Under first past the post, it is swing voters in marginal seats that shape policy

In the referendum aftermath, we seem a more divided, more intolerant country.

Worse, we have seen Brexit legitimising and empowering anti-immigrant views, leading to a massive jump in hate crime across the country. We face an uncertain future, with more demons being unleashed once Brexit has failed to deliver a new era of well funded public services.

Yet just when a clear political response on the way forwards is needed, we learn that neither side in the referendum had any meaningful plan for a Leave win. Cameron, who history will blame for calling this referendum, has neatly passed the Brexit buck to whichever hard right Tory succeeds him. Meanwhile, the victorious Boris, out-manoeuvred by his supposed ally Michael Gove, has quit the Tory leadership race altogether.

So a golden opportunity for Labour you might think. But just when the Tories are at their most divided, so most of the PLP turn on their leader in what seems like a well-organised coup. Scared of their electoral chances, they believe that a principled socialist and experienced politician is not what a democratic socialist party needs for a leader.

But surely a successful coup outcome is unlikely. The Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) must recognise the support Corbyn has within the party membership; and if he wins another leadership contest – then what? That said, the tone of the dispute between Corbyn supporters and the MPs is turning nasty. I don’t agree with what the PLP are doing, but using Twitter to describe these MPs as vermin, scabs and traitors is not helping.

Perhaps the real problem for Labour, is that to win, they have to appeal to a smallish number of swing voters in some 145 constituencies. So the problems facing this country, as well as the democratic wishes of the Labour Party membership, come second to the interests of this small group of voters in marginal constituencies.

And this of course is a symptom of our out-dated and undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system. If the only votes that matter are those from a small part of the electorate, then it is their interests that will shape policy. This, I believe, is why Labour will always revert to centrist policies in order to appear electable.

Of course in the referendum every vote counted. And while some people are looking at a possible legal challenge on whether or not the outcome is binding, it would be a brave parliament that ignored the wishes of the people. Indeed, only a general election, or another referendum on the actual terms of Brexit could morally overturn the result. Either way it will probably need a change of government to bring this about.

But with an electoral system against us, the odds of a don’t look promising. Caroline Lucas has advocated some type of progressive alliance to topple the Tories, something the Green Party leadership is now promoting. It could work but would take some organising. But getting a squabbling Labour party to agree is always going to be a tall order.


The threat to our planet is as serious as it gets, so I’m staying with @TheGreenParty

I was unable to stick it out with New Labour. The final straw came when Blair took the country to war. For years after I remained in the political wilderness, watching the Labour party consolidate its neo-liberal policies, until finally in 2014, I joined the Green Party.

At the time (and I guess like almost everyone else who follows politics) I never imagined that New Labour would be trounced so convincingly in a leadership election – ever! 

Now all of a sudden, many of the policies I have always supported are shared by the leader of the opposition; and a sense of hope permeates the British left.

Jeremy Corbyn is clearly a rare politician, putting principles before career (yes, I get the irony here). He sounds different, he looks different, and judging by the recent national anthem issue he clearly behaves differently. For me, and I’m sure many others, he’s a breath of fresh air. He will certainly shake things up.

What’s more, in Jeremy Corbyn, it seems Labour might finally have regained its soul. So should I rejoin the party?

Well….with apologies to my friends and colleagues who support Labour, my answer is no.

I believe the threat to our planet from human activities is as serious as it gets. For me a sustainable democratic economy is the route to social justice and equality. As well as ending austerity and tackling the gross inequalities in our society, we must deal with climate change and reform our political system into one that is engaging, decentralised, and genuinely democratic. 

So I’m staying with the Green party because their vision is basically my vision too: For a political system that puts the public first; and a society that is just, equitable and sustainable. It takes seriously the threat to our planet. As the website says, “Imagine a society capable of supporting everyone’s needs. Imagine a planet protected from the threat of climate change now and for the generations to come. That’s the world we want to create….”

Of course I don’t doubt that Jeremy Corbyn and others in the Labour Party share similar views – there are many areas of agreement – but 20 years worth of Blair’s legacy remains. Significantly perhaps, a sizeable amount of that legacy is sitting behind Jeremy Corbyn on the Labour benches. Winning the hearts and minds of rank and file members was perhaps the easy part. He now has to deal with the Labour party establishment. 

Yes I sincerely hope that under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour will become a progressive force for change. But I’ve already made my choice….I’m staying Green.

(Note: As for splitting the left wing vote…I live in an ultra safe Tory seat. Whether I vote Green, Labour or for Micky Bloody Mouse makes no difference. Under our undemocratic first-past-the-post system my vote doesn’t count.)

i don’t sing the national anthem either, so get over it

The furore around Jeremy Corbyn really is quite incredible. So he didn’t sing the national anthem; and all of a sudden the media, and some Labour MPs are getting wound up about it. “Disrespectful” seems to be their common theme.

But why? What is so disresepectful about not singing the national anthem. Why should Corbyn or anyone else be obliged to sing it? Standing in silence breaks no law and hurts absolutely no one. I get that there are times when social convention means conforming to certain types of behaviour – Corbyn stood in silent contemplation – but singing….?  

Let’s have some perspective. It was an event commemorating those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Battle of Britain. Corbyn said, “I was there out of respect for that amazing moment in British history. I was also thinking about my family, my mum and dad who were there at that time in London and who worked as air raid warnings during the Blitz. I was thinking about them. It was a respectful ceremony, and I stood in respect throughout it.”

In fact, looking at photographs taken at St. Pauls, it appears Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t the only person who didn’t sing the national anthem. I wasn’t there of course, but I don’t sing it either. I don’t believe in god, I’m not a royalist, and I don’t like the tune either. But that doesn’t make me any less British, or any less respectful. 

Nor is remaining silent during the anthem anything new. How many times, for example, have we seen the same thing with members of the England football team lining up to play an international match. No one is saying they are disrespecting anyone. 

As for the Labour Party MPs who have rounded on Corbyn, I refer you to the thoughts of Michael Rosen.

can 20 or more years of centre right policy be swept away by one person?

The ballot for Labour’s new leader is starting soon. Increasingly it looks like Jeremy Corbyn might win. So if he does, will he be able to change Labour’s policy as much as he would wish? Or putting it another way, will the election of a new leader set the policy and direction of the entire Labour party for the next five years?

Much as I would like to see Labour move to the left, I am somewhat intrigued by the thought that 20 years or more of centre-right neo-liberal policy can be swept away just by one person. But then again, if it can, what does that say about the state of democracy in the Labour Party? Surely the members have more say than just who they want to see as leader?

The coming weeks and months will not doubt provide answers….

Meanwhile I will be voting this month, but not for Labour’s new leader. Instead I will be voting to elect members of the Green Party executive; and then next month, helping to decide policy at the Green Party autumn conference.

resist the temptation to describe the labour party as a shambles, they don’t need any help doing that…

Belonging to the Labour party must be challenging these days. Not content with blame and recrimination over why they lost the election, Labour seems in turmoil over the possibility that Jeremy Corbyn might become leader. First we had Blair sticking his nose in; then we had the moron jibe, and now we have party figures saying the leadership election should be halted. You couldn’t make it up.

If Labour do elect Jeremy Corbyn, then maybe the party will regain its soul. However, call me a pessimist, but despite the apparent groundswell of support for him, I still can’t see Corbyn winning – I’ve heard just too many Labour party members say he isn’t electable. 

But what about Kendall, Cooper or Burnham? I don’t think they’re electable either. Labour has failed to inspire; and will continue to do so under any of this trio. And all the while Cameron & Co. are allowed to set the agenda (which they have done for at least the last six years), Labour hasn’t a chance. 

So instead of looking good for Tory voters and newspapers, isn’t it time that Labour decides where it really stands? Are they progressive or conservative? More precisely, what sort of society does Labour actually want for Britain? If they could work this out then at least people might have some idea what they’re voting for. It isn’t just about looking competent, Labour needs some vision. Otherwise why should anyone bother?

But also, perhaps Labour should recognise that it doesn’t need to win absolute power to make a difference. A Labour party in some form of future coalition with Greens, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and yes, the SNP, could push through some progressive policies. Policies that would never see the light of day if the party shifts further to the right…. And if such a coalition gave us a PR voting system, it would make a Tory majority government a thing of the past.

What I’m trying to say is that Tory lite doesn’t have to be the answer. There is room, in today’s multi party system, to campaign for policies that Labour party members want, not policies that the media wants. 

It won’t happen of course. Labour is still clinging to two party politics. Meanwhile the Tories must be delighted. There they go, smugly pushing ahead with one of the most nasty right-wing programmes we have ever witnessed; and the official opposition can’t even decide which way to vote over welfare.

I shall resist the temptation to describe the current Labour party as a shambles, after all, they don’t need my help doing that. 

it may take an epiphany, but perhaps labour holds the key to voting reform

On Saturday there will be a gathering of people outside of Parliament in support of voting reform. They will be there because 25% of registered voters, who made up 37% of those voting, resulted in a single party winning just over 50% of the seats in parliament and so secure itself 100% of the power. Put another way, 3 in every 4 of us on the electoral register didn’t vote Tory, but as a result of our flawed democracy, they will be governing us for the next five years.

Of course, as it currently stands, voting reform for Westminster is still years away. Winning the argument with voters is one thing. But persuading the entrenched politican is quite another.

Unfortunately while this government rules, and unless Labour has some kind of epiphany, FPTP will be here for the foreseeable future. Indeed, while they believe they can form a majority government, it serves the Labour party’s interests to ignore voting reform.

And yet it is perhaps the Labour party who hold the key….

Because what if Labour don’t win in 2020 …. or in 2025? Do they go on moving to the right in some forlorn hope of one day winning an outright victory? Or at the first hung parlaiment do they accept coalition, embrace proportional representation, join with other parties and help us to put an end to future Tory majority rule, once and for all?

I know what I’d prefer.

hunting down the green vote

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?