A recent report from the Fabian Society has suggested that the time may have come for the Labour Party to seek new ways of winning power. The report concluded that the Labour Party has little chance of winning the 2020 General Election and should consider working with parties such as the SNP and the Liberal Democrats in order to return to government.
Previously the idea of a progressive alliance had been raised by front-bencher Clive Lewis who claimed that working with other parties was essential to beating the Conservatives. This advice has largely been rejected by the party but with the current polls placing Labour in a disastrous position, is the Labour Party really in a position where they can afford to ignore such advice?
From a purely electoral perspective the benefits seem clear. In seats where Labour are the main opposition they can be given a free run at the Conservatives and where Labour are too far behind they can allow a better placed party a free run. Logically the end result would be progressive parties being more competitive in more seats and thus giving the Labour Party and its new allies a better chance of being in power. So what is the downside?
Tactically this sort of deal could prove very difficult. For instance could the parties who are used to fighting each other agree to work with each other and would local party constituencies be happy with any deal. From a policy angle there are also slight but clear differences between the parties. Could Labour act with a party that supports independence for Scotland in the SNP or a second referendum in the Liberal Democrats? Lastly in this scenario you have to consider the response of the opposition. The Conservatives were incredibly successful at playing on voters fears of an SNP-Labour coalition at the last election and would happily go back to their old playbook.
Rightly or wrongly at present the Labour Party still considers themselves a party of government. Therefore for the time being any permanent deal with opposition parties will be firmly rejected. Occasionally at a by-election or local elections pacts may be struck but don’t expect this to be a common theme. The Labour Party may well be on its way to its worst defeat in living memory, but regardless of how bad it becomes there will be no progressive alliance.