A party of last resort: how to resolve the progressive coalition dilemma
The Chesham & Amersgham results byelection result has given impetus to a new spate of chatter about how the Tories might be beaten electorally in a First Past The Post (FPTP) system.
This may seem a little odd given that the LibDems won without any kind of formal deal or coalition with other parties, but it seems that there’s been some renewed and welcome recognition that in the right conditions voters can just get on with building an anti-Tory coalition for themselves.
Jeremy Gilbert gives a binary choice:
I am not convinced. A formal pact between parties requires requires that leads to parties standing down (or at least not campaigning) in selected seats requires too much rapid institutional change and candidate ‘self-sacrifice’ in prisoner dilemma situations, and a populist insurgency for democratic reform does not get us past the FPTP blockage, short of the revolutionary collapse of the current system.
But I do think the two approaches can be melded. Such a project might go as follows>
A new ‘movement’ (for organizational form see below). Let is call it Voice. Voice is not a political party, but a form of political consultancy, operating across all but the ‘safest’ constituencies (and as the last two byelections have shown, these hardly now exist).
The job of Voice is fourfold. First, it is to develop the argument that any coalition that removes from power a clearly corrupt regime intent on attacking the rule of law is a good thing, whatever that coalition looks like.
Second, it is to work with the main progressive political parties to agree to — or at least not disagree with — an absolute minimum consensus which can be agreed to by the most American of pluralist/Orange Liberal and the most outcome-egalitarian. The consensus statement might be a short as:
We hold that all the citizens/subjects of this country have the right to equality of voice in our polis , and will seek to make good on this right both through proportional representation, such that every vote counts equally, and through developments in material circumstance that allow people to participate in that polis on as equal terms as possible, and with a view to ever greater levels of equality of voice 
Third, Voice will facilitate, where parties seek it at constituency level, the development and agreement of anti-Tory electoral coalition deals, based no the ‘pay-it-forward’, prisoner dilemma resolving principles, I set out in detail here.
Fourth, if local progressive parties fail to come to an electoral deal which stands a chance of defeating the corrupt regime candidate in the seat in question, Voice retains the right to stand for election (or facilitate the standing) a Voice candidate drawn from a list of candidates dedicated to delivering the country from the current regime on the basis of the minimal agreement. In these circumstances, a Voice campaign would be on the basis that, while Voice recognizes the legitimate roles of parties in parliamentary government, the progressive parties failed to come to a progressive agreement to assist in removal of the corrupt regime, and therefore Voice must act as the party of last resort.
Finally, and briefly, there is the question of how such a new movemement might be funded, in a way which reflects the need for transparency and freedom of conflict. I would like to see it develop as a Community Benefit Society, with a community shares offer making up the bigger part of income, and with interest paid out by new MPs for their initial salaries if they have benefited from Voice services (though the payments may come from their parties in turn, if they have them). This could be combined with a project for new media supportive of the overall directtion, as I’ve set out here. And yes, I know what I’m talking about on the technicalities, and would serve as an initial director if asked nicely.
 I use the general term polis rather than ‘public sphere’ here because the latter does not fully capture the need to see the whole political environment as conditioned by material circumstance, even though it would give Hannah Arendt a fit. Sorry, Hannah.
 In the interests of space, I won’t cover the political analysis behonjd and the Habermasian arguments for this minimum political programme here. They are summarised here, and expanded upon here in my semi-book