Last week's local election results were a little disappointing for Labour. The party has failed to make progress in target seats and could be more than 40 seats short of a majority if an election were called tomorrow. Thankfully, there are around 50 Conservative MPs with majorities that could easily be toppled, but only if Labour and the Liberal Democrats agree with other parties to form a progressive alliance at the next general election.
Electoral alliances are a tried-and-tested way to avoid the 'split vote'. The Liberal Democrats famously stood down to allow Martin Bell (Tatton, 1997) and Richard Taylor (Wyre Forest, 2001/2005) to win as independent candidates. At last year's general election, the support of the Green Party and NHA Party allowed a Liberal Democrat to win back Oxford West from the Conservatives. Overall, 24 Green Party candidates stood down in marginal seats resulting in 5 Labour/Lib Dem holds, 5 Conservative losses, and a hung parliament rather than a Conservative majority.
One of the seats where the Green Party stood down was in Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's constituency of SW Surrey, where the NHA Party's Louise Irvine was chosen as the progressive alliance candidate. Despite this being a safe Conservative seat, Hunt was left visibly rattled when Dr Irvine took 20% of the vote, coming a solid second. This result was thanks to a genuine cross-party effort involving the Green Party and local members of the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats. Unfortunately, the national bodies of the latter two parties refused to stand down, and the Labour Party went as far as expelling three local Labour Party members for supporting the progressive alliance. This was regrettable as whilst SW Surrey is a seat where Labour cannot win, a pro-NHS candidate with full cross-party support might just succeed in reducing the number of Conservative MPs by one.
Earlier this week, Labour MPs Clive Lewis and John Cruddas co-signed an open letter to the Labour NEC calling on them to reinstate the three expelled party members, as a way of signalling their support for a progressive alliance to oust the Tories. We feel this is a very reasonable request, and the NHA Party will continue to support the use of a progressive alliance to support candidates who are standing up for our public services and fighting for a more equitable economy.
Dr Alex Ashman, NHA Party co-leader, said, "It would be a win-win situation for Labour to work with other parties in a progressive alliance. Last year's elections showed that the public want to know their vote will count. A progressive alliance would avoid the split votes that handed as many as 50 seats to the Conservatives at the general election. We hope the Labour NEC will heed the call for the expelled South West Surrey Labour Party members to be re-instated."
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The National Health Action (NHA) Party was founded in 2012 to oppose the growing marketisation of the NHS.
The NHA Party's Dr Louise Irvine stood against Jeremy Hunt in his SW Surrey constituency in the 2015 and 2017 General Elections, taking 12,093 votes in the latter: a 7.8% swing to NHA.
Dr Ashman is a surgical registrar who joined the NHA in 2012 having seen first hand the effects of marketisation and privatisation on the NHS.