Greens explain why they won’t give a second preference endorsement for London mayor

'Why would we recommend someone who won't meet us?'

Caroline Russell, Green Party spokesperson for Transport, Sian Berry, and Green Party deputy leader Shahrar Ali
Green Party Mayoral candidate Sian Berry (centre), with Deputy Leader Shahrar Ali and Caroline Russell

Some people seemed surprised, or even shocked, that the London Green Party would fail to recommend the Labour Party’s Sadiq Khan as their second preference in the Mayoral elections.

The decision came at the end of a process lasting several weeks where red lines were agreed, both Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan were approached for discussions and public statements related to the red lines were carefully analysed. It was taken seriously by the London Greens because second preferences count.

The London Greens asked the so-called ‘front runners’ not to support policies that would make a bad situation worse on air pollution, climate change and social housing.

That translated into three specific red lines: end support for the Silvertown Tunnel and other big new roads; end support for airport expansion anywhere in the London area; and don’t reduce the amount of social housing by demolishing estates.

A fourth red line was a more general measure of the candidates desire to reduce inequality.

The failure of Sadiq Khan to engage with the red lines was in stark contrast to his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, who spoke at well attended meetings in order to persuade Greens to vote his way.

That support was mostly given, but it was never guaranteed. For example, Ken Livingstone and the Greens disagreed on road building, so Green Party members of the London Assembly helped local people to successfully block his plans for a six-lane motorway bridge at a public inquiry.

However, there was agreement and joint working in many other areas which helped Ken Livingstone secure the recommendation. It required everyone to step across tribal boundaries, and Greens are prepared to do this for the common good.

In Sadiq Khan’s case, he wouldn’t meet with us. He wouldn’t pledge practical support to residents having estate demolition forced upon them by Labour councils. He supports the expansion of Gatwick airport. He clearly didn’t want our endorsement and didn’t merit it. So he didn’t get it.

Zac Goldsmith didn’t engage either, which should have made it easier for Sadiq Khan. Goldsmith’s desire to build big new polluting roads and the failure of his manifesto to really tackle air pollution came in spite of his background as an environmental campaigner.

His belief that demolishing council estates is an ‘ethical obligation’ contradicts his claimed commitment to localism. The vile and negative nature of his election campaign may also influence many Green voters who might otherwise have given him their second preference.

In 2012, the Green Party’s Mayoral candidate got 100,000 votes and came third. A far larger number voted Green for the Londonwide Assembly elections (the orange ballot paper this time around) and guaranteed that for the fourth election running there was a strong Green voice at City Hall.

The London Greens are going from strength to strength, so why would we recommend someone from another party who says they won’t meet us to talk about policy and that they don’t want us to recommend them?

Labour supporters who feel put out that the Greens are not backing them with a second preference endorsement should ask their own candidate for Mayor why he didn’t engage with us or pick up the phone to hear the case for saving Cressingham Gardens.

Or perhaps they could have lobbied their candidate themselves to meet with us and discuss our policy commitments – all of which were things any Green-leaning Labour member should have been keen for their candidate to adopt.

In the end, Londoners who are backing Sian Berry for Mayor can decide for themselves who is the next best candidate.

They may also decide that whoever is Mayor, a group of elected Greens on the London Assembly will be the best way of ensuring that lots of positive ideas get pushed forward and that all those new roads and estate demolitions have at least some strong opponents in City Hall.

Shahrar Ali is a Green Party candidate in the London Assembly elections and is deputy leader of the party

5 Responses to “Greens explain why they won’t give a second preference endorsement for London mayor”

  1. Julian

    Not mentioned is that Sadiq Khan headed up Labour’s strategy unit against the “Green threat” in the run-up to the 2015 elections – another time when Labour should have been working with the Greens to win over the centre-left vote.

    This showed quite clearly that he had no desire to see diversity and plurality in politics, preferring to remain in the First-Past-The-Post duopoly that has served the UK increasingly poorly and has now plunged us into a crisis of democracy. I decided at the time that I would not vote for Khan should he be nominated as Labour’s candidate for Mayor, and that is a decision I will be sticking to.

    Incidentally I am a life-long Labour voter, but I have always voted Green on the orange ballot paper for the London-wide Assembly Members, ever since the current system started in 2000. I have a lot of support for Green policies, and I think it is important that their views are represented on the London Assembly – this is borne out in the progress that Jenny Jones and Darren Johnson have made. It’s just this time, I will be voting Green on the Mayoral ballot too. And I won’t have a second preference.

  2. Davy Jones

    I think this decision is a big mistake.

    Sian is an excellent candidate running an excellent campaign and of course is head and shoulders better than the other candidates.

    But in the end, it is highly likely that there will be a run-off between Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan. I find it hard to believe that progressive people don’t understand that there is a clear difference between the two. And a victory for Goldsmith will make London a worse place for everyone except his super-rich friends.

    Of course on some key issues – he is little different in policy from Goldsmith. But that ignores the overall impact on national politics of a Tory victory over Labour for the mayor in London, which would also set back the Labour Left in its battle with the Right as this defeat would be (wrongly) blamed on Jeremy Corbyn.

    And of course, when Caroline is rightly calling for electoral alliances against the Tories at the next general election, this Green Party refusal to give Labour their second preference vote will be consistently thrown back at Caroline and the Green Party as a sign of our “bad faith”.

    Davy Jones, Co-Chair Brighton & Hove Green Party (in a personal capacity), and parliamentary candidate for Brighton Kemptown in 2015.

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  4. MikeB

    Single issue parties like the Greens and others tend to lose the wider view of things. In this case social and economic justice take a very low priority for them.

  5. Darren Johnson

    It’s in neither the Labour Party’s nor the Green Party’s interests to be seen to be in each other’s pockets in this election. Both parties have chosen to run their own independent campaigns promoting their own candidates and their own policies I defend both the Labour Party’s and the Green Party’s right to do so. Sadiq Khan can’t be seen to have the Green Party pulling the strings and Sian Berry can’t be seen to be the Labour Party’s lapdog. Centre-left voters who want to mix and match their votes between Greens and Labour are perfectly capable of doing so without instructions, deals or endorsements. Anti-Tory politics in the capital in this election is therefore best pursued through both parties running strong independent campaigns and trusting the voters to make their own minds up. Sensible collaboration on issues of common concern at City Hall can take place after the election as it has in the past but nothing would be served by a pre-election deal. Both parties have come to exactly the right conclusion on this.
    Darren Johnson – Green Party AM (2000-16)

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