Richmond Park : of by-elections, alliances and conclusions.
A huge sigh of relief could be heard across my timeline this morning as the news of a Lib Dem victory in the Richmond Park by-election filtered through. For anyone who wants to stay in the EU, is against the vitriol and lying about immigration, this was the first bit of good news for a while, something to be grabbed at and savoured.
Some of the claims made- that this is the start of a Lib Dem revival, a nail in the brexit coffin- are optimistic to say the least. If you haven’t come back to earth after the elation of this morning, read the excellent post by Excel Pope here. But there are some pointers here that look like a possible, positive way forward.
The most important and undeniable conclusion that can be drawn from this result (as Excel Pope says) is that a Tory MP has been replaced by a Lib Dem MP. This in turn means that the government’s working majority is down to 13. That majority can be defeated if the opposition chooses it’s battles and works with those Conservative MPs who are uneasy with the tone and some actions of the government. Other than Brexit I would concentrate on the appalling state of social care. (Read John Harris’ excellent article here). This would require political parties to put pride aside and concentrate on battling against the government and not each other- or in the case of the Labour Party, to put aside the battle within the party.
There is also a glimmer of hope for the power of a progressive alliance. I understand that individual parties would want to stand to enable voters to express their wishes and not the least bad option. The first past the post system however does not reflect those wishes and if we are to fight for representative democracy against the rise of populism and rule by those who speak loudest, we need to change the system. In my view PR is a priority and to get there we would need to make alliances to make that happen. This was not just a Lib Dem victory but a victory for the Green Party and the Conservative and Labour voters who put aside their loyalties in order to obtain a result. (rather than making a stand…)
Note of caution- the turnout. For 47% of the electorate (+/-) not to feel it is worthwhile to vote in this by-election is worrying. This really needs to be addressed,another failure of our political system, the democratic deficit. If it isn’t, the demagogues of populism will fill the gap.
Conclusion? Good news for those of us who oppose brexit and intolerance and who want a change to our voting system. A glimmer of hope before the weekend… (Austrian presidential election, referendum in Italy.)
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