The Electoral Reform Group is seeking £1m to support MPs who can beat the Tories

A grassroots campaign hopes to raise £1m to bring more supporters of electoral reform to the Commons at the next general election.

The group, called Win as One, will work with candidates from progressive parties who are well-positioned to beat the Tories and support proportional representation (PR).

Coordinated by campaign group Compass, the project aims to encourage Labour, Liberal Democrat and Greens candidates in England and Wales to sign up to support PR – and to co-ordinate more closely.

With the Labor leadership skeptical of electoral reform, and having ruled out any deal with the Lib Dems ahead of a general election, Win as One is described in a presentation seen by the Guardian as a “citizen invasion to change government and the political system”.

“Instead of waiting for party leaders, who may be too cautious to do what is needed, we will build a national and local movement based on the strength we already have: our activism, our voices, our voices,” the presentation says .

Win as One hopes to channel resources and activists to support reform-minded candidates from any progressive party; and, more controversially, to help broker agreements about which party is more likely to win and where – what used to be called a “progressive alliance”.

The candidates will be asked to sign a pledge supporting the electoral reform. The campaign would then aim to help support a group of pro-PR MPs in the House of Commons who could work together to push for change.

The group aims to encourage dialogue between activists from the various progressive parties at the local level – a challenging task where tribal loyalties run deep.

Long-serving Labor MP for Dagenham and Rainham, Jon Cruddas, said Win could tap into a desire for change he likened to the early 1990s. “When so often there is a sense of an anti-Tory movement – I think we are approaching one of those moments and this is to maximize and exploit that,” he said. “People are so frustrated with politics that they want something else.”

Labor and the Lib Dems are extremely wary of any formal pact that would require them to reject candidates in certain seats in favor of their rivals – or hint at a coalition if Labor failed to win outright.

Keir Starmer recently said he would not do a deal with the Lib Dems or the Scottish National party even after the next general election.

Labor and the Lib Dems are wary of the “coalition of chaos” argument which was seen as damaging Ed Miliband’s prospects in the 2015 general election.

A Lib Dem source said the two recent by-election results in Tiverton and Honiton, and Wakefield – won by the Lib Dems and Labor respectively – showed voters were capable of voting tactically anyway, without the need for backroom deals.

However, if Labor wins without an outright majority, support for PR will be a likely condition for the Lib Dems to support Starmer’s governing platform.

Coalition talks between the Conservatives and Lib Dems after the 2010 general election resulted in a referendum on the Alternative Voting (AV) system – which is not full-fledged PR – but it was defeated by 68% to 32%.

Starmer is coming under increasing pressure over electoral reform from his own party. A motion supporting PR at last year’s Labor conference was backed by 80% of constituency delegates but failed to pass without union support.

Since then, Unison and Unite have changed positions. After Unite’s conference voted to back PR last October, general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our political class has failed working people and our system is broken. It’s time to change our democracy.”

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