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How to stop a Tory landslide

November 12, 2019

Boris Johnson looks set to achieve a landslide victory in the general election.  With just four weeks to go the Tories are on 35% or more in the most recent opinion polls, enough in our fraudulent first past the post electoral system to secure a Commons majority for both Tony Blair in 2005 and David Cameron in 2015.

Our politics has become more fragmented in the last four years, with more parties attracting significant levels of minority support. There are also big differences between the nations and regions of Britain. The Brexit divide between Remainers and Leavers will shake up the normal pattern of voting in individual constituencies. Traditional party allegiances are being abandoned and some well-known figures from both the Conservative and Labour parties are standing as independents, or for the Liberal Democrats or are quitting the field in despair at the state of their former parties.

This fragmented and unstable backdrop could see candidates winning constituencies with less than 30% support from the voters.  Such results used to be an occasional fluke, look up Norwich South in 2010 or Inverness in 1992. There will be many more in general election 2019 and there will be an electoral premium for the party with the largest concentration of minority support.  That party is currently the Conservatives and it’s unlikely to change as I can’t see any signs of the 2017 Corbyn surge being repeated.

Left to its own devices, our electoral system will deliver a Tory landslide.  It will take an unprecedented level of cooperation between the opposition parties to prevent such an outcome.  It won’t be enough for the smaller opposition parties to cooperate.  Labour are by far the biggest players in England and Wales and the SNP loom large in Scotland.  Without their participation, any pact designed to stop a hard Brexit Tory government is doomed to fail or at best to make only a marginal impact.

Three electoral pacts and arrangements have happened in the last week.  First, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and assorted independents formed a non-aggression pact in 49 seats in England and 11 in Wales, under the umbrella of Unite to Remain. Then Nigel Farage announced that his Brexit Party would not stand in the 317 seats won by the Tories in 2017.  These announcements were ostensibly meant to boost or diminish the chances of Remain candidates. But they also had a whiff of self-interest about them, with both the Greens and Farage not having the cash to fight every seat.

The most remarkable electoral pact is in Northern Ireland where parties have put aside their bitter rivalries to thwart the DUP.  Sinn Fein have stood aside in both east and south Belfast to enhance the chances of the liberal Alliance party regaining Belfast and the SDLP regaining Belfast South.  If Sinn Fein can work collaboratively, why shouldn’t Labour and the SNP participate in Unite to Remain?

There’s just a matter of days before the deadline for candidates to submit their nomination papers and hand over the £500 deposit. There’s a little longer for candidates to submit an official withdrawal notice so Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats could easily put together a deal, if they had the will to do so.

To help them out, I’ve compiled my own list of constituencies where one of the parties should stand down as it’s beyond reasonable dispute that another party has a far better stance of stopping a Tory win.  My starting point is the 2017 general election.  But that threw up some extraordinary results, outside the norm in many seats.  The local and Euro elections have also overturned some 2017 results, usually to the benefit of the Liberal Democrats.  But I’ve set aside all those seats where both the Lib Dems and Labour might fancy their chances, such as Cities of London and Westminster or seats that have traditionally been a Tory – Lib Dem battle but Labour won in 2017, most notably Nick Clegg’s former seat of Sheffield Hallam. There are some others where local rivalries might get in the way of a harmonious deal, so I’ve left them out too.  So the following ought to be non-controversial and an honest attempt to identify the party best placed to defeat the Conservative candidate.  In some cases the seats are already covered by Unite to Remain arrangements but bringing Labour or the SNP on board would all but guarantee a Tory defeat.

England

Liberal Democrats to stand aside in 25 seats for Labour:

Dudley North, Newcastle Under Lyme, Southampton Itchen, Crewe and Nantwich, Canterbury, Barrow and Furness, Keighley, Pudsey, Hastings & Rye, Chapping Barnet, Thurrock, Calder Valley, Stroud (Lib Dems already standing aside), Norwich North, Bishop Aukland, Peterborough, Colne Valley, Stoke on Trent South, Telford, Ipswich, Stockton South, Bolton West, Northampton North, Warwick and Leamington and finally Hendon.

Labour to stand aside in 25 seats for the Liberal Democrats:

Richmond Park, St Ives, Oxford West and Abingdon, Westmoreland and Lonsdale, Carshalton and Wallington, Cheltenham, Devon North, Cheadle, Lewes, St Albans, Wells, Hazel Grove, Cornwall North, Winchester, Thornbury and Yate, Sutton and Cheam, Torbay, Norfolk North, Guildford, Berwick upon Tweed, Harrogate and Knaresborough, Dorset West, Dorset Mid and Poole North and finally two seats where Tory defectors are standing – Totnes and Wokingham.

Wales

Liberal Democrats to stand aside in two seats for Labour:

Preseli Pembrokeshire and Clwyd West

Labour to stand down in two seats for the Liberal Democrats:

Brecon and Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire.

Scotland

In the 2017 general election the Conservatives won several seats that for most of their recent history had been held by either the SNP or the Liberal Democrats.  The split between unionism and Scottish nationalism is an obvious stumbling block.  The question is, do the SNP want to maximise the chances of staying in the European Union, or do they think the prospect of a Johnson majority government enhances their own main objective of ending the British Union? If they genuinely want to obstruct the Tory path to Brexit then they will come to the table and do a limited deal on the following lines.

In Grampian there are two Tory seats that in most elections in the last twenty years were won by the SNP and two that were won by the Liberal Democrats.  In the Borders there is a seat that has been liberal for fifty of the last fifty four years and one that has leaned more nationalist. Remarkably, given the party’s former hegemony in Scotland, there are no marginal seats where Labour is best placed to defeat the Tories.

Liberal Democrats to stand aside in three seats for the SNP:

Angus, Moray plus Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale

Scottish National Party to stand aside in favour of the Liberal Democrats:

Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine, Gordon plus Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk.

 

The above is a list of 60 seats either won by the Conservatives in 2017 or at risk of being lost to them in 2019 as part of their path to a majority in the Commons.  If the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish National parties stood down in favour of the party most likely to beat the Tories then Johnson could be deprived of his longed for majority.  The deals already in place may help the Liberal Democrats to win a handful of extra seats but without the participation of Labour and the SNP the Unite to Remain initiative is doomed to failure.  Voters would otherwise have to second guess a complicated electoral landscape and vote tactically.  In 1997 that worked but politics was so much simpler at that election.

If a true Unite to Remain coalition can be put together then Johnson can be stopped.  No party will have a majority of MPs and a unity government would have to be formed to legislate for a referendum on Britain’s future place in Europe.  Just maybe Labour would also come to its senses on the need for electoral reform.  Then we can consign electoral pacts and tactical voting to the dustbin, allowing people the pluralism in politics that they expect in all other choices in modern life.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. paul permalink
    November 13, 2019 8:39 am

    Bit dissapointed to be honest, you’ve stood down in my area and left us with a Green to vote for.

    My choices are Torys or Labour, whose main policy is predicated on what the less well educated think & feel, not for me thanks.

    Or the Greens, whose main policy is predicated on there being a global conspiracy by the IAEA, dig a little further and its homeopathy, 5g conspiracy theories, weird religions, anti the very basics of science. Have you ever gone through the ‘Green deal’ with a calculator, its complete and utter anti science nonsense. Really, really not for me.

    So to sum up, In 2019 my options are Parties who ignore basic evidence or a party that ignores basic science.

    For the first time in my life I won’t be voting at the GE

    • November 13, 2019 6:06 pm

      I’m very sorry (to put it mildly) that Lib Dem HQ decided to force us to withdraw a talented and hard working candidate in Bristol West. It was completely unnecessary in a seat where the Tories stood no chance. It was done purely to buy off the Green Party, so they would stand down in far more seats which the Lib Dems are trying to win from the Tories. I’m angry that people have been deprived of the chance of voting Liberal Democrat in Bristol West. I would not be at all surprised if many people spoil their ballot papers.

  2. hybridace101 permalink
    November 14, 2019 8:26 pm

    Reblogged this on My Politics and More and commented:
    Corbyn is the key to Brexit.

Trackbacks

  1. Analysis: Only a pact between parties can stop a Johnson victory – Youth Politics News

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