The tactical case for voting Green at the Euros

Memo to progressives: The case for voting Green at the Euros

Last week, alongside Caroline Lucas MEP, our Party’s recently-elected first-ever Leader, I helped launch the Green Party’s European election campaign, and spoke with the nation’s media about our plan for a ‘Green New Deal‘ to get Britain and Europe out of the dreadful economic and environmental crisis that we have got ourselves into, as a society. Victories at the Euro-elections next June for the Green Party will make it more likely that this Green New Deal will happen. I want to be in Brussels, giving more power to Caroline’s arm, helping make this historic and sorely-needed change really start to happen all across the E.U.

I’m the lead candidate for Eastern Region, one of our two top target Regions (the other being NorthWest) for the Euro-elections.

Now led me add to this a tactical consideration: the electoral system that the Euro-elections are fought under; the arithmetic. In particular, we have to look carefully at where the large UKIP vote in 2004 will go to. If their collapse to less than 2% in this year’s London Assembly elections is anything to go by, the biggest chunk is set to return to a more Eurosceptic Tory party, but the BNP are actively courting disaffected UKIP activists and voters (to observe them in action look at democracy forum).

The financial crisis and the underlying ecological crisis, combined with the huge electoral problems facing UKIP (not to mention Labour) mean that there is all to play for in the June ’09 Euro-elections. And the way in which the tactical arithmetic breaks should be of serious interest to all readers of this site…

If we look at Eastern Region first… Last time around, in June ’04, the Tories won 3 seats, UKIP 2, Labour and the LibDems each 1. Even if they have a very good election UKIP are extremely likely to lose one of their two seats next June– they are short of money, completely internally-riven, bereft of Kilroy-Silk, and beset by corruption scandals. They will lose the seat in question either to the Tories (who might be able to advance to having 4 seats, if they have a very good election); or, conceivably, to the BNP (who claim to be targeting the Region); or to us. There is pretty much zero chance of Labour or the LibDems gaining a seat: can you really imagine either of those Parties gaining a substantial number (in the LibDems’ case, several tens of thousands) of votes relative to what they got last time around? Are they more popular than they were in 2004?!

So those are the options: either the Tories or just possibly the BNP gain in Eastern, or (just possibly) the UKIP holds onto one seat — or the Greens make a gain. In the battle for that final seat, we are the only progressive option capable of stopping the right-wing candidate at next June’s Euro-elections, here in Eastern. About 10% of the vote in Eastern would likely be enough to displace that second UKIP MEP with a Green, rather than a Tory (or a fascist). We already have 26 Councillors in this Region, and our vote in the local elections in Eastern Region is running at the 10% level – and that is under first past the post.

The slightly larger North West region also deserves close scrutiny. In 2004 the BNP polled just over 6% and the Greens just under. The Kilroy-Silk surge propelled UKIP ahead of both, leading to a result where 3 Labour, 3 Tory, 2 Lib Dem and 1 UKIP members got elected. The region is now down to 8 seats like London: which means around 8 to 9% of the vote will be enough to gain the final seat. A 4th placed party gaining that share of the vote will certainly win a seat, but a 5th placed party finishing just behind them will be left out in the cold. When we talk about stark choices, they don’t come much clearer than this. Assuming that UKIP lose their NW seat, a very small number of votes will likely make the difference between and fascist or a Green being elected, in NorthWest.

Make no mistake that the North West region is the principal target for the BNP. Nick Griffin, their Chairman, is the lead candidate. His ambition for far right politics in the UK is modelled on the successful personality cults developed by Jean Marie Le Pen and Jorg Haider. His election as a Euro MP will give him the profile (and taxpayer-funded salary) he craves. We’ve seen Le Pen get to the second round of the French presidential elections and Haider force his way into Austrian government. There is no reason to assume that an organised and electorally-established BNP couldn’t in due course do the same. The flip side for Griffin is that a failure to win a seat this time would almost certainly spell the end of his political career, if the recent internal discord and infighting in the BNP is anything to go by.

The Greens have established a group on Liverpool City Council, recently gained 5 more councillors in Lancaster and have active parish and town councillors around the region. What we can expect that the BNP vote will grow sufficiently to put them into the “grey” area where they may or may not win a seat; as might we.

My friend Peter Cranie, the lead candidate for the Greens, is from an anti-fascist campaigning background, and has been highly active in the Merseyside Coalition Against Racism and Fascism (MCARF), who have been largely successful in preventing the BNP getting any sort of electoral foothold in that area of the North West. He is candid about the most detailed Total Politics poll of marginals, and the barometer it gives for next year’s contest. I very much hope that it will be Peter, and not Nick Griffin, joining me in the European Parliament…

The Euro-elections are ‘traditionally’ our best election: in 1989, we scored 15% nationwide; in 1999, we got our first two MEPs elected; in 2009, with Caroline Lucas MEP as our inaugural Party Leader, we are aiming to at least double our numbers of MEPs.

To end where I began: Britain and Europe desperately need a ‘Green New Deal’, a 21st century version of what Roosevelt’s Democrats gave the United States, the last time that there was a truly enormous stock market crash and banking crash. Now is the perfect time for a response – to the financial storm and to the underlying resource crunch (the age of cheap plentiful oil is coming to an end) and to the pollution crisis (climate chaos, the ultimate literal storm) – that will actually work. A Green response: a Green New Deal, creating hundreds of thousands of good green jobs, and stabilising our economy. And voters will have the perfect opportunity to vote for this, on June 4 of next year.

You can play a significant role in preventing the rise of rabid anti-Europeanism and outright racism, in British and European politics, over the next 7 months. Those of you who would normally vote Labour or Lib Dem in London, the South East, the North West and Eastern region know that you will get at least one representative from your own party of choice in each of these Euro regions. So my appeal to you is to consider the wider implication, which is the direction UK politics takes over the next few years in a tough economic climate, well suited possibly to the growth of the far right.

As little as 1 or 2% of the electorate switching from Labour or the Lib Dems to the Greens makes clear sense to me if it stops the BNP, and yes, we are being candid about this because the Greens will benefit electorally with a big enough tactical vote. Discussion on this topic needs to be frank and honest. I’d recommend that if you want to investigate further, look at the D’Hondt calculator, punch in the London Assembly results for a 7 or 8 seat region and see why even 0.1% matters. When you’ve finished doing the calculations, you might also want to read Raphael Behr‘s take on things.

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