Achieving a Progressive Alliance
Achieving a temporary, strategic Progressive Alliance at the next election will require thousands of conversations to be had up and down the country. The exact arrangement will likely vary from constituency to constituency. In some places it may be feasible to hold open primaries to decide on a single candidate, with red lines agreed by each of the party involved. In other places it may be that some parties simply don't field candidates in order to leave the way clear for whichever of the progressive parties stands the best chance of taking the seat. This could be made more palatable to voters through a structured, organised process of vote swapping (for example - someone who wishes to vote Labour but lives in a constituency where the Alliance candidate is drawn from the Lib Dems, an organised vote swap with a Lib Dem voter in Labour target constituency would be a way to ensure they were able to vote for Labour). However, there is no denying it is a big project, and to get the process underway discussions must be had among local parties well in advance in all constituencies. As Sussex Progressives continue to develop our campaign for a Progressive Alliance in target constituencies in Sussex, we will share ideas and resources here. Suggestions and comments from other Progressive Alliance groups would also be very welcome!
Setting up a progressive alliance group
- Finding a uniting issue: Sussex Progressives came together after the EU referendum. Many of our group were volunteers on the Remain campaign. This was a uniting issue for Greens, Lib Dems and Labour members locally - so finding an issue or campaign that unites Progressives in your area can be a good start.
- Getting the word out: To get the word out about our group Sussex Progressives who are also members of a political party attended their own parties' meetings, and asked permission to let people know about us and our events. We also held many stalls over the summer on a petition to protect the rights of EU nationals after Brexit, and engaged people in discussion, inviting them to sign up to our mailing list. We have linked up with other local political groups and campaigns, and co-hosted a debate on Progressive Alliance at the Liberal Democrat conference which was held in Brighton in September.
- Involving people who are not yet convinced: It can be helpful to arrange events which are 'discussions' or 'debates' rather than campaign meetings, so as not to put off people who have not yet perhaps decided in favour of the concept.
Activities and discussion
- Facilitating conversations on the idea of a Progressive Alliance is one of the most important acts that a Progressive Alliance group can do, as this project will not be achieved without widespread grassroots support. Alongside hosting small-group discussions on the pros and cons of the idea, and how it might be achieved.
- Exercises and activities: Sussex Progressives have been trying out activities and exercises such as 'priority mapping', with a view to understanding the issues that best unite progressives locally, and potentially inform a future Progressive Alliance policy platform. In one such exercise, all meeting attendees are given two post-it notes, and asked to write down two issues that are particularly important to them (such as 'stopping the privatisation of the NHS', or 'reducing the gender pay gap'). One by one, attendees come and lay their post-its on a large central table. Post-its with common themes are placed close to one another. If your post-it doesn't match anyone else's on the table yet, it is placed in an area of space. Slowly, clusters of common concerns appear on the table, such as 'NHS', or 'education'. These clusters begin to reveal the most important priorities for people in the room. This exercise can be helpful for revealing the shared politics between members of different parties, as well as to give guidance to the policy issues that a PA candidate may be able to stand on at a future election.