I was delighted to see NI21 candidate (and, more importantly from a social point of view, author of “Legacy”) Jayne Olorunda join the Alliance Party last week. She will not be the last to make that transition and help build a united, purposeful Progressive movement.
So, what do “Progressives” actually stand for? That was the perfectly reasonable question posed by one correspondent.
I have some thoughts on that, but I am not sure how many I speak for when I put those thoughts forward. Before I do so, however, I will say one thing about which I am absolutely sure – they must abandon all talk of the “Centre” Ground.
The “Centre” is a no man’s land filled with uncertainty and vagueness. It is a ground with no principles. It exists merely because the extremes exist. Its purpose is merely to balance those extremes rather than take them on. I have no interest in such unclear pointless irrelevance, and nor should anyone else!
Being “Progressive” is not about that at all. It isn’t about being in the middle, but about being out in front. It was in fact summed up by the 2011 Alliance slogan “Leading Change”.
So my thoughts…
As a core principle, “Progressives” regard the future as likely to be better than the past (certainly if we make it so).
“Progressives” prioritise jobs, health and education – but absolutely not nationality.
“Progressives” make no distinction between individuals based on background. They do not believe that any one group has a particular claim on this part of the world.
“Progressives” are untroubled by immigration, believing it on balance to be a good thing, noting particularly that immigration to NI from outside the British Isles is a good sign of how far we have come.
“Progressives” are pro-EU and quite globalised, noting that solutions to key issues (environment, free trade etc) require organised international responses.
“Progressives” in NI tend to regard their primary identity as “Northern Irish”, but are not nationalistic about this (given the point above).
“Progressives” support integrated education, community relations funding and shared leisure facilities as a priority.
“Progressives” tend to support the arts, noting the correlation between prosperity and strong arts scenes.
“Progressives” tend towards support for greater government revenue (and thus relatively high public spending) but not necessarily higher taxes – broadly supporting water charges, prescription fees and even road tolls and being wary about lower corporation tax.
Notwithstanding their support for the arts, “Progressives” are instinctively wary about public funding for general culture (including minority languages).
“Progressives” tend to support academic selection in the broad sense, but to oppose crude testing at 11.
“Progressives” speak highly of NHS principles but some would not be totally opposed to some charges (see above).
“Progressives” tend to support reform of welfare to promote work and reduce the benefits bill, but to oppose cruder aspects such as caps.
“Progressives” are unflinching in their absolute support for the Rule of Law, and see issues of parades and symbols as solvable only and primarily on that basis.
“Progressives” are future-focused and thus want to move on quickly from the past. Most, however, recognise a managed process is required.
The main point here, for all that, is that “Progressives” are a small third bloc (10% at the last vote count), and cannot afford to split over details. I may not be right about the above tendencies, but the key is to have some principles and base policies to agree on and build around. Most of all, these must be “ahead”, not “in the middle”!