Events are moving quickly. Gordon Brown’s resignation and the opening of formal talks with the Labour Party have reignited the possibility of a progressive alliance.
The fact that talks with the Conservatives have failed to come up with agreement at this stage suggests that this possibility has run its course. The Social Liberal Forum Executive respect Nick Clegg’s commitment to talk to the party with the greatest mandate first and have suspended our judgement on what such negotiations might result in. But the party has always been clear that this by no means was to offer them a blank cheque or even that a deal would necesarily result from these talks.
It is now apparent that David Cameron is not prepared to deliver a genuinely proportional voting system, nor offer a progressive agenda that Liberal Democrat members and voters rallied behind the party to secure. With Gordon Brown gone, so has the key barrier to a better alternative.
With this in mind, we strongly endorse the opening of talks with Labour. A progressive coalition, possibly involving the Green Party, Alliance Party, SDLP, Plaid Cymru and the SNP would command a majority mandate from the public. 52% of the public voted for either the Liberal Democrats or Labour, almost 56% if the votes of all progressive parties in Parliament are combined.
There is a progressive majority of opinion in this country and despite the deficiencies of our broken political system, our government should ideally reflect that.
Nonetheless we are realistic that such an alliance would be precarious. For it to work, legislation for fixed term parliaments, increased caps on election spending and caps on party donations must be prioritised. Extending fiscal autonomy to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales would be crucial.
All progressive parties, including Labour, are committed to some form of electoral reform, but a commitment to a referendum on a proportional voting system must remain a deal breaker. To ensure a real change to our broken political system, Nick Clegg must be prepared to walk away and allow a Conservative minority government to go ahead if Labour refuse to allow the British people a say in how they elect their parliament. Needless to say, we also feel that the ‘red lines‘ spelt out by the Social Liberal Forum Executive this weekend still apply.
As with our statement over the weekend, which garnered the support of more than 30 parliamentary candidates, local party chairs and party members, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know if you agree with the sentiment of this statement, including what position, if any, you hold within the party. We really do value your input.