June 27, 2016 by Paul Goldsmith
Sometimes, there’s an idea whose time has come. That time is now, and the idea is a new Political Party called the Progressive Democrats. Pro-European, social democratic, unashamedly centrist, this party would give a home to many political malcontents AND, more importantly, offer us a constitutionally-sound way out of the mess we are in.
The party would take the social democrat wing of the Labour Party, join them together with the Liberal Democrats, and even possibly add some One Nation Tories to the mix.
Each of these groups have reason to want to change where they are. The Labour Party have been taken over by a leftist fringe utterly uninterested in being electable, leaving some popular and competent MPs without a means to influence politics. By this I mean some of the Shadow Cabinet Ministers who have resigned plus those who stayed on the outside, and maybe some currently outside politics. The Liberal Democrats have been decimated, but this saw a bonfire of some extremely able politicians such as Ed Davey, David Laws and Danny Alexander. Then there will be some properly centrist Conservative politicians over the next few months (few, I grant you), who may start to see their party move away from them as the membership assert themselves during the leadership campaign and elect a right-wing leader and encourage him or her to select a right-wing cabinet.
The vacuum left could be filled by a Political Party who COULD, if properly managed by someone with accurate political antennae, put the right candidates into the right places in the country to perform extremely well first off in any General Election.
Now, here’s the reason this idea’s time has come. The EU referendum was won fair and square by the Leave campaign, I’ll grant you that. But as the dust has cleared the sheer chaos that now will ensue is beginning to hit home. There are rumours flying around of serious voters’ remorse among those who merely wanted to protest and make their voice heard, and further rumours that those who led the campaign had little idea they would win, nor what they would do once they won – particularly with the undeliverable promises they had made.
Constitutionally however, whilst the UK Parliament is sovereign, which means in theory no-one can tell it what to do, there is simply no precedent in British history of Parliament seeing a referendum result as anything but de facto binding on it. So these people with their fanciful notions of a Second referendum being held just because they’ve clicked a button on an e-petition have got another think coming.
BUT, should the new Conservative Prime Minister call an election – and there are many reasons they should, that election offers an opportunity. If there is a serious, large, political party with a clearly stated intention to hold a second referendum (perhaps after some negotiation with EU leaders produces an actual material change in our relationship with the EU, or even not), and they win, or can form a coalition government, then they would have a democratic mandate to hold that referendum. This would need to be held BEFORE Article 50 (the process for the UK to leave the EU) is invoked. There is probably no other way.
The key point about the Progressive Democrats is that they would need, in addition to a clear commitment to a second referendum on the EU, a policy programme that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP in particular can support. The only way the party could get into Government is to win enough seats AND be able to form a coalition with others who may have seats (possibly including Labour). They will be up against the Conservative election machine and a UKIP campaign which could finally result in a swathe of seats in Northern towns. The seats won would need to be from the Conservatives, but it is possible if the Conservatives jerk too far to the right now.
Some will argue that it is impossible to put Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative politicians together in the same party. Well, it was, before June 24th. But everything changed that morning. The Remain campaign showed that the current structure of British Party politics is not fit for purpose. Nothing should be off the table now.