"The Unite to Remain alliance failed to deliver the seats the Greens hoped for, but it demonstrated that we’re prepared to take grown-up decisions."
Parties that had disastrous election — you know who they are – are beginning the postmortems, the leadership elections, or simply looking to drown their sorrows.
For the Green Party, our perspective is different. There’s the 850,000 votes, a big leap from 2017.
We had stronger media coverage that reflected more closely our results in recent elections (2 million votes in the European election and a doubling of our total seats in the council elections) – though still not proportionately.
And the fact that this was the first climate election, with a level of coverage of the issue that was off the scale of any previous campaign.
But of course, we didn’t see an increase in our parliamentary team. Great candidates like Carla Denyer in Bristol West, Vix Lowthion on the Isle of Wight and Alison Teal in Sheffield missed out on joining Caroline Lucas, Jenny Jones and I in parliament.
While the majority of voters supported parties that had a serious plan of action for dealing with the climate emergency, our voting system delivered a huge majority for a Conservative Party that still doesn’t ‘get it’.
For the climate, nature and the poorest in our communities, this election was a disaster.
In the Queen’s Speech, Boris Johnson again repeated the palpably false claim that their 2050 zero-carbon target is “world-leading”, when in fact it is the equivalent of doing almost nothing. There was nothing on the horrors of Universal Credit, to address the suffering of disabled people, or the fears of those trapped in the horrors of the Home Office’s hostile environment. Highlighting those crises will be at the heart of our work in Parliament in the new year.
And we will be in a stronger position. Every one of those 850,000 votes – and thank you if you were one of them – increases the ‘Short money’ for staff to support our Parliamentary team and it guarantees more broadcast coverage at the next election.
As comedian Jimmy Carr said on election night, it is the one vote that you know you won’t regret in 50 years’ time.
Greens got an average of 4.3% of the vote where they stood. In a democratic electoral system – one where the number of seats matched the number of votes – we’d be celebrating the presence of 18 MPs in Westminster. And of course so many people wanted to vote Green, but felt pushed towards voting for a second or lower choice party, in the hopes of stopping the worst option in their constituency. Knowing all of that adds to our voice in parliament.
The Unite to Remain alliance
But we have to think about the next election – and learn the lessons from this one. (It could come sooner than we think: while lots of people are saying it will definitely be 2024 – I’m less pessimistic than that).
In 2017, the Greens stood down for Labour in over 30 seats, as part of a big push to get rid of the Tories. It was a strategic, costly sacrifice that Labour gave us no credit for, and that it has firmly said it has no intention of reciprocating.
One of our strengths as Greens is the wiliness to work with others to get things done. This time, with the focus on Brexit, we made a practical decision to work with Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats in a small number of seats, to attempt to increase the number of MPs, to increase the chances of the views of Green voters actually being represented.
That didn’t deliver the seats that we hoped, but it demonstrated that we’re prepared to take grown-up decisions to help the people get the representation the current system denies them.
However, tactical voting and electoral arrangements are no replacement for a system of fair votes. It is clear that for the people of Britain, who have indicated they want to take back control, electoral reform and genuine devolution of power and resources from Westminster is crucial. But it is likely that the next election will again be conducted under the current undemocratic system.
We know that a majority of the public supports our 2030 net-zero carbon target, As the one stable, advancing progressive force across the nations, our job is to grow, to build and advance, first in the local government elections next May.
Locally and nationally, we’ll be highlighting the contrast between the business as usual Westminster government, the local councils who all too often continue to chase the mirage of “growth” through new roads and multinational chains stores, and the Green vision of transformation through strong local economies operating within the limits of this fragile planet.
As the climate emergency grows, the choice will become ever starker between a Boris Johnson government and the Green vision that offers a decent life for all on a stable planet.
The Tory Party has already effectively disappeared – it is now the UKIP and Unionist Party. There’s no way of knowing where the other larger parties will be at the next election – they lack the political philosophy, the foundation, for the age of climate and social emergency.
Every election now will be a climate election. That means – whatever happens – the Greens will be at the forefront.
Natalie Bennett is a Contributing Editor of Left Foot Forward, and is the former leader of the Green Party of England and Wales. She is a Green Party peer in the House of Lords.
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