This election has been touted as one of the most unpredictable in a generation. More than ever, tactical voting is being considered.
By Emily Hawkins
|UK Politics is still a two party race, despite the increase in other parties.
(Photo: University College London Union)
At the recent Green party conference, leader Natalie Bennett urged for left-wing voters to vote for her party in the general election, and to base their choice on their principles, not on pragmatism. “Vote for what you believe in,” she said, “vote for the policies of hope, not fear.” It is certainly an appealing philosophy; many in the UK are bored of the familiar, lacklustre battles between the Conservative and the Labour party. The pluralisation of British politics with the rise of Ukip and the Greens has succeeded in cultivating a stronger public interest towards the election and politics generally.
However, there is an insidious danger to what Bennett calls ‘voting from your heart’, in regards to the decision left-leaning voters must make between ticking a box for the Greens or for Labour on May 7. The crushing impact of this coalition has made tactical voting in May for Labour necessary if we are to see a fairer, kinder Britain over the next four years.
During the past eight months, the Greens have seen an incredible surge in membership numbers, and on multiple occasions have even polled higher than the Liberal Democrats in YouGov polls. This in itself is admirable considering the lack of media coverage for the party, especially when compared to the generous attention given to the populist right-wing minority party, Ukip. The Greens have also mustered a large youth following, quite an achievement when millennial apathy is a constant theme underlying contemporary discussions on democracy.
Indeed, ever since Blair’s New Labour neo-liberalism, many Labourites have become increasingly disillusioned, viewing it as an unrecognisable party compared to the resilient advocate of workers’ rights and social equalities that was determined to stand up for working class people against the aggressive individualism Thatcher promoted in the 1980s.
Undoubtedly, the Green party’s manifesto proposes more utopian ideas than Labour’s, in terms of what appeals to left-wing voters, with policies like higher taxation of the rich, a living wage, public ownership of the railways, and abolishing NHS prescription charges. Labour are not socially radical like the Greens want to be, but both parties share common aims in pushing for more accountability from tax avoiding corporations and affluent individuals, pledging to avoid NHS privatisation, and promising to raise average wages.
|There has been an exciting pluralisation in UK politics, with minority parties like the Greens increasing in popularity. (Source: The Mirror)
Despite the Green and Labour consensus on certain economic and social issues, Ed Miliband is not attempting to bring a socialist revolution to Westminster, no matter what the Daily Mail implies. Many young idealists reject Labour on this basis, and one cannot blame those feeling alienated and disappointed. Voters are turning to the Greens because Labour is not the party that it once was. It has become a weaker advocate for marginalised groups over recent decades, with this London School of Economics report showing the working classes traditional political allegiances shifting, as the number of working class Labour politicians has declined.
However, Labour do not have the same security as the Greens in promising radical policy, owing to the mainstream media’s aggressive attacks on the left, exemplified by the Daily Mail’s diatribes against LSE academic and Ed Miliband’s father, Ralph Miliband, as ‘The Man Who Hated Britain.’ Furthermore, Labour now cater for voters with a plethora of ideologies ranging from supporters of Blair’s New Labour dogma, from the traditional trade unionists to student lefties, and from defecting Liberal Democrat voters to dissatisfied old Conservative voters to the infamous floating voter. Unlike the Green party they cannot propose utopian inspired policies without incredibly negative consequences, and in this way, the Greens’ obscurity is advantageous to them.
For social democrats and Green-inclined electorates, voting Labour won’t be idyllic or exciting.
Voting Labour won’t solve any of the fundamental problems that exist in the UK, but a Green vote in May absolutely and categorically will not.
Philosopher Jeremy Bentham founded the utilitarianism theory, arguing societies should prioritise “the greatest happiness of the greatest number”. While this is a problematic moral theory in many ways, in this context it is pragmatic to want to minimise suffering for the majority after four years of Cameron’s austerity. This will be an election of compromises, and it is desperately needed that voters prevent another Tory government.
The Greens are tipped to achieve a vote share of less than 5% in May, according to Ladbrokes, yet they could be significant in the outcome of who wins the two-party race.
The Conservatives and Labour are currently desperately vying to outdo one another, through last minute campaigning pushes to avoid the predictable result of a hung parliament. The “First Past the Post” system makes it nearly impossible for any Green victory other than a defensive success for MP Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion. Most of the seats in which the Greens are currently polling well are current Liberal Democrat seats; a party which has declined in popularity enormously since 2010.
Similarly to Labour, the Green party is benefitting from this post-coalition disillusionment with the Lib Dems, yet, as thisBuzzfeed article emphasises, they are a threat to seats which are open to either a Conservative or Labour victory. Bookie estimates indicate the Tories will benefit from the “Green surge” through Labour losing out to the seats of Brighton Kemptown, Bristol North West, Hove, Stroud, and Norwich North, as can be seen in the table below. Unfortunately, FPTP is unaccommodating to modern pluralisation, whereby the increase in support for minority parties will not be reflected with similar increases in their parliamentary representation, thus Green votes will benefit the Conservatives, especially in these key seats.
|The seats that rising Green support could deliver to the Conservatives in May.
It seems Ed Miliband is understandably too hesitant to make the “A vote for Green is a vote for Tory” rhetoric a key component of Labour’s election campaign, wishing to present Labour as a party of hope, not of fear as Bennett suggested. However, many pundits predict should Labour lose in May, then Ed Miliband’s successor will move the party further to the right, essentially devastating the British political left. There is undeniably a great deal at risk and a great deal of fear in this election. In fact, never before in modern British history has an election campaign been so uncertain or so frequented by semantics of the public’s anxiety about the future.
There is no denying it, a Green vote is a vote of privilege. Young Labour member and Durham University student Jade Azim writes, “Your immunity is a privilege. Consider this when you walk past a food bank queue. Consider [the fact] that that queue exists because of a government that will be returned if you ‘vote with your heart’. Consider [the fact] that you are not a part of that queue, and that’s why this is still a dilemma for you.” One could also argue that none of the populist parties look out for marginalised and under-privileged groups, and that both Conservative and Labour politicians lack true compassion. However, in his Guardian column, socialist Owen Jones puts it aptly: “Few of those who claim there is no meaningful difference between a Labour and Tory government are being hammered by the bedroom tax.”
|The Greens appeal to the electorate by
advocating policies of social justice
that Labour lacks.
(Source: The Guardian)
Furthermore, Azim is correct in identifying how on the whole, Green Party voters are part of privileged social groups who will not be affected by another drastic Tory government. Of course, not every Green supporter is the stereotypical vegan from Brighton, yet a significant number of those intending to vote for them on the May 7 are middle class, with 63% being part of the ABC1 social category. It is also important to recognise there has not been a “Green surge” in areas affected the most austerely by the coalition, with constituencies such as Hackney, the Northern heartlands like County Durham, and seats across Wales still predominately remaining Labour safe seats.
Cameron’s government has seen the majority of the British population worse off at the end of his four years in Downing Street than they were at the beginning; Dr Éoin Clarke has complied an incredibly comprehensive list of statistics on the negative implications of Con-Lib policies. The last four years have plagued Britain with disappointing cuts which have hit the vulnerable the hardest, and especially essential systems like NHS Mental Health Services, with services in some areas accused of massive negligence for vulnerable children. Furthermore, the Cameron-Clegg government slashed EMA provisions, a policy move which according to campaigners has “impacted young women and black students” particularly hard in their ability to remain in further education. There has been a worrying increase in child poverty of 12% during this government, and almost a million people now using food banks.
Voters lucky to be unaffected by a potential future Tory government should not cast their votes lightly. It is very easy to philosophise about principles of collective justice and apply emotive moral ideologies to politics, yet the reality is that voting compromises are necessary for social utility. It is easy to argue for social revolution, and to group all political parties as the same disappointing collectives of disconnected politicians. Regardless of how alluring the Green party’s utopian policies appear, the choice for May 7 is undeniably between Labour and the Conservatives, and a vote for any party other than Labour will not deliver a left-wing government to Britain.
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