Labour’s future: The case for a progressive alliance

The debate over Labour's future has seen a number of interesting contributions in the last day or two, looking beyond the immediate struggle between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith. This is perhaps related to the fact that the faultline over the leadership runs straight through the soft left, from which this spate of contributions has come.

This is most apparent in the case of Owen Jones, whose critique of Corbyn is being heavily parsed on Twitter. Other key contributions come from Paul Mason and Neal Lawson, both of whom raise the possibility of a progressive alliance between Labour and other left of centre parties. It may be significant that this idea was also canvassed by shadow defence secretary Clive Lewis in an interview with Jones.

I think Ellie-Mae O'Hagan may be right to suggest that Jones's piece is less about an opening to Owen Smith's leadership challenge, than a reflection on the consequences of a very likely Corbyn victory. It is worth noting Neal Lawson's observation that ' The likely reality of course is not just that Jeremy will win, but that his successor will come from the same vein within the party.' Owen Jones has in the past canvassed the scenario that this handover might take place before a general election. Such questions may well come to the fore within Labour if Smith is defeated.

As regards the strategy rather than the personalities, I've left the following thoughts on a progressive alliance in a comment on Paul Mason's post:

The idea of a cross-party progressive movement against a hard Brexit is an important one, but it might be a mistake to present it as a short-term answer to the question of a Corbynite election strategy. Starting off with debates around electoral pacts and PR, pushes it straight into the arena where partisan interests are strongest.

Surely, it’s better to keep the focus on policies where common interests are strongest. One, maybe old-fashioned, model might be a platform like Charter 88, bringing together multiple parties with organised civil society institutions, unions etc, as well as stigmergic networks.

The role of those institutions would be to give the coalition sufficient heft to ensure that the various opposition parties voted together enough to exploit any cracks in the Tory majority. In effect, we need an extra-parliamentary movement for a parliamentary opposition.

As much as we shouldn’t fetishize Westminster, Tory hegemony may actually be weaker there than in the media. Indeed, Osborne’s strength may have been in using the latter to bolster the former, cultivating the lobby to psych the PLP about legislative ‘traps’.

A few Government defeats might improve morale across the board and open up space for larger discussions. This maybe assumes that there won’t be an early election, but it’s hard to see an electoral alliance being negotiatied ahead of an autumn poll, in any case.

I've also storified some similar thoughts on Twitter:


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