MPs from different wings of Labour have reopened the debate on a progressive alliance within the party.
Clive Lewis and Jon Cruddas have co-signed a letter in the Guardian calling for the reinstatement of three party members who were summarily expelled for supporting a National Health Action party candidate in Jeremy Hunt’s constituency at the last election. Nearly 30 other party members have backed the call.
Lewis is a frontbench Treasury spokesman on the left of the party, and Cruddas, a former aide to Tony Blair, has been a leading thinker in the party for most of the past decade.
The campaign for a progressive alliance reached a peak two years ago when MP Lisa Nandy launched Labour Together in a bid to pull the party’s warring wings back together. The organisation now appears to be moribund with no recent activity on either its website or Twitter feed.
But Neal Lawson, who chairs the pressure group Compass, which campaigns for a progressive alliance, argues that cooperation with other progressive parties at last Thursday’s local elections could have tipped the balance in close-fought councils.
In the south London borough of Wandsworth, Labour came within a handful of votes of toppling the Conservatives. The Tories lost eight councillors, leaving Labour just seven seats away from what could have been a defining result for the party.
Campaigners also point to the Liberal Democrats’ victory in Richmond, where, with the Greens, they gained a total of 28 seats to win the council back for the first time since 2006.
In their letter, Cruddas and Lewis argue that a progressive alliance could have delivered as many as 60 seats for Labour at last year’s general election. That would have given Jeremy Corbyn a working majority in the Commons.
But Labour has long rejected all local arrangements with other parties. The three members in Hunt’s South West Surrey constituency who were expelled last year – Steve Williams, Kate Townsend and Robert Park – were not alone. In Hastings, a Labour party member, Nicholas Wilson, who campaigned against Amber Rudd on an anti-corruption ticket, was also expelled. He won more votes than Labour needed to unseat the former home secretary, who had a majority of 346.
Lawson said: “Politics in Britain is in a stalemate. Labour must give local parties the ability to negotiate progressive alliances as the best way to break the stalemate; it worked in 2017 and again in the local elections last week.”