Cross-party campaigners have called on progressive political parties to put forward a single candidate to take on the Conservatives in the upcoming Sowerby and Topcliffe by-election in North Yorkshire.
The campaign group Compass York & North Yorkshire argues that presenting a single progressive candidate in the Sowerby and Topcliffe by-election could maximise the effectiveness of the progressive vote. This happened successfully in the North Yorks County Council (NYCC) election in 2022.
In 2022 neither Labour or the Liberal Democrats stood in the NYCC election in Sowerby and Topcliffe. Progressive voters had no problem voting for the one candidate who represented a progressive position.
Working together to empower progressive voices
Compass advocates for the more democratic voting system of proportional representation, so that every vote – for whatever party – will win a degree of representation. In an electoral system as flawed as first-past-the-post, voters in many constituencies see that the only way to make their vote count is to use it tactically. Compass is one of the few organisations to encourage tactical campaigning where a common cause is agreed
A decision by Labour and the Liberal Democrats to stand in this forthcoming by-election is likely to split the progressive vote making it likely that the person elected will have a minority of the votes cast and so be without a true mandate.
Previous Sowerby and Topcliffe vote must be honoured
The sitting Green councillor, Dave Whitfield has resigned due to ill health. He became part of the NYCC Green Group along with four other Green councillors after winning the seat in May 2022. Voters voted for this to be a Green seat for a five-year term.
Compass argues that the circumstances surrounding this by-election are important. It is not a case of the candidate deciding they are fed up with their party or that they have been suspended for unethical behaviour and can no longer represent the voters who voted for them.
Whitfield is a candidate who because of illness has made the difficult decision to stand down.
A decent and humane response by both Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors could be to say, that under the circumstances, they will not contest the seat. We believe the electorate would appreciate that gesture and would respond positively to it.
The local Compass group representing York and North Yorkshire is calling on Labour and the Liberal Democrats to demonstrate that politics can be done differently in North Yorkshire and not put in jeopardy, progressive gains won in the 2022 NYCC elections. Whether they heed the call remains to be seen.