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Analysis

Labour and Lib Dems need a deal to counter devils’ pact

by Hugo Dixon | 11.11.2019

With Nigel Farage ganging up with Boris Johnson, Labour and the Lib Dems must themselves join forces. This is a time to break taboos, not a time for tribalism.

The Brexit Party’s decision not to contest any seats that the Conservatives won in 2017 is a boost to Johnson’s electoral chances. This may not even be the full extent of their pact, as the Brexit Party is also under pressure to dial down its campaigning in Labour seats that the Tories are targeting – and the Conservatives may back down in a few places to help Farage’s troops.

This pact of the devils – which some observers think was brokered by Donald Trump – means a Johnson victory is likely to lead to a really hard Brexit. If the Prime Minister is telling the truth, he won’t extend the “transition” beyond the end of next year. We will then crash out of the EU’s market or do a rotten trade deal, as he won’t be able to nail down even a half decent one in a year.

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It was Johnson’s commitment yesterday not to extend the transition which Farage quoted today in explaining his U-turn. He set aside his angry rejection of the Johnson deal with Brussels. The Prime Minister then welcomed the decision. It all looks perfectly choreographed.

If the pro-referendum forces don’t get their act together fast, Johnson will win a majority – and then it will be game over. There won’t be any people’s vote and there won’t be any chance of staying in the EU.

Labour/Lib Dem tribalism

The Lib Dems have agreed a “remain alliance” with the Greens and Plaid Cymru covering 60 seats. This is not nearly ambitious enough. They now need to do their damnedest to extend it to Labour. 

Why doesn’t Jo Swinson offer to stand her troops down in Labour-held seats provided Jeremy Corbyn stands aside in Lib Dem-held seats? Labour would have much more to gain from such a pact as it is defending 243 seats while the Lib Dems are defending only 20.

This is the sort of big offer that could move the needle. Both parties could spend less effort defending existing territory and focus their attention on fighting the Tories. 

Even better, the parties should field just one candidate in seats they can take from the Conservatives. Swinson, for example, should stand down in Uxbridge to give Labour a clear run at Boris Johnson. In return, Corbyn should stand aside in Esher and Walton to give the Lib Dems the best chance of taking Dominic Raab’s seat. 

Sceptics will say such cooperation goes against the parties’ deep-seated hatred for one another. They also point out that there’s no time to agree such a pact, as nominations for candidates have to be finalised by Thursday. 

All this is true. But even if the Thursday deadline is missed, parties could run “paper candidates” wherever another pro-referendum party has the best chance of winning – and not put effort into fighting those seats.

Tactical voting mayhem

It is not just the political parties that need to cooperate. The various pro-referendum tactical voting websites must also get their act together. In some cases, they are giving conflicting advice about which party has the best chance of defeating the Tory. As a result, voters could be confused and Johnson will reap the benefits.

There are three rival campaigns – run by Best for Britain, Gina Miller and the People’s Vote. In the coming days, they must find a way to pool their knowledge and narrow their differences. 

Sceptics will say this can’t be done because electoral rules make it really hard for rival campaigns to work together. Although pro-referendum campaigns must not break the law, they can take advice from the Electoral Commission about what is possible and find a way forward.

This is a time for imagination and vision. After all, we are facing a national emergency.

Although InFacts is part of the People’s Vote campaign, it has not been involved in designing its tactical voting website.


Edited by Quentin Peel

9 Responses to “Labour and Lib Dems need a deal to counter devils’ pact”

  • Hugo,
    I take it that this advice is being brought to the attention of the leaders of the Labour Party and the Lib-Dems. The electoral pact, de facto if not de jure, between the Conservative Party and the Brexit Party is bad news ( in addition to being an almost unbelievable evolution in the history of the Conservative Party ) and must be taken seriously by the leaders of the other political Parties.
    I dread to think of the political and economic impact of a Johnson majority government on our relations with the EU in the future. If this were to happen I believe we could really say that a right wing coup has taken place in the UK starting with the 2016 referendum.

  • This just shows why an election was the wrong “solution” for brexit. If Corbyn had been any type of leader, he would have seen that and agreed to a GNU, a referendum and then a GE. Now we may get a Brexit that the majority no longer wants, or a party in power not for what they stand for, but as a mechanism to stop Brexit. We may just have well have decided the matter by drawing lots.

  • Looking on the Bright side of this ‘Devils Pact’, at least has made something very clear to us all. Namely, The Conservative Party = Brexit Party and
    The Brexit Party = The Conservative Party, and whatever hogwash their manifestoes say the plan is for Hard Brexit in December 2020. Also a vote for Boris=Vote for Farage=Vote for a Trump trade Deal. If that doesn’t scare people, nothing will.

  • And thus the ever so important co-operation against Brexit was scuppered and that’s how Johnson walked away with a really hard Brexit. And that’s how the Scots decided never to trust an Englishman again and Indyrevved 2 into independence. And a lovely example of a traditional European border was introduced at the Scottish/ English border whilst Northern Ireland became an independent within the EU and that’s how nobody there was bothered by any such border. And that’s how England in due course became a very unhappy clutch of bodies.

  • An electoral pact between Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid may not be enough to defeat a Tory/Brexit pact. It is vital that dialogue opens between Labour and the Remain Alliance. It is time for those respective parties to stop bad-mouthing one another, and recognise where the greatest threat is coming from. We are in a first-past-the post Winner Takes All electoral system. But there’s not alot of time to find some common ground.
    Perhaps we will witness the moment of truth shortly, and find out who is genuinely serious about stopping Boris/Farage.

  • I have always been astounded by the large number of individual groups and factions with the Remain ‘camp’. Each seems to have its own motives and aspirations and I am fed up with getting almost identical emails from each group to sign the same petition or pledge to join the same match. They should get together and work under the same umbrella. We mirror the self interested individual opposition parties who cannot form a completely united front. The fight is hard enough without competing among ourselves. Labour and the Lib Dems need their heads banging together. Time to put your own petty prejudices and work together or get a Johnson government with a majority. That, in itself. should make you wake up to the extreme danger the country is faced with.

  • William, agree 100%. I’m quite pessimistic now that brexit is really gonna happen, especially since that tory/bp pact happened as I’d long suspected. In fact, I knew when Johnson got that deal and then when it passed the house that we were in serious trouble. He’d moved brexit a critical step forward.

    I can’t believe that Remain never got round to that vote of no confidence in Johnson – the situation was begging for it – and forming that government of national unity – and all because they don’t like Corbyn. I mean seriously, how pathetic is that?

    If Johnson wins, it will be because he had almost no opposition and that’s criminal.

  • I’m not sure that the prognosis is as bad as some suggest. In the South there are almost certainly Tory seats that are vulnerable to the Lib Dems and Greens with or without the Brexit Party involved. By continuing to stand in Labour seats, Farage still splits the ‘leave’ vote in precisely the seats that Johnson needs to win.

    However, for me the biggest problem with the ‘remain alliance’ argument you make is that Labour are not a remain party. There’s no suggestion as yet that the manifesto will commit to remain, and after the pathetic performance in 2016 I wouldn’t trust Corbyn one inch to deliver a convincing remain campaign. He remains a closet leaver in my eyes.

  • I agree with you on both points, David. Guildford is at risk for example if Tory remain voters rebel. But this is just a hope not a strategy. Corby has been ambivalent throughout and, let’s face it, he is Eutosceptic. They have forced Tom Watson out and Corbyn is not going to say Labour is the party of remain. Swinson just does not cut it for me. She thinks the Lib Dem party has a chance of winning on its own or becoming the main opposition party. That is her real aim. And she has what seems a personal hatred of Corbyn. Many, however, are yet to forgive her lot for getting into bed with Cameron and Osborne. Both Labour and Lib Dem need a change of attitude but I cannot see it happening.