The case for pluralism

This is a difficult time to explore and advocate pluralism. Voting intentions are very volatile, and it is hard to draw definitive conclusions about the attitudes of supporters of different parties.

Current views amongst voters are undoubtedly coloured by the disastrous performance of the Coalition government which may well tarnish the idea that cross-party working is an unalloyed ‘good thing’. It is hard to argue with the Labour Party’s national critique of the Lib Dems that they promised to change the Tory-led Coalition but have failed in any real way to do so. Nick Clegg’s ‘apology’ for breaking his promises speaks volumes about the current leadership of the Lib Dems.

But tittle-tattle about whether this or that Lib Dem minister may be closer to Labour is a distraction. Pluralism is first and foremost about the views of voters, rather than the tactics of political parties and their leaders. Progressive pluralists want to see the progressive views of voters reflected in the actions of the political parties and so increase the likelihood of political change.

John Denham MP, who led the Labour Yes Campaign:

‘Support for progressive values and policies is not restricted to a single political party, as shown by our new analysis of polling data. A real desire to see progressive change means working with supporters of other political parties.’

‘Pluralism is simply a commitment to work yeswith others, including members and supporters of other political parties if that increases our chances of achieving progressive change. While Labour values are most strongly supported by Labour voters, many supporters of other parties also share some of our values. No party today speaks exclusively for progressive opinion; none will do so in the future.

‘Progressive LibDem voters have been let down by their party; that’s just one reason why Labour for Democracy believes Labour can and should achieve an outright victory at the next election. But it’s also true that some in Labour have opposed Lords reform and electoral reform and other policies simply because LibDems supported them or because the LibDems might benefit.

‘A tribal, sectarian approach to other parties and their supporters will weaken the chance of progressive change at all. Pluralism is not about coalitions, electoral pacts or even electoral reform, but a willingness to put making a difference above narrow party politics.

A willingness to work with others will make progress more likely and do Labour’s electoral chances no harm’.

Paul Blomfield, Chair of Labour for Democracy:

‘All Labour members will work hard for every Labour vote. But whether we win the outright majority we seek, or end up with a hung Parliament, the change Britain needs will require the support of all who share our key values. Existing structures encourage tribalism, but Labour’s history has often been of working with others for progressive goals – in trades unions, community organisations, solidarity movements and defending the environment. Some of the changes we are proudest to claim – the NHS, the welfare state and devolution – would not have happened without the support of people outside the Labour movement. At a time when old allegiances to political parties are breaking down, yet organisations like 38 degrees are mobilising active and effective support, we need that approach more than ever.’