The climate election? The Brexit election? The NHS, trade, nationalisation, tuition fees and tax. Some of these issues are perennial features of British elections; some are more topical. Tactical voting is another topic that, like Europe, has long been on people’s minds but recently come into everyday discussion. The British electoral system – first-past-the-post – is one that forces people into voting for one of two parties that “actually have a chance” at winning, rather than the party preferred by the voter. The electorate may be particularly fragmented right now, but most will agree that the upcoming general election is going to be a big one.
The Green Party has been on the outskirts of British politics for most of its life – it has been dismissed as one of the parties without a chance. Historically, a vote for these parties has been patronisingly labelled a “protest vote,” from the voter that wasn’t satisfied with the choices presented by the “main” players. But recent elections show that the situation has changed. A key event in what some now call the “Green New Wave,” was the 2010 general election, when the Green Party won its first MP, Caroline Lucas, in Brighton Pavilion. This was followed, in the general election of 2015, by a total of 1,111,603 votes nationwide. Quite the “protest vote”. People are starting to identify more with green and social issues in politics and to realise that these are not addressed sufficiently by the main parties. The Green Party now has one member of the House of Commons, two members of the House of Lords, two members of the London Assembly, seven members of the European Parliament and almost four hundred members of local governments. Protest vote or change in political sentiment?
On the 12th December the Green Party will be building on this electoral trajectory. This is in part thanks to the Remain Alliance election pact between the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru. This pact is tactical voting at its finest, aiming to put the candidate with the highest chance of winning from these three parties into office in sixty seats by means of the other two candidates standing down. At face value this kind of activity seems cynical, but playing by the rules of a bad system does not equate to support of that system. In fact, the Green Party is very much against first-past-the-post and believes in adopting proportional representation, a fairer method already used to elect the members of the parliaments of Scotland and Wales, the London Assembly, the Northern Irish Assembly and local councils. A vote for the Green Party would bring the country one step further to electoral reform that would make our democracy much more meaningful. No longer would people feel the need to vote for “the least disliked of two options”.
Unsurprisingly, going into this general election, the Green Party’s climate policy is the strongest. It has been called too ambitious and impractical by other parties, whose approaches to climate change lack direction and impetus. The Conservative Party, for example, claims to take a pragmatic and “realistic” approach with its 2050 deadline for net-zero carbon emissions. This is a blatant disregard for the science, which has informed us of the desperate circumstances we are in. The IPCC is just one body that upholds the need to adhere to a 2030 deadline for cutting emissions. Likewise, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party have pledged themselves to a 2045 deadline. It reads like these parties are playing a game to see who can come up with the best deadline – one that is “realistic” enough (i.e. too late) but also soon enough to keep people happy. But climate change is no lowly election issue that can be manipulated to appeal to this or that voter. It is the security and habitability of our world, and is very much based on concrete objectives that need to be met. This makes our election pact with the Liberal Democrats not ideal, nonetheless it is designed to remove the Conservatives from power. After all, the Liberal Democrats do propose beneficial climate policies, despite their inadequate emissions deadline, including energy consumption reduction, transport shifts and increasing biodiversity (all of which are also features of the Green Party manifesto).
It has never been as important as it is now to ensure that your vote is not wasted. With issues of unparalleled magnitude, this election requires that we prioritise our future over old habits. On the 12th December vote for the party that has the best chance of getting into power in your constituency and enacting some effective change. This is, above all else, the climate election.
By Rajiv Sinha