December 13, 2019 by Paul Goldsmith
From the start of the election campaign, there was a concerted attempt to form a ‘Remain Alliance’, encompassing the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru but foundering on the inability to co-opt the Labour Party, for a variety of reasons. Given a Leave alliance formed without too much trouble, under this electoral system the result was pretty much a foregone conclusion a long time out from election day.
There were many problems in getting the alliance to work. Gina Miller, the Remain activist and lawyer who attempted to organise tactical voting amongst Remain voters, identified how difficult it was to achieve this because of the inability of many Remain voters who had previous voted Lib Dems and Conservatives to vote for a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn. This cannot be ignored, because tactical voting only works if voters, obviously, feel able to vote for a different party.
There was then a lack of electoral pacts. This did happen between the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru in 60 seats, which didn’t necessarily help them to improve their electoral fortunes but at least possibly meant each retained some of their seats. However, it was impossible to achieve an electoral pact with Labour, because a party trying to straddle Brexit couldn’t commit to an alliance that was based on Remain (or Leave for that matter).
But there was also just a complete inability to put aside political party loyalties for what might be called the ‘greater good’. Labour supporters spent so much time attacking the Liberal Democrats for their record in the Coalition Government from 2010 – 2015. Then you have the Liberal Democrat voters struggling to change their loyalties as well, partly due to Corbyn, and partly because in some constituencies like Cities and Westminster and Kensington they had some of the big name defectors like Chuka Umunna and Sam Gyimah running for them. In both of those constituencies, the total votes for Lib Dems and Labour added up to more than the Conservative vote, with the tiny amount Emma Dent Coad lost by in Kensington being particularly galling.
Meanwhile, the electoral system forced Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party into what can only be called a ‘unilateral’ electoral pact with the Tories. First, Farage pulled candidates out of 317 Conservative held seats. Then some other prominent candidates, including Annunziata Rees-Mogg and John Longworth, pulled out of the contest and the Brexit Party itself and told Brexit voters to vote Tory. So there was a Leave alliance whether the Conservatives wanted it or not, and the election would have been very different without it.