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Why I'm voting Green

I'm voting tactically in this election - for the Green Party.

As the general election draws ever closer, we seem to hear more and more about the benefits and shortcomings of that old First Past The Post enemy: the tactical vote. Minority parties have been as vocals as the UK’s main parties in expressing their opinions on the subject. While all parties stand against it in one way or another, I believe that this year’s election is ushering in a new kind of tactical vote — one that I’m adopting.

As a left-leaning, twenty-something voter, political tradition would encourage my tactical vote to go to Labour. This same line of thinking also claims that a vote for a minority party is a vote wasted. These views are symptoms of the disease in our democracy; that belief that, in reality, we have a choice of only two parties. But I live in Norwich South. The Norwich Greens are an active and wide-reaching force in my community, and my constituency is one of the key seats that the Green Party is targeting in next month’s election. For this seat, in this election, my vote goes to them.

Looking at the Green manifesto, a lot of the party’s core values are in line with my own understanding of society and beliefs about humans. In contrast to every other party running, I think the Greens have the right idea about anti-austerity economics, the NHS and education to name just a few areas. That alone is not enough, however, to convince me that a Green government — which is pretty much impossible in this election anyway — would be a desirable outcome this time around.

The Green Party has been visibly overwhelmed by events in the lead up to May 2015. Membership growth from 14,179 to over 55,000 in just a year has left the party punching above its weight impressively but haphazardly — a phenomenon perhaps best demonstrated by Natalie Bennett’s infamous ‘brain fade’. From a policy perspective, I’m much more interested in hearing about the feasibility of a citizen’s income than I am in hearing about the plight of British hedgehogs or that our primary defense plan should be striking a deal on climate change. Yes, I certainly have my doubts about the Green Party’s ability to govern on a national level.

If I’m honest, I also have doubts about the Green candidate for Norwich South. I’m sure Lesley Grahame is very nice, but that doesn’t detract from the fact she looks like a lady who’s a little too fond of cats, and that she seems to film her YouTube campaign videos in the loos of some nondescript local authority building. In a city with two universities, more hipsters than you can count, and a strong culture of youth activism, the Greens probably didn’t choose their candidate wisely if they’re trying to engage their key demographic of young, left-leaning, may-or-may-not vote electors.

But, tactically speaking, a vote for the Green Party has a lot of pros for somebody like me. The Greens’ unabashed left-wing approach and their radical political style is what has convinced me that my vote won’t be wasted on a minority party. A vote is about more than a party or a candidate; it’s about putting voices in government who represent the broadest range of different people and perspectives possible. Yes, an electoral system that favours two parties and encourages tactical voting in its traditional form is flawed and undemocratic. But it’s all we have for the moment, and I hold the view that diversity in government is the only way that we can maintain a (somewhat) functioning representative democracy.
So in this election, I’ll be following Natalie Bennett’s advice and voting for what I believe in -- even if that’s not one candidate in particular or a party I’d like to see form a majority government. My tactical vote is a vote for democracy and a vote for a new age of radical politics. And in 2015, that vote goes for the Greens.

 

Lauren Razavi is a freelance columnist and features writer. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenRazavi.

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The public like radical policies, but they aren't so keen on radical politicians

Around the world, support for genuinely revolutionary ideas is strong, but in the UK at least, there's less enthusiasm for the people promising them.

You’re probably a getting a little bored of the litany of talking head statistics: trust in elected officials, parliament, the justice system and even democracy itself has been falling steadily for years and is at record lows. Maybe you’ve seen that graph that shows how people born after 1980 are significantly less likely than those born in 1960 to think that living in a democracy is ‘essential’. You’ve possibly heard of the ‘Pasokification’ of the centre-left, so-named the collapse of the once dominant Greek social democratic party Pasok, a technique being aggressively pursued by other centre-left parties in Europe to great effect.    

And so, goes the logic, there is a great appetite for something different, something new. It’s true! The space into which Trump et al barged leaves plenty of room for others: Beppe Grillo in Italy, Spanish Podemos, Bernie Sanders, Jean Luc Melanchon, and many more to come.

In my new book Radicals I followed movements and ideas that in many cases make someone like Jeremy Corbyn seem positively pedestrian: people who want to dismantle the nation state entirely, use technology to live forever, go off grid. All these ideas are finding fertile ground with the frustrated, disillusioned, and idealistic. The challenges of coming down the line – forces of climate change, technological change, fiscal crunch, mass movements of people – will demand new types of political ideas. Radical, outsider thinking is back, and this does, in theory at least, offer a chink of light for Corbyn’s Labour.

Polling last week found pretty surprising levels of support for many of his ideas. A big tax on high earners, nationalising the railways, banning zero hours contracts and upping the minimum wage are all popular. Support for renewable energy is at an all-time high. According to a recent YouGov poll, Brits actually prefer socialism to capitalism, a sentiment most strongly held among younger people.

There are others ideas too, which Corbyn is probably less likely to go for. Stopping benefits entirely for people who refuse to accept an offer of employment is hugely popular, and in one recent poll over half of respondents would be happy with a total ban on all immigration for the next two years. Around half the public now consistently want marijuana legalised, a number that will surely swell as US states with licenced pot vendors start showing off their dazzling tax returns.

The BNP effect used to refer to the problem the far-right had with selling their ideas. Some of their policies were extremely popular with the public, until associated with the BNP. It seems as though the same problem is now afflicting the Labour brand. It’s not the radical ideas – there is now a genuine appetite for those who think differently – that’s the problem, it’s the person who’s tasked with delivering them, and not enough people think Corbyn can or should. The ideal politician for the UK today is quite possibly someone who is bold enough to have genuinely radical proposals and ideas, and yet appears extremely moderate, sensible and centrist in character and temperament. Perhaps some blend of Blair and Corbyn. Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? But this is politics, 2017. Anything is possible.

Jamie Bartlett is the head of the Violence and Extremism Programme and the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos.

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