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Statement on proposals for a "Progressive Alliance"

May 6, 2017 11:49 PM

The idea of a "Progressive Alliance" in Canterbury to defeat the Tories is a superficially attractive proposal. However, there are formidable political and practical obstacles to such a scenario. While there are many people who would jump at the chance to see the Conservatives lose in this constituency, there are other non-Tory voters who, if deprived of a candidate from their own party, would not vote at all. There are also significant questions about what manifesto such a candidate would stand on beyond a simple anti-Tory message. It might just work were there a genuinely independent candidate that all the opposition parties could unite behind. Think Martin Bell in Tatton (1997) or Dr Richard Taylor in Wyre Forest (2001 and 2005). There is no such person in Canterbury that we are aware of.

Practical problems are many and are compounded by the very short time available for discussions because of the sudden calling of the general election, and the fact that the parties have been working to the limit on the KCC elections. As Zac Goldsmith found in Richmond Park, standing as an Independent or anything other than a party nominee would mean the candidate would not have access to historic canvass data. New bank accounts would have to be opened and funding raised. Given time it would be possible to deal with many (but not all) of the practical problems, but with Theresa May announcing the election on April 18th and nominations closing on May 11th, there were only three weeks to consider any such deals.

The Canterbury Green Party has approached the Liberal Democrats and Labour to sound out the possibility of a "Progressive Alliance" and we have met the Greens to discuss this. The Greens agree with us that the Labour vote is fading locally and they would be happy to see our candidate James Flanagan stand for a "Progressive Alliance" although they have suggested an open hustings to select a candidate. We have declined the suggestion for many reasons, only some of which have been alluded to above. Our understanding is that Labour have turned the idea down flat.

As we saw in Richmond Park and now in Brighton Pavilion, it is open to local parties to opt to stand aside and not field a candidate, but this has to be a decision of that local party and doesn't preclude other parties from standing under their own name and manifesto. In Canterbury the Greens may just hold their deposit, but clearly cannot win themselves. The KCC election results indicate that the Liberal Democrats have regained second place within the Canterbury constituency, albeit narrowly. Added to that, we have had a prospective candidate, James Flanagan, in place for 18 months. He has been campaigning strongly. In contrast Labour have only just selected an inexperienced candidate and have been largely invisible since the last General Election.

Canterbury & Coastal Liberal Democrats therefore see no reason to step aside and will be vigorously contesting Canterbury in the 2017 General Election with James Flanagan as the Liberal Democrat candidate.

Nigel Whitburn


Canterbury & Coastal Liberal Democrats