Can the Labour party build a new united front on the left? | Letters

Les Bright and Len Goldman on the progressive alliance; Barry Sharp on a pivotal moment in UK politics; Clyde Millard on tactical voting; Mike Jenkins on the picture in Wales; Francis Prideaux on ‘Green and Labour’ candidates

Writing of Ed Miliband’s revision of party membership rules as “his greatest error” is not just old news, it’s fake news too (Labour members built networks. Now Corbyn must too, 19 June), which Zoe Williams rightly recognises as negative commentary, repudiated by Jeremy Corbyn’s actual performance through – and out the other side of – the election campaign. However, it is clear that Zoe needs to take the temperature outside of the capital – as John Harris has done so successfully – where she will find that people have made careful assessments to desert their “natural tribe” to support the best-placed candidate. In East Devon – a very traditional Tory seat that includes chunks of Exeter, which returns a Labour MP – more than 21,000 people opted to support an independent candidate. The Labour leadership would be wilfully blind to continue running there, thus ensuring the inevitable return of the Tory incumbent. The notion of a progressive alliance took root without instructions from elsewhere; now it must be nurtured by a newly confident Labour leadership.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

• I always enjoy reading Zoe Williams’ articles, but this week she really hit the nail on the head. In the ‘30s we built a united front against fascism. Today’s inheritors of the fascist mantle need to be fought in the same non-sectarian way. Away with party shibboleths, which often hide real intentions. The Labour MPs who helped the Tories by denigrating their democratically elected leader are a prime example. Labour should at least unite with the Greens and welcome others who are prepared to defend the victims of the Tory onslaught and build a fairer, more democratic society. Caroline Lucas is certainly nearer to the intentions of the originators of the Labour party than those MPs I have mentioned.
Len Goldman (101 in August)

• Labour has been rightly praised for mobilising a new generation of voters by offering them a positive alternative to the Tories’ cynical “whatever it takes to win” approach to politics. Sadly, given the division of the centre-left vote between competing parties, these voters are going to be on the losing side in general elections more often than not. This same group were widely reported to be against Brexit, but no major party offers them (and the nation) a chance to confirm or reject Brexit once the facts are known.

This feels like a pivotal moment for the UK, but for Labour to become the dominant political force, rather than the occasional stand-in when the Tories go off the rails, they must continue to engage with the emerging generation and build a narrative that could be sustained through the rigours and inevitable disappointments of office. They start with two millstones anchoring them firmly in the basement of political thinking: Brexit and our first-past-the-post electoral system. Labour has shown some courage in standing by a manifesto that the right thought would be so easy to rubbish, but why stop there? Put the “no Brexit” option on the agenda if negotiations cannot produce a satisfactory deal, and give the electorate the chance to think again. The Brexiteers have tried to suspend democracy after the referendum and keep the scrutiny of parliament at arm’s length, but “there is no turning back” is not a phrase recognised by democrats. Campaign for PR, even when you’ve won an overall majority, and make every vote count regardless of postcode or political affiliation.

Compared with my generation, the young are getting a rotten deal; our politics have failed them, and it’s time to do something about it.
Prof Barry Sharp

• While I hold Clive Lewis in high regard, I think he is wrong regarding tactical voting in the article by him and Caroline Lucas (A true progressive alliance would have made Jeremy Corbyn prime minister,, 13 June). In the examples quoted – St Ives, Richmond Park and Hastings – electoral pacts might have led to two Lib Dem wins and one Labour win. But would similar Lib Dem gains elsewhere have led to them being in position to form a coalition with the Tories, in the national interest of course? In the case of the Isle of Wight the Labour vote was considerably less than the Tory majority, so little hope there of the Greens getting a second Commons seat.

It is conventional wisdom that voters are suspicious of electoral pacts, they could be right. While I admire Gina Miller for her efforts on article 50 and deprecate the abuse she has suffered from the nasty right wing, with her campaign for tactical voting there is no more certainty of outcome than if you voted for your party of choice. My long-term belief is that you should vote for what you believe in and the political party that comes closest to that, so your conscience is clear.

I am not a particular fan of proportional representation but there is a much stronger argument in its favour than for tactical voting – at least you can vote according to your beliefs with some hope of being represented.
Clyde Millard
Chair, North East Hertfordshire CLP

• George Monbiot now lauds the Corbyn factor as though it were widespread and equal throughout Britain (The biggest losers? Not the Tories but the media, who missed the story, 14 June).

While there’s little doubt that people – especially the young – in both Wales and Scotland were greatly inspired by his policies, there’s also the opposite effect in Scotland of unionist Labour voters backing the Tories to keep out the SNP, and here in the Welsh valleys (one of the poorest areas in the country) there’s scant evidence of that resurgence. In fact, my own town of Merthyr Tudful rejected Welsh Labour in recent council elections, and other areas like the Rhondda and Blaenau Gwent have seen improved polling for Plaid Cymru, despite the two-party race of a general election without PR.

The failure of Labour policies in the Assembly on education, health and boosting the economy meant that many voted for Corbyn reluctantly, gritting their teeth as MPs were returned with whom they’ve little faith. So many of your correspondents refer blandly to the “nation”, as if England and Britain were one entity. In that respect also, they have lost touch with reality.
Mike Jenkins
Merthyr Tudful

• Zoe Williams recognises that “Labour is de facto a multiparty party”, a very broad coalition of those who oppose the Conservatives and who are united at least in supporting Labour at election times. She goes further, however, in suggesting that Labour candidates should be replaceable by “Green and Labour” candidates.

Such a dispensation might well have attractions for members of the Green party, but it would unhelpfully deny the right of the public to vote for candidates who are unambiguously Labour. In this connection it is interesting that the Green party’s candidate in Cheltenham recognised within days of the recent general election that, while not repudiating his 15 years with the Greens, his campaigning on environmental issues would in future be more usefully deployed within the rapidly expanding Labour party which he has now joined. In reaching this conclusion he is unlikely to be alone.
Francis Prideaux

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