Sunday, June 11, 2017

Election Dissection

The first general election of 2017 was one where everyone lost.

Theresa May is terminally damaged by arrogantly calling an election on the issue she wanted, Brexit. Whereas the electorate rightly voted about policies, where the Tory manifesto was found wanting. Her leadership proved to be anything but strong and stable, and she's going to limp along with the help of some climate change denying bigots.

Labour lost this election, just not as badly as everyone thought they would. They are over 60 seats short of forming a majority government, despite gaining seats in key marginals. Corbyn may have grown as a leader and won some young voters, but will the legion of no confidence voting MPs suddenly have discovered a love for him? Against all odds Labour appeared to have won some seats, have they got it in them to do it again later this year?

The Liberal Democrat land grab of the remainers didn't bear the fruits first thought and the echo of their Europhile drumbeat will ebb away as Brexit negotiations continue. Even strong remainers like myself, just want to see it done with in a quick and painless a manner as possible. Delaying things will just put on hold the fact that we need to remake our country in a fairer way and sort out our environment and public services.

UKIP may have fell away considerably, but their supporters didn't exclusively flood to the Tories. Again, once Brexit is over what is there for them to campaign on? I imagine they will adopt more right wing, anti-immigration dog whistle politics to differentiate themselves from the Tories.

SNP having hit a zenith last time out, were never going to do that well again. The issue of Scottish independence spooked people into voting Tory in Scotland for the first time in my lifetime. I think they have about hit their mark with vote share and seat number.

As for us, The Green Party didn't do well even by our own measurements. Sure, Caroline Lucas was returned with an increased majority and we got half a million votes nationally. Our aim was 2 MPs which we didn't seem anywhere near getting in our key targets of IoW, Bristol West & Sheffield Central. We also only got half the votes we did last time out. The reasons for this I think are the lurch to the left of the labour party where there was significant crossover with policies we've held for a long time such as scrapping Tuition Fees and renationalising the railways. This meant people who joined the Greens because there wasn't a progressive left wing party around any more felt comfortable to go back to labour. Also a small party with a campaign short on resources and canvassing data was never going to perform as well as during a normal electoral cycle.

We also have an issue with the Progressive Alliance policy. I can see why we do it in that we are a smaller party and would rather have a labour government than a Tory one; but I'd rather have a Green one than a Labour one! We unilaterally stood down in seats as a show of good will hoping others would see it's benefit and it wasn't reciprocated. It won't be reciprocated, that much is clear. Any sign of Labour doing deals with us, overtly or covertly will be seized upon as weakness by the press and or Tories. It seems any co-operation we do is expected across the board.

Personally, the only online grief I received for standing for parliament were from Labour supporters who thought I shouldn't be standing. Not once did they try and tell me about how great their policies were or why we should vote for labour, just "waste your vote on Green" "A green vote is a Tory vote". You win votes by having better policies, not bullying smaller parties into oblivion. We are very different to the Labour party, they've moved their policies towards us, not the other way around. We don't want to fund nuclear war or go ahead with leaving the single market or continue with environmental inertia. I also think, many of our remaining voters wouldn't automatically go to labour. I think many would abstain or spoil if we aren't on the ballot, as many vote Green as they are disillusioned with mainstream electoral politics.

The way I see it, we have 4 options nationally going forward and none of them are perfect. The current half measure hasn't worked, I can't see the status quo happening again where we do all the stepping down and get very little in return. I also wouldn't want to do what a couple of friends of mine in Momentum would like, which is to become the Environmental wing of the labour party and trade our identity and policies in for a few former Greens getting Labour seats.
We could double down on Progressive Alliance, formally support Labour where we don't stand and stand down in 100s of seats. Not only to stop a "split the vote" situation where we lose 100s of deposits but to focus national resource at getting more Green MPs in places they might actually get elected. This might get us another MP and a chance to push proportional representation, but risks alienating Green's nationally. Or we abandon the notion all together, stand wherever we can and show voters that we offer a different vision to all of the mainstream political parties and be proud to do so. This might get us a wider reception but would probably keep our vote share in the low single figures range.

The elephant in the room is the First Past the Post electoral system. It's defenders say it keeps out extremists and provides decisive government. On evidence of the most recent election, it has done neither. The other defence of FPTP is that it maintains a local link to your MP. In the seat I stood in, the address of the new MP on the ballot is 60 miles away. Democracy doesn't work if large quantities of people's vote just don't matter and for 500,000 people we get 1/650th of the voice in parliament. All efforts in cross party co-operation must have proportional representation at it's heart. I'm not sure which way we Greens should turn next with regard to PA, but it needs to have change the entire voting system at it's heart.

The FT have done some excellent graphs about changing demographics and voting trends. I recommend you give it a read!

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