriers due to the mutual hostility between some of the parties that's accumulated over the years. Plus which, as Jonathan Calder notes, Labour have basically laughed the idea out of the room and by extension, laughed themselves onto the Opposition benches. Well, after spending the campaign warning of the dangers of a Tory Government, if they would prefer to usher one in rather than work with the SNP, that's their circle to square!

But more importantly, it just doesn't seem right to keep Labour in office: they've been in office for thirteen years, and now find themselves shorn of their majority by the electorate. They may well be in first place in Scotland and Wales, and the alternative may well have come a poor fourth in Scotland and Northern Ireland - but the bottom line is that overall, Labour have lost first place in the UK as a whole.

Besides, I just argued in favour of a minority Government and I can't change my tune just because this Coalition wouldn't involve the Tories. A minority Government is the best solution and a Labour minority Government, under the circumstances, just isn't credible.

And I hate to say this, but how would the First Minister have liked it if, two days after the 2007 Holyrood Election, Annabel Goldie or Nicol Stephen had come out in favour of a 'Unionist alliance' which would have come together to deny him office as this proposal would deny David Cameron? He'd be sick, and rightly so.

So no, I don't see this idea working or beneficial. I don't want a Tory Government either, but sadly, there comes a time where we have to just bite the bullet and accept firstly that it's coming, and secondly that it has to come now, like it or not. And let's face it, if Labour arrogance is going to help bring it about anyway, then what else can we do?


douglas clark said...

I think you are right, unfortunately.

I hope the LIbDems stay out of a full coalition with the Conservatives, on the grounds that despite being an SNP member, I intend to revert to Liberal after independence. I'd like there to be a party left!

DougtheDug said...

Alex Salmond has today floated the possibility of a 'Progressive Alliance', which basically would involve everyone but the Tories.

I doubt if Alex ever thought the idea was a runner. However, the Labour party in Scotland cannot now accuse the SNP of welcoming a Tory Government in Westminster or allowing a Labour Government to fall by default.

If the SNP had just stood back and let the Labour Government fall then it would have become all their fault by the time the 2011 election rolled round.

Sophia Pangloss said...

Think ye're right an' aw. Clegg's right tae gie the idea due consideration, but ah hope he comes oot the morn an' says 'Naw. It widnae work'

Ah'm a bit like douglas, ah'd raither keep the liberals oot o' harm's way, in case ah want tae vote fer them in Scotland, whenever that is.

eeore said...

This progressive alliance is a non-starter given devolution.

If a deal ever gets done, the press will wake up and the West Lothian Question will come to the fore like never before.

Does Gordon Brown really believe that English voters will accpet him at the head of a government in which the two largest parties - Labour and the Lib Dems - have 191 and 43 English MP's respectively - opposed to 300 English conseravtive MPs - especially when most of the legislation this rag bag will be creating applies only to England?

forfar-loon said...

transfattyacid, I'm surprised there's not more talk of the Tory majority in the rest of the UK. Maybe in the Sunday papers tomorrow...

Richard T said...

At the risk of being cynical does anyone seriously expect that Labour will get into bed with the SNP with the Holyrood elections next year? You've mentioned the very fragmented nature of the putative government alliance and, setting aside any questions of right or wrong, I don't see Labour whoever might lead them laying themselves open to being put over a barrel by the SNP by a threat of withdrawal or give us oor money or we go.