Friday, February 17, 2006

Coalition: Bringing the Right onboard

OK, Unity of Talk Politics has already registered a domain, so part 2 is in progress, completely independently. Link to follow, naturally, when there's something to link to. He's also said he'll post more on the subject over the weekend on his blog, so watch that space as well. Initially, I was put off the name by connotations in modern politics, but then Nosemonkey reminded us all of the title of J.S. Mill's seminal work, On Liberty.
Unity also stresses: On non-partisanship I'm please to seek acknowledgement that this should be anti-New Labour - lets not forget that there is a constituency in the Labour Party, like myself, who're just as pissed off with Blair as everyone else and have just as much to gain by joining the coalition of the willing.

We need the Labour dissenters as much as anyone else - not least because it will prevent us being written off as just a Lib Dem/Tory coalition.

Our aim should be for the Great Reforming Parliament - after that we can go back to business as usual on all the other stuff.
And I think I agree. Well, maybe not business as usual, but partizanship isn't always a bad thing...

In the meantime, Andrew of Non-Trivial Solutions comes on board with a series of very important points:
I, and I'd guess a lot of other young Tories, would be in if you didn't say things like this about us:

'he, like me, is instinctively opposed to them, but finding that even they can't be as bad as NuLab.'

Damning us with faint praise isn't the way to build a coalition. Still, let's write it off to teething problems as we all embrace the brave new world of tripartisan co-operation and understanding. That which unites us is far more important than that which divides us at the moment.
He is, of course, right. I'm couching my language bearing in mind the need to persuade people of the need to vote Tory, and why it's important to do so, to acknowledge they've changed. 6 months ago, to even consider voting Conservative was anathema. The world has changed, Cameron is making a difference, and Blair/Brown/Clarke/Blears et al are doing the rest.

However, an effective tactical voting campaign needs to swing both ways; we'll need to persuade the Left to vote Tory in Tory/Labour marginals, just as we'll need to persuade the Right to vote LibDem (& SNP?) in Labour/LibDem (Labour/SNP) seats. To a lot of people, that's not going to be an easy thing to do.

We have to acknowledge that and address their concerns.
Ideas:

i) Campaigning has to be very tightly focussed on the civil liberties issues we all agree on - ID cards, OTT terrorism legislation, the Civil Contingencies Act, the Leg/Reg Bill, and so on. You'll lose an enormous amount of support if the coalition comes out in favour of a wider liberal agenda, particularly on Law and Order. Us Tories still want to brutalise criminals with lengthy jail terms, punishment beatings and hard labour. Getting New Labour out isn't going to change that.
Agree; love the hyperbole there, but the point is sound, we need to concentrate and emphasise that we all oppose, those issues that we disagree on need to be left open for debate, but it's vitally important we don't allow a campaign to be hijacked.
ii) The coalition needs full time resources. A writer if it becomes a blog, a campaigner if it becomes a portal, and so on. That means:

iii) Money. Lots of it. We need it. Fuck knows how we get it.
Hmm. I think he may be right; if we're going to do this properly, we'll need someone actually concentrating on it full time; I know that my paid employment needs to come first for me. So, ideas? Potential backers? We're talking a civil liberties/basic freedoms campaigning group that runs effective campaignsfor the duration of this Parliament minimum, and probably organises events on the ground at the next election. Moveon.org is funded by members contributions, but the US has a much higher tradition of donations than we do; can we emulate that? Should we? Any other potential big backers?
iv) The coalition needs to be strictly non-partisan, except in its opposition to New Labour. You'll lose a lot of Tories again if you start advocating voting Lib Dem in Tory/Lib marginals, and vice versa. In fact, the coalition shouldn't even discuss that sort of situation. Even where the Tory candidate is a rabid Cornerstone member who wants to hang gays and publicly flog benefits claimants, or where the Lib wants to install revolving doors in prison cells and to legalise and make compulsory the taking of crack by 13 year olds, they'll still vote with the party whip when it comes to civil liberties issues.
Again, agree, and have already said so; I live in a LibDem/Tory marginal, in such seats, the battleground is over the dividing issues; we need to ensure that the campaign itself does not try to get involved in such seats. I would, of course, hope that Cameron can keep such loons minimised, and I've never met a Lib Dem in favour of dealing drugs to kids (responsible adults can make their own minds up...)
v) Learn from the failure of Backing Blair. Being too strident and too paranoid just comes off as being extreme. We need to sound measured and sensible. This will be difficult given that most of us throw phrases like 'police state' around with impunity. Just remember how ridiculous all of those hard lefties in the Eighties sounded when they suggested that Maggie's next move would be to abolish elections to maintain tyrannical power forever. And enjoy the warm glow now that New Lab are suggesting exactly that... See - I'm already guilty of this point. I sound like a lunatic.
I think he's right. As Katherine observes:
And no satire. With all due respect to Backing Blair (which I thought was funny), it ran the huge risk of alienating and/or confusing people who were just clicking through.
I love the backing blair site, and there's no reason we can't link to or even endorse such humerous endeavours, but the campaign itself needs to be straight.
Learn from organisations like the Tax Payers Alliance - non-partisan grass-roots campaigning, and gaining lots of publicity.
Also backed up by Jawbox:
I think Justin's right - this sort of thing is going to require someone who's worked on this kind of project before. We need to get existing web campaigns on various issues - No2ID being the obvious example - to up sticks and join the broad coalition, and at the same time any press or political coverage/support it could attract will be vital.
I think I agree; there are a number of single-issue or even multi issue campaigns that could back us. Some are however bound to be strictly non-partizan and may have problems doing so; we may need to only oppose those candidates who refuse to endorse a simple, agreed upon platform, to which Bishop Hill suggests:
There are two strands we need to cover.

1. Getting Labour out (campaigning methods and tactics)
2. Keeping the next lot in order (Constitutional stuff, what are we after?)

I suggest we start with broad areas of principle and move on to specific issues at a later date. It will be very easy to get bogged down in detail on "social rights" or the right to bear arms.
So, on point one; vote trading has been tried in the past here and in the US, it was anti-Tory when I was last involved, and Nader traders have been at it since for awhile. Not sure on the efficacy, but it's something to consider.

A simple, basic platform? A small unmber of key issues that we want repealed/addressed that point to opinions on wider subjects?

Backed up by a campaign to ensure Parliament is returned to its status as the controller of the Executive, not the other way around?

A rabid reformer like me can combine with a traditionalist and argue for a return to the days when Parliament was supreme and the Executive held to account by it, right?

This post is, of course, part 3 of the ongoing campaign to unite bloggers and others ont he left and right in opposition to the current government that started here.

14 comments:

Pete in Dunbar said...

A night away from the PC and a revolution breaks out!

If I can be of any assistance with interwebby stuff, let me know.

MatGB said...

Absolutely; no idea what we'll be needing as yet, to be honest I'm still surprised how fast people are coming on board; nascent idea to blogswarm in 2 days. Weird.

Cool, but weird.

Nosemonkey said...

To get over the anti-Tory thing it's necessary to shake of the instinctive anti-Thatcher thing. Because that's largely what it is. Press people why they won't vote Tory, it always comes down to her.

But it's been 16 years. She's practically dead. It's time to move on.

And if you push people these days to come up with what Thatcher did that was so bad (once they accept that our industrial sector was no longer viable anyway), the worst they can usually come up with is the Poll Tax. Give me that any day over Blair's ID card equivalent - because not only is that a shit-load more expensive, but what is it if not a poll tax?

And Blair's version is a poll tax with nobs on. When did Thatcher suggest fingerprinting and retina scanning us all to ensure we paid?

And for those who will counter by saying I've got a short term political memory, bollocks. I live in the present; Thatcher's the past; I'm worried about the future. Plus the next general election will be the first with voters who weren't even born while she was in office.

Get over her. Blair's worse.

jonn said...

Hmmm. Not sure I agree with Nosemonkey - I'm too young to have hated Thatcher at the time, yet am still instinctively anti-Tory. I think it's just that Thatcher personifies the "I'm alright Jack, screw the rest" attitude that is often - unfairly, in many cases - attributed to Conservatism.

She also typified the habit - not exclusively a Tory one; best seen today in the blacktops perhaps - of suggesting she was acting in the interests of a silent majority of ordinary working people. Even when such a majority exists that tends to translate as "working in the interests of people like me." That can be uncomfortable for those who were drawn to the left of politics by a naive idealization of the greater good.

MatGB said...

I think I agree with John; I was 17 at the time of the '92 election, which I followed with interest; I wanted the Tories out then (although I acknowledged Major's skills as a campaigner), and definately wanted them out 5 years later; they were tired, had succumber to the appeal of populism and moralising (back to basics/"did you threaten to overrule him" anyone?) and were devoured by the legacy of the late Thatcher period.

It wasn't just Thatcher. But NM is right; it's the past, it's gone. Looking to the future, Cameron is taking things in the right direction; even if he's not genuine, Toriy bloggers such as Gav, Convert and Biodun show that there is a groundswell of new young bloods who believe in social freedoms, and probably believe in political freedoms and decentralisation as well.

Thatcher et al looked at Militant run councils and decided to neutet them, Labour hasn't done much to restore their powers, but I suspect a new generation of Tory politicians will be sympathetic to restoring local democracies as well.

This has to be about restoring accountability and basic freedoms, taking power away from the executive and the centre. I think that's something most those politically involved that haven't bought into the NuLab project can agree to.

Biodun said...

awww... thanks, Mat.

I'll take "New Young Blood" as a compliment.

The Conservative Party I think is the broadest of broad church parties, you get all sorts and that I think is a good thing.

So how do I sign up for this coalition thing?

MatGB said...

You just did. But a post linking here would definately help, the more links in the better off we are if it's going to happen, then we can link out to whoever needs the support.

Especially Unity's site when it's up and running.

Besides, you're younger than me, and I deny being old (except when I'm out with my student friends, who are all far too young).

Unity said...

Very quickly - site's progressing, will post something at TP tomorrow.

Will be Joomla powered rather than Drupal both for speed of getting it up and running and because there's a integration component for Word Press which will give much better blogging capability, giving a site plus a group blog.

We also have a strap line.

Wanted something short and to point but of good liberal/libertarian provenance, which led naturally to Benjamin Franklin and...

"Where Liberty is, there is my country"

Has a nice ring to it - patriotic but not jingoistic.

Anonymous said...

Actually the words of Benjamin Franklin were "Where liberty dwells, there is my country".

My fist of flounce said...

I think this is a brilliant idea, and am happy to help in any way I can. You've definitely tapped into something people from all sides are feeling quite raw about.

As far as principles, I think it would be a good idea to stress transparency. Politicians these days have such contempt for the public but I think they'll find if they're open with their arguments and information, they might be pleasantly surprised at the intelligence the folk of this country possess.

Bishop Hill said...

Hmm. A Constitution incorporating principles of FoI. That's an intriguing idea, and one which could get a whole host of others interested.

Matt said...

"A rabid reformer like me can combine with a traditionalist and argue for a return to the days when Parliament was supreme and the Executive held to account by it, right?"

The problem here is that there never has been a Golden Age of Parliament. The Executive has always been powerful, and necessarily so in the British system of government, otherwise there is no government.

I can appreciate the sentiment behind this campaign, and I'm going to watch the debate with interest, but I can't help but feel that it's going to take a lot to convince a hard-Labour voter to vote Tory. They may vote Lib Dem. To compare with 1997 is unfair, since there you had Labour voters switching to Lib Dem tactically where it made sense. There were no votes cast "against" or opposite to an individual's political persuasion - i.e. there were no hard-Conservatives voting Labour to bring about the demise of Major.

I think you've already indentified what may be the biggest problem with this campaign: encouraging Conservatives to be less conservative about reform. It's all very well agreeing that we want to defend a list of our civil rights, but there is little doubt that while the left want to defend them with a written constitution and an enshrined bill of rights, the right would not want to see either... and so we then differ on our implementation. How do you make a united group without it being filled with airy-fairy simple committments that probably no one in the country would oppose?

Hang on a minute. Isn't that what all the manifestoes at the last election were like? They all said things no one could disagree with?

This is very difficult territory. The ideological gap is much wider than many people think.

MatGB said...

Matt; it's not what was, it's what people believe? There's no doubt that Parliament has been diminished over the last few governments; the principle is failing.

Powerful executive is one thing, over powerful is another. Essentially, Thatcher was taking us to the line, Blair has crossed it.

Oh, I have no doubt that hard-core supporters will always vote partizan, Labour still gets 14% in Torbay, it's the undecideds, uncommitted, or the "better than the other lot" voters.

I'm not, actually, sold on a written constitution; I'd take my lead from the Acts of Settlement, the Great Reform Act and the original Bill of Rights.

And something fairly innofensive that no one could object to, but brings the Govt to account and enshrines a basic agreement as to how we should be governed in the modern age is something I'd be happy with.

I, personally, want a radical reform, but, well, I can always keep going afterwards, the current "settlement" quite simply isn't settled.

Matt said...

My reasons for preferring a written constitution are simple. I don't believe that we can always be assured that our elected representatives will act in our best interests. Especially given how strong party loyalty to the whip is in this country. If we want to do something about the Executive dominating, then the key aspect to address is how MPs feel unable, or unwilling, to defy the whip for fear of the consequences.

Since a government with a reasonable majority can achieve anything under our present constitutional arrangement, then I will always be in favour of a written constitution of putting certain things beyond the purview of even MPs. The Acts you mention are not particularly useful for defending our civil rights.