The Irish Times view on the UK election: the case for a progressive pact

Nigel Farage’s tactical retreat highlights the failure of remainers to join forces

With his decision to stand down 317 Brexit Party candidates - one in every seat that voted Conservative at the last election - Nigel Farage has clarified the choice facing British voters on December 12th. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/ Getty Images

With his decision to stand down 317 Brexit Party candidates - one in every seat that voted Conservative at the last election - Nigel Farage has clarified the choice facing British voters on December 12th. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/ Getty Images

 

With his decision to stand down 317 Brexit Party candidates – one in every seat that voted Conservative at the last election – Nigel Farage has clarified the choice facing British voters on December 12th.

On one side of this proxy vote on the biggest crisis Britain has faced in generations will be the hard Brexiteers, represented by the Tories. On the other, an opposition dominated by three parties – Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party (SNP) – that lean towards remaining in the EU or, at least in the case of Labour, favours another public vote that would give people the option of reversing the 2016 referendum result.

Farage’s unilateral decision – a party that purports to cherish democracy appears not to practice it in its internal affairs – to contest only those seats held by Labour and other opposition parties will help Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, particularly in southern England and Scotland, where a split Leave vote could have created openings for the Liberals Democrats and the SNP, respectively. It also gives the Conservatives a firewall against a large Labour surge in Tory-held seats.

But whether Farage’s decision will decisively influence the outcome of the election is much less clear. A more far-reaching move – one Farage has so far resisted but not ruled out – would be for the Brexit Party to withdraw from Labour-held constituencies in the midlands and the north of England. That would turbo-charge Johnson’s push to seize Labour-held seats in areas that voted Leave in 2016 – the most obvious route back to power for the Tories.

Farage’s tactical retreat, designed ultimately to ensure a hard Brexit occurs at the end of January, highlights the failure of progressives to join forces in a way that would improve the chances of a Remain majority – or at least a majority for a second referendum – in the House of Commons.

Averting a hard Brexit – and, ideally, securing a second referendum – should be the priority for any serious progressive party

The LibDem, Green and Plaid Cymru deal not to compete in 60 constituencies is a step in the right direction. There are also a number of isolated examples of tactical cooperation, such as the Greens’ decision to step aside in the Chingford constituency to help the Labour candidate’s attempt to unseat the Tory Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith. But without the involvement of Labour, which resolutely refuses to step aside anywhere, any attempt to form a pro-EU front is doomed.

Labour’s intransigence on voting pacts is partly a function of the voting system itself, which is designed to favour the largest parties and squeezes the smaller ones. Jeremy Corbyn therefore has a strong incentive to go it alone.

But averting a hard Brexit – and, ideally, securing a second referendum – should be the priority for any serious progressive party. In this crisis, Labour has one last opportunity to rise to the moment.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.