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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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Metro mayors can help Labour return to government

Labour champions in the new city regions can help their party at the national level too.

2017 will mark the inaugural elections of directly-elected metro mayors across England. In all cases, these mayor and cabinet combined authorities are situated in Labour heartlands, and as such Labour should look confidently at winning the whole slate.

Beyond the good press winning again will generate, these offices provide an avenue for Labour to showcase good governance, and imperatively, provide vocal opposition to the constraints of local government by Tory cuts.

The introduction of the Mayor of London in 2000 has provided a blueprint for how the media can provide a platform for media-friendly leadership. It has also demonstrated the ease that the office allows for attribution of successes to that individual and party – or misappropriated in context of Boris Bikes and to a lesser extent the London Olympics.

While without the same extent of the powers of the sui generis mayor of the capital, the prospect of additional metro-mayors provide an opportunity for replicating these successes while providing experience for Labour big-hitters to develop themselves in government. This opportunity hasn’t gone unnoticed, and after Sadiq Khan’s victory in London has shown that the role can grow beyond the limitations – perceived or otherwise - of the Corbyn shadow cabinet while strengthening team Labour’s credibility by actually being in power.

Shadow Health Secretary and former leadership candidate Andy Burnham’s announcement last week for Greater Manchester was the first big hitter to make his intention known. The rising star of Luciana Berger, another member of Labour’s health team, is known to be considering a run in the Liverpool City Region. Could we also see them joined by the juggernaut of Liam Byrne in the West Midlands, or next-generation Catherine McKinnell in the North East?

If we can get a pantheon of champions elected across these city regions, to what extent can this have an influence on national elections? These new metro areas represent around 11.5 million people, rising to over 20 million if you include Sadiq’s Greater London. While no doubt that is an impressive audience that our Labour pantheon are able to demonstrate leadership to, there are limitations. 80 of the 94 existing Westminster seats who are covered under the jurisdiction of the new metro-mayors are already Labour seats. While imperative to solidify our current base for any potential further electoral decline, in order to maximise the impact that this team can have on Labour’s resurgence there needs to be visibility beyond residents.

The impact of business is one example where such influence can be extended. Andy Burnham for example has outlined his case to make Greater Manchester the creative capital of the UK. According to the ONS about 150,000 people commute into Greater Manchester, which is two constituency’s worth of people that can be directly influenced by the Mayor of Greater Manchester.

Despite these calculations and similar ones that can be made in other city-regions, the real opportunity with selecting the right Labour candidates is the media impact these champion mayors can make on the national debate. This projects the influence from the relatively-safe Labour regions across the country. This is particularly important to press the blame of any tightening of belts in local fiscal policy on the national Tory government’s cuts. We need individuals who have characteristics of cabinet-level experience, inspiring leadership, high profile campaigning experience and tough talking opposition credentials to support the national party leadership put the Tory’s on the narrative back foot.

That is not to say there are not fine local council leaders and technocrats who’s experience and governance experience at vital to Labour producing local successes. But the media don’t really care who number two is, and these individuals are best serving the national agenda for the party if they support A-listers who can shine a bright spotlight on our successes and Tory mismanagement.

If Jeremy Corbyn and the party are able to topple the Conservatives come next election, then all the better that we have a diverse team playing their part both on the front bench and in the pantheon of metro-mayors. If despite our best efforts Jeremy’s leadership falls short, then we will have experienced leaders in waiting who have been able to afford some distance from the front-bench, untainted and able to take the party’s plan B forward.