As someone who has spent his entire adult life in Labour politics, rising from Sheffield’s youngest-ever councillor in 1970 to city MP and eventually Home Secretary, David Blunkett will have undoubtedly thought deeply before reluctantly calling for the parties of the left to establish an “informal alliance” should Boris Johnson become Prime Minister and form an electoral pact with Nigel Farage.
Lord Blunkett believes it is likely an agreement will be reached between Mr Johnson and Mr Farage in which the Brexit Party would not stand against Johnson loyalists in the Conservative Party in an election but instead focus their efforts on winning seats from their “fractured and fractious opponents”.
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He states that rather than face the prospect of electoral “annihilation”, mainstream parties on the left should respond in kind by joining forces and agree not to compete against each other in key seats. As a political tactic, it has an undoubted logic. But Lord Blunkett himself points out the inherent dangers of such pacts in reducing the choice of voters and the effectiveness of democracy.
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The fact that such an idea is even being contemplated by such an experienced politician speaks volumes to how polarised the country has become since the Brexit referendum. The scenario is already coming to pass in the by-election contest for Brecon and Radnorshire, where the Greens and Plaid Cymru are not standing candidates to boost the chances of the Liberal Democrats.
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But a wider-scale version at a general election would turn it into another binary ‘Leave vs. Remain’ argument and set the UK further down the path of the increasingly-toxic politics of the US, where common ground on almost any issue is vanishingly rare.
Parties on all sides should avoid the temptation to unite against perceived enemies - and instead work on presenting voters with credible policy programmes capable of bringing the nation together rather than pushing it further apart.