One of the things I’ve become used to since joining the Green party is the occasional jibe from a Labour party activist. It usually boils down to the fact that by supporting the Greens I will undoubtedly be responsible for the re-election of a right-wing government. It follows therefore that I must vote Labour.
I can understand their concern, particularly with our out-dated first-past-the-post electoral system where in most constituencies, over half those voting don’t support the winning candidate. In such circumstances, tactical voting against a particular party can, on paper at least, make sense. But setting this argument against my preference for the Green party assumes firstly, that where I live a vote for Labour would stop a Tory from winning, and secondly, that I am actually prepared to vote for something I don’t really want because it is “has to be better” than the alternative of another Tory government.
But for most of us, the electoral system makes tactical voting pointless. The result of the next election will be decided in a 100 or so marginal seats. The votes of anyone living in the other 550 constituencies are pretty meaningless in deciding the overall outcome. Indeed, where I live the Tories have always won. so Green party votes in any of these safe-seats are extremely unlikely to reduce Labour’s chances of forming the next government.
Where voting really matters is in the marginals. The green vote could theoretically be squeezed enough to help Labour win some of these seats. But here surely is Labour’s dilemma. The steady support for the Green party, and the recent surge in membership, are down to a rejection of the Westminster club, and a desire to see progressive change. If people like me want a break from the neoliberal policies of the last 30 years, we are unlikely to fall in line behind the Labour party if they have nothing progressive to offer.
Indeed, a progressive party would campaign against austerity, support re-nationalisation of the railways, and make clear their opposition to TTIP. Sadly, Labour’s apparent stand on these and a host of other issues such as fracking, Trident, and immigration has done little to convince me they will make a noticeable difference. Take education for example: four years of attacks by this government on teachers, and what do we get? A suggestion that teachers should swear an oath!
I know I’m not alone in being underwhelmed by today’s Labour Party. But as for hunting down the green vote, why for example, would any progressive thinker vote for Labour when they can vote for Caroline Lucas instead?