Vote Green, argues RONAN MARRON in part two of the Tab’s new series, ‘Who to vote for in Cambridge and why you should give a shit’
The negative comments that I have received when I have expressed my intention to vote green have been plentiful. I am not a member of the party, just someone who believes that in this election, voting green is the best thing to do for the left. Yet I am constantly forced on the defensive.
The criticisms of the conservatives are natural, we differ on questions of fundamental ideology, and that is something I can easily accept, but it is the criticisms of the left that I find incredibly difficult. These critiques take two distinct forms.
The first are the lefties who patronisingly say “Oh, I would love to vote green but, you know, I’m pragmatic” The inference that I am some political airhead unconcerned with the realities of the realities of the world and electoral system.
The others are those who staunchly defend Labour, tell me angrily that there’s no hope of a green MP and that I “May as well be voting Lib Dem”, inferring that that makes me no kind of lefty at all. A particularly funny incident involved a CULC member directing me to an article in the Telegraph of all places about the greens. The irony of a Labour supporter pointing to the telegraph for wisdom is immense.
I am voting green and here is my rationale.
I am not voting green because I have deluded myself that Natalie Benet is going to be our next Prime Minister.
It is not because I love every policy that the greens have in their manifesto. I think that some of them are unrealistic. I differ with the greens on a range of issues.
Neither specific policies nor chance of election are the defining reasons why I am voting green.
Those who say that vote for the greens is a vote for the Tories, or here I Cambridge specifically, the Lib Dems, has a view of politics that is without nuance and focused on the short term. First past the post may restrict representation to effectively 3 main parties here in England, but it is a system which responds to pressure.
UKIP has shown that with great effect. They are highly unlikely to win anywhere near enough seats to be of influence in parliament. Yet the threat that people will vote UKIP has shifted our political spectrum to the right. The idea that they may win voters disillusioned with the status quo has caused all parties (save the greens) to add a toxic element to their immigration rhetoric. They have shown that votes cast for them influences politics, whether it wins them seats or not.
I am voting green because I want them to fulfill that function on the left. I want Parties to realise that there are people unhappy with the status quo and that they want a shift to the left. Voting for the greens makes the parties take note of what people are unhappy with.
In many ways, I feel that Labour is pandering to the right. This is because they can depend on the left wing populous to vote for them as the best of a bad bunch. They can make plays for right leaning voters because at the moment they have no fear of losing the left. I want to change that.
The greens utter rejection of austerity, generosity with benefits and commitment to national services being non-privatised, may be a little too much, too soon. But voting for them shows that I am unhappy with Labour’s budget balancing focus that will continue the trend of cuts to those things that ordinary vulnerable people need.
If Labour are already left wing enough for you then this argument clearly doesn’t apply. For many of the left wing people I know, they simply aren’t.
To this argument, those who sympathise often respond that one has to think of the here and now. Labour may not be perfect, but they are a damn sight better than the Tory alternative. I don’t reject that.
However applying this argument to every election, one can simply allow the status quo, or worse, with UKIP, a drift to the right. Labour has to know that it cannot take the lefts vote for granted because it lets it off the hook in terms of policy. Labour will not adapt its policy unless it knows that there are checks in place; that a policy of being tough on benefits and immigration and pandering to big business will only be tolerated so far, before their electoral interests are endangered.
Simply put, the left I vote for must have a better selling point than “We aren’t the Tories”.
In the first past the post system, I am voting green, and I consider it a tactical vote not an idealistic one. It is not a wasted vote. It is a vote for the good of the left, in the long term.