The snap election and Labour’s position in the polls has once again raised the idea of a Progressive Alliance and coordinated tactical voting.
Compass, the “centre left” think tank, Tony Blair, and investment manager Gina Miller have all proposed some kind of organisation aimed at stopping hard Brexit. Gina Miller, who brought the court case that forced a vote on Article 50, was able to crowdfund almost £300,0000 in 48 hours to support such an initiative.
Their argument: the majority of the population did not vote for a hard Brexit. The traditional opposition to the Tories, the Labour Party, is not likely to win the election, and is split on the issue of how to tackle Brexit. It is therefore important to get a Parliamentary majority against Brexit. This means Labour, the Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP and Greens not standing against each other in certain seats, and backing whoever is the most likely candidate that will oppose a hard Brexit.
Tony Blair has even said he is tempted to come back into British politics to oppose a hard Brexit. (Which should be the kiss of the death for the proposal). Blair says he himself will vote Labour, but to stop a hard Brexit and for an effective chance to veto or vote down any deal that does not safeguard, prosperity, jobs and trade, Brexit must be the issue the election is fought on.
Blair is right that Labour’s position on Brexit is unclear. Labour even voted in Parliament to allow the Tories to take Britain out of the single market, though it now says it wants arrangements as good as the single market. But Blair’s starting point is that Labour should not campaign on the NHS or school cuts, not just because he believes they cannot win an election, but because he is actively opposed to some of Labour’s current policies. Ironically Blair’s call for the potential backing of other parties should leave him open to expulsion according to the rules (as they are currently implemented). However, these rules are used almost solely against the left.
Chuka Umunna, one time leadership contender, a figure on the hard right of the party, and former Compass staffer, surprisingly came out against Blair: “Tony Blair is wrong... No ifs, no buts: voting Labour and maximising our position in Parliament is the best way to stop Theresa May’s hard Brexit. What the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have done to our public services in government since 2010 and the cuts to support for those on low incomes, the disabled and others in need is utterly unforgivable. Whatever common ground Labour people may have with them on Brexit, we cannot ignore or forgive this.”
Labour must have a clearer policy on fighting hard Brexit. At the same time activists must oppose moves to tie the Labour Party and by extension the labour movement to anti-working class forces; it is a political dead end.