Here comes the future. Photo:Getty
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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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After Richmond Park, Labour MPs are haunted by a familiar ghost

Labour MPs in big cities fear the Liberal Democrats, while in the north, they fear Ukip. 

The Liberal Democrats’ victory in Richmond Park has Conservatives nervous, and rightly so. Not only did Sarah Olney take the votes of soft Conservatives who backed a Remain vote on 23 June, she also benefited from tactical voting from Labour voters.

Although Richmond Park is the fifth most pro-Remain constituency won by a Conservative at the 2015 election, the more significant number – for the Liberal Democrats at least – is 15: that’s the number of Tory-held seats they could win if they reduced the Labour vote by the same amount they managed in Richmond Park.

The Tories have two Brexit headaches, electorally speaking. The first is the direct loss of voters who backed David Cameron in 2015 and a Remain vote in 2016 to the Liberal Democrats. The second is that Brexit appears to have made Liberal Democrat candidates palatable to Labour voters who backed the party as the anti-Conservative option in seats where Labour is generally weak from 1992 to 2010, but stayed at home or voted Labour in 2015.

Although local council by-elections are not as dramatic as parliamentary ones, they offer clues as to how national elections may play out, and it’s worth noting that Richmond Park wasn’t the only place where the Liberal Democrats saw a dramatic surge in the party’s fortunes. They also made a dramatic gain in Chichester, which voted to leave.

(That’s the other factor to remember in the “Leave/Remain” divide. In Liberal-Conservative battlegrounds where the majority of voters opted to leave, the third-placed Labour and Green vote tends to be heavily pro-Remain.)

But it’s not just Conservatives with the Liberal Democrats in second who have cause to be nervous.  Labour MPs outside of England's big cities have long been nervous that Ukip will do to them what the SNP did to their Scottish colleagues in 2015. That Ukip is now in second place in many seats that Labour once considered safe only adds to the sense of unease.

In a lot of seats, the closeness of Ukip is overstated. As one MP, who has the Conservatives in second place observed, “All that’s happened is you used to have five or six no-hopers, and all of that vote has gone to Ukip, so colleagues are nervous”. That’s true, to an extent. But it’s worth noting that the same thing could be said for the Liberal Democrats in Conservative seats in 1992. All they had done was to coagulate most of the “anyone but the Conservative” vote under their banner. In 1997, they took Conservative votes – and with it, picked up 28 formerly Tory seats.

Also nervous are the party’s London MPs, albeit for different reasons. They fear that Remain voters will desert them for the Liberal Democrats. (It’s worth noting that Catherine West, who sits for the most pro-Remain seat in the country, has already told constituents that she will vote against Article 50, as has David Lammy, another North London MP.)

A particular cause for alarm is that most of the party’s high command – Jeremy Corbyn, Emily Thornberry, Diane Abbott, and Keir Starmer – all sit for seats that were heavily pro-Remain. Thornberry, in particular, has the particularly dangerous combination of a seat that voted Remain in June but has flirted with the Liberal Democrats in the past, with the shadow foreign secretary finishing just 484 votes ahead of Bridget Fox, the Liberal Democrat candidate, in 2005.

Are they right to be worried? That the referendum allowed the Liberal Democrats to reconfigure the politics of Richmond Park adds credence to a YouGov poll that showed a pro-Brexit Labour party finishing third behind a pro-second referendum Liberal Democrat party, should Labour go into the next election backing Brexit and the Liberal Democrats opt to oppose it.

The difficulty for Labour is the calculation for the Liberal Democrats is easy. They are an unabashedly pro-European party, from their activists to their MPs, and the 22 per cent of voters who back a referendum re-run are a significantly larger group than the eight per cent of the vote that Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats got in 2015.

The calculus is more fraught for Labour. In terms of the straight Conservative battle, their best hope is to put the referendum question to bed and focus on issues which don’t divide their coalition in two, as immigration does. But for separate reasons, neither Ukip nor the Liberal Democrats will be keen to let them.

At every point, the referendum question poses difficulties for Labour. Even when neither Ukip nor the Liberal Democrats take seats from them directly, they can hurt them badly, allowing the Conservatives to come through the middle.

The big problem is that the stance that makes sense in terms of maintaining party unity is to try to run on a ticket of moving past the referendum and focussing on the party’s core issues of social justice, better public services and redistribution.

But the trouble with that approach is that it’s alarmingly similar to the one favoured by Kezia Dugdale and Scottish Labour in 2016, who tried to make the election about public services, not the constitution. They came third, behind a Conservative party that ran on an explicitly pro-Union platform. The possibility of an English sequel should not be ruled out.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.