Baroness Jones: Tactical voting needs to be more than a vote against the government

‘A green vote has become something that the other parties have to take notice of.’

Voting Ballot Box

Jenny Jones is a Green Party member of the House of Lords

Keir Starmers’ statement that “the electoral system we’ve got is the system we have going into the next election and therefore we need to figure out what we are going to focus on” is very true.

My focus is on democracy and the way it is being taken away from us by a corrupt and authoritarian government. Having a functioning democracy that promotes consensus and deals with the endemic corruption at Westminster is the only way we will get to grips with the climate crisis. 

So, don’t ask me to vote tactically unless I’m voting for a party that advocates PR, democratic reform and a Green New Deal that delivers zero emissions with urgency.

I’m saying this now, while a General Election is still a couple of years away, in the hope that people in the Labour movement understand that the decision is down to them. Either recognise that you will lose seats as the progressive vote splits or do something about it.

We want a plan that deals with the energy crisis

The overwhelming majority of Labour Party members want the same things as I do. We want a plan that deals with the energy crisis with the rapid expansion of green jobs in that sector. We want a green economy that works for people, not billionaires. We also want a democratic clean up package. That means PR; strong independent regulators; an elected second chamber; an end to MPs having second jobs and big donations to parties from corporate interests.

That is the kind of “focus” that will convince a lot of greens to lend their vote for one election.  

These as minimal demands. I won’t ask for a reversal of disastrous privatisations of water and NHS services or push the hundreds of other positive green ideas for improving our country. Nor would I demand that Labour stop support for all the damaging stuff like Heathrow and road expansion. All that would be a great bonus, but if Labour can’t promise to deliver a transformation of our democracy and a viable solution for the climate crisis, then don’t get annoyed at people voting green. For an increasing number of people, we are simply the party with better ideas and more principles.

In 2017, the Greens stood down in 31 seats to allow Corbyn’s Labour a free run in a make-or-break election. By 2019, this generosity had disappeared with the Greens talking to the Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru about electoral deals, instead of the Labour Party.

The simple reality was that Labour didn’t want the conversation, they suspended Labour members for daring to support rival candidates with tactical voting and the Greens got absolutely nothing back for our sacrifice in 2017. No recognition from Labour. No promise of fair vote (PR) elections.   

Another big shift since the Corbyn years is the growth of the Green Party vote in local elections with an extra 500 councillors, many of them in Labour or Lib Dem, target seats.  

I also know that even if my party’s candidate doesn’t get elected, the green votes send a clear message about priorities and policies. Think of us as the UKIP of the left, but increasingly capable of turning votes into seats. A green vote has become something that the other parties have to take notice of.

Many advocates of tactical voting want us to set all that aside. To unite to vote against something, rather than for something. That can work in by-elections like for Labour in Wakefield and the Lib Dems in Tiverton and Honiton, but many of the people lending their votes would rather they didn’t have to.

The celebrity chef and Green Party member, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall explained his tactical Tiverton and Honiton vote well, saying, “A system where one million General Election votes gets the Tories 20 MPs but the Greens only 1 is a grossly unfair system.

“So unfair that there are times when the opportunity to “game it to change it” becomes almost impossible to resist. Today I have such an opportunity, a chance to cast a vote that might actually have an impact on that system.”

All this requires people to sit down and talk it through. As for the Lib Dems, who I constantly work well with in the Lords, they need to convince the world that they will remain part of the progressive campsite and not abandon the rest of us for some Conservative government stitch up, like last time.

If Labour hasn’t listened to the arguments for PR from the likes of Andy Burnham, Ed Miliband and UNISON by the time of the general election, then I will be posting this article whenever someone says we are ‘allowing’ a Conservative MP to get elected.

Nope. It is not the fault of the green voters; it is the problem with our electoral system that you are refusing to change. Do something about it.

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