06. 05. 2010

Greens poised for their biggest ever vote

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Today just has to be the day when the Green Party breakthrough the UK’s wretched first-past-the-post electoral system.

There are four possible candidates who might be able to do that: Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion; Adrian Ramsay in Norwich South; Darren Johnson in Lewisham; and (as an extreme outsider!) Tony Juniper in Cambridge. Realistically, however, I think it’s Caroline whose got the best chance of achieving that breakthrough.

The difference between doing really well (coming second, for instance, with a higher vote for the Green Party than in any preceding General Election) and actually winning is massive. Campaigning down in Brighton last weekend I met a reassuring number of voters who are definitely planning to vote Green today. But I was also taken aback to discover two ‘floating voters’ who’d been so impressed by the ‘Nick Clegg phenomenon’ that they were going to vote Lib Dem for the first time in their lives – despite the fact that in Brighton Pavilion the Lib Dems have no chance whatsoever of coming anywhere other than fourth.

Whatever happens, it’s going to be a very close call.

It won’t be the end of the world for the Green Party if Caroline doesn’t win. Its votes will undoubtedly be up across the country as a whole, and since Caroline became leader, there’s been a new sense of confidence and authority. But the convergence of factors in Brighton Pavilion is quite unique: a constituency that is ‘naturally sympathetic’ to progressive politics; the long-term success of the Green Party across Brighton and Hove in the shape of 13 councillors, ensuring that large numbers of people see Green politics as a normal part of the political mix; and a candidate of compelling quality and integrity (having been voted The Observer’s Ethical Politician of the Year in both 2007 and 2009) at a time when people are looking for distinctively different and honest representation in parliament.

Earlier in the campaign, I would have added another factor: high levels of public concern about climate change and other critical sustainability issues. But I fear that these issues have yet again been moved to the backburner. That really doesn’t help.

So this is a moment of high drama for the party. Green Party sympathisers across the country (which includes a very large number of people who will be voting for another party, often for tactical reasons) will be watching intently to see what happens in Caroline’s constituency.

For me, after nearly 35 years in the Green Party, with my own impressive record of electoral failures back in the 70s and 80s, and having been through the usual mix of hope and despair that all members of minority parties so painfully feel, it will be a quite magical moment.

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06. 05. 2010

I voted Labour in the hope that the Tories won't win in Plymouth. I feel violated.

07. 05. 2010
Andrew Harmsworth

I remember helping Caroline get elected for the first time in Oxford way back, I think, in 1993 to the County Council. Three recounts was it?! What a difference one green councillor made - let's hope she can exert some useful influence in the Commons. Bravo!

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