Tactically voting for the Lib Dems didn't work in 2010 and won't work now, says Green Cory Fletcher.
At the 2010 general election, the Liberal Democrats were desperately vying for votes amid Labour chaos in the same way that they are now amid Brexit chaos.
The global financial crash was the moment that the Conservatives had been waiting for. Even though the Labour government was not responsible for the crash, the tone of the election was set by a sneaky marketing campaign which saw huge billboards appear in cities like mine (Plymouth) claiming that Gordon Brown was personally responsible for the subsequent consequences of a global crash.
I was furious with the sustained attack against the Labour party as I knew it was a slick Tory marketing campaign which slurred the Labour party instead of offering a real solution.
My family instilled strong Labour voting values into me and I knew that the Conservatives did not care about issues like youth employment.
I was right. But as Labour looked set to be trounced in the 2010 general election, and frustrated that my family’s Labour votes never made a difference in our safe Conservative seat, I started to look for other options.
Like today, the Liberal Democrats were able to position themselves as the sensible and fair political force for good while the Conservatives and the Labour party battled it out.
The Lib Dems stood on a platform of societal fairness, pledging to not increase student tuition fees and offering democratic reform in the form of a referendum on the voting system.
This convinced many people, including the Guardian, that a tactical vote on this occasion could lead to real change in our voting system so that next time our vote for Labour in a safe Conservative seat would finally be counted.
The Liberal Democrats choice to form a coalition with the Conservatives felt like the first betrayal of the Liberal Democrat’s fairness policy.
I was sceptical about their self-proclaimed ability to sufficiently hold back rampant Toryism. Looking back now, my scepticism was justified.
The second betrayal came six months later as Liberal Democrats broke their key promise to young voters and voted to increase student fees.
The third betrayal came in 2011 in the form of a poorly negotiated referendum on the voting system used to count votes.
The Liberal Democrats had promised to offer a proportional voting system, but instead was offered a referendum on a decision between staying with first-past-the-post or moving to an alternative vote system (AV).
The alternative vote system is a semi-proportional voting system and the Lib Dems’ decision to settle for this showed their inability to embody truly positive change towards a fair voting system.
The ‘no to AV’ campaign won with a landslide victory of 68% to 32% thereby solidifying the debate for another generation of politicians.
After witnessing this complete circle of betrayal, I abstained from voting, turning out only occasionally to spoil my ballot card. It all felt so futile.
Despite the promise of a fairer politics in the offing, it felt like it was all going in the opposite direction and that, once again, Plymouth had been abandoned as an insignificant city out on the extremity of the British Isle.
Social unrest was on the rise and the pub next door became a regular meet up point for English Defence League supporters. I was subject to harassment by St George’s-cross-brandishing, banner-touting nationalists.
They started to harass people of colour in the area and the police were repeatedly called to fight on the front line for social fairness.
The EDL would organise weekend meets and anti-fascist organisations would appear to counter their hate. In a complete state of political paralysis, I merely stood and witnessed the chaos.
My kind of people were not activists, you see. In our eyes, that kind of behaviour was for the hoity-toity who had time to plan their next action and the people who had enough time to get roped into nationalism at the pub.
I was wrong and in 2013 I went in search of my own political home. Frustrated with the feeling that the Labour party didn’t care whether people in my area supported their policies and feeling burned by the realisation that the Liberal Democrats had more in common behind closed doors with the Conservatives, I started to really assess my party affiliation based on values and not on tactics. This led me to the Greens.
At that time, the Greens had one elected MP, Caroline Lucas, and no councillors on my local council in Plymouth, but I was motivated on this occasion to discover the Greens’ political values.
They confidently and meticulously presented the case for a Green New Deal in the South West which would see the employment market transition towards green energy to make use of the abundant wind, wave and sun energy in our region.
It was a bold proposal for measured change which digressed from the old defensive narrative of trying to mitigate job losses amid government cuts and at the expense of our beautiful region.
In the 2019 European Elections, we see the Liberal Democrats rekindling their tactical voting wiles in order to manipulate voters into betraying their values-based vote.
Pitching themselves as the only party opposing Brexit is their first betrayal of the remain cause who want to see the UK remain in the EU.
Tactical voting put the power of decision making in the hands of the Liberal Democrats in 2010 and it did not deliver the desired outcome.
The same possibility is being played out this time in the 2019 European Elections and we must not make the same mistake.
The positive change and confident future for our country belongs in the hands of well-informed voters, able to make values-based decisions based on honest and open policy positions of the parties on offer.
Cory Fletcher is a parliamentary assistant to Green MEP Molly Scott Cato
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