Hey ho. We are entering the final stages of a general election campaign which looks like cementing our out-of-date two party system in place for at least another five years.
Labour have failed to put a proportional voting system into its manifesto. Despite calls from many in his party, Jeremy Corbyn has stuck to his script that he does not need it to win, nor does he want it – oh and he can win the Green’s only seat in Brighton. So Labour are asking for your vote on the basis of maintaining the unfair voting system which has given us a majority of “safe seats”, expenses scandals, indifference to voters and all the rest of it.
Social media is full of idealistic people saying they wish Greens and Labour would work together. Well that will only happen if people vote Green rather than Labour in this general election.
Across the pond in Canada, Greens in the Canadian province of British Columbia have just agreed a deal with the New Democratic Party (the Canadian equivalent of Labour) which will overturn the winner-takes-all voting system in that province and bring in proportional representation. It will also restrict private and union donations to political parties.
The Greens were able to do this because the New Democratic Party (NDP) needed the three newly elected Green MPs to form a majority Government. In the British Columbia elections last month, the Liberal Party which had ruled the province for 16 years lost seats to bring their total down to 43. The NDP won 41 seats. The Greens tripled their representation from one to three MPs.
A party can not form a government just because it has more seats than any other party. It can only form a Government if it has more seats than all the other parties combined. If it does not it must seek a deal with some other party to give it a majority. So both the NDP and the Liberals knew they had to do a deal with the Greens. In the end the Greens went with the NDP because they promised to fight against a massive proposed oil pipeline and to scrap first-past-the-post voting and introduce proportional representation.
Both parties have hailed this as an example of the sort of non partisan co-operation that voters want and are urging Canada’s central Government to follow suit.
Over here in the UK it just so happens that some pollsters are now predicting that there could be a hung parliament in Britain after this election, with Conservatives winning more seats than the other parties but unable to form a Government, because their seats will not outnumber the total of other parties’ such as Labour, SNP and Greens.
We heard this before the 2015 election and it did not happen and it seems unlikely again this time but it does make the point that Greens are needed in parliament.
If Greens double their number of MPs from one (Caroline Lucas) to two – with a win against Labour in Bristol West, then the pressure on Jeremy Corbyn, or whoever leads Labour after June 8th, to end Labour’s official resistance to a fairer voting system would be intensified.
The SNP also support proportional representation, but they are not standing in England, and UKIP too support it but are unlikely to win any seats anywhere, including their former seat of Clacton (where the popular Douglas Carswell is standing down).
So if you want Greens and Labour to cooperate it is no good voting Labour in seats that are either safe Conservative or safe Labour.
The Green Party has tried to seek a pre-election deal with Labour. Labour has refused and has refused to put a fairer voting system in its manifesto. If voters want the two parties to work together, they need to pressure Labour, not the Greens. They need to send a message to Labour and Jeremy Corbyn by voting Green in safe Labour and Tory seats. A larger Green vote will be noticed, a larger Labour one will not in seats that they either can’t win or are sure to.
And then there is Bristol West. Here the Green Party came a close second to Labour last time (LibDems and Conservative were in 3rd and 4th place). Many left-Green supporters think they must vote Labour in Bristol West to ensure that Labour have as many seats as possible so that they can form a Government.
But this is to misunderstand the way Governments are formed. A Green win in Bristol West will serve to cut the Tory majority just as well as a Labour win. And it will have the added advantage of putting pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to make a fairer, proportional voting system Labour policy.
So if you want a fairer voting system, and you want to get rid of the Conservative government, vote Green, not Labour.