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.

Photo: Getty Images
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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.