Is Compass about to call for tactical voting on the liberal left?

The search for a new, non-tribal politics continues.

The influential left-wing pressure group Compass -- launched in 2003, chaired by Neal Lawson and fronted by Labour's Jon Cruddas -- has sent out an email tonight to its 4,000 members asking them whether or not the organisation should devise a short statement in support of tactical voting to help stop the Tories from winning the general election.

A ballot form is attached to the email, which says:

something seismic could be happening in British politics which reflects the Compass view of a more pluralistic and tolerant progressive democracy . . . So should Compass actively promote this new politics by arguing for tactical voting -- and calling on people to back the best placed progressive candidate to stop the Conservative candidate and deprive the Conservatives of victory at the general election?

Endorsing tactical voting, naturally, means endorsing Liberal Democrat candidates in Tory-Lib Dem marginals -- something that Labour pluralists like Alan Johnson and Andrew Adonis have so far refused to do. To be fair, the letter acknowledges that such a move by the organisation could be controversial, noting that "while Compass is not affiliated to the Labour Party many Compass members are also members and supporters of Labour".

Compass has been attacked in the past by Labour tribalists for daring to reach out across party-political lines, inviting non-Labour figures such as the Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas, to its conferences. So I imagine the likes of Luke Akehurst won't be too pleased tonight.

I'm not a member of Compass, but if I was, I'd be backing the move. Why? 1) Progressive coalitions are a good thing. 2) Labour tribalists are short-sighted and self-destructive. And 3) Lib-Lab tactical voting might be the only means left of denying the Tories victory on 6 May and preventing a disastrous Cameron premiership.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.