It was so unnecessary, but we may have handed the election to the Conservatives. Others will rightly point out the many positives of this result. The Party has made a good enough showing to form the basis for future progress. Caroline increased her majority and there is a healthy crop of second places. Things could have been a lot worse. And although the damage is done, it can and must be repaired well before the next election.
But look at the results in Bedford, Bury North, Croydon Central, Gower, Lewes, Morley & Outwood, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, Telford, and Weaver Vale. In each of these nine constituencies, the Green vote was larger than the Conservative majority over Labour. Vince Cable’s loss to the Conservatives in Twickenham was also narrower than the Green vote. The Green Party has set out its stall as an anti-austerity left wing party, which will have taken votes primarily from Labour. If all ten seats had gone the other way, the Conservatives would have been eight short of an overall majority.
There are mitigating factors. Is my premiss correct? As readers of this blog will be aware, I believe it is much nearer the truth than it should be, but I shall return to this aspect in a moment when discussing what now? Some will say that Labour are no better. Not much, but the SNP and Plaid Cymru are, and they would have been players. But what about the large UKIP vote? So what ? They have made a much better fist of taking votes from both sides than the Greens, and may even have caused Conservative gains. But the UKIP vote is what it is. That does not affect the possibility that the Greens may have changed the outcome. It is probable that some of the Green votes would not have been cast at all. This was an exceptionally heavy poll. In 42 years of visiting Polling Stations, I have never before seen queues of that length at 7pm or 8.30. (I was only 10 in 1945, so I didn’t go electioneering with my Common Wealth dad). But in at least three of the 10 constituencies, the Tory majority is tiny as compared with the size of the Green vote. Perhaps we are only responsible for 6 of that overall majority of 12, so the disaster may not be our fault after all.
The low overall Green poll of 3.8% is obviously due to the huge number of constituencies where we were starting from cold. But the bench mark for me remains the 1989 European Election. That was a first full slate nationally, and to all intents and purposes it was starting from cold in most areas. The 1.15 million this time still has to be measured against the 2.3 million then, mostly in Conservative areas. In 1989, everybody thought of the Greens as a single issue – the environment. The well heeled thought saving the planet for future generations was more important than where next week’s rent and food was coming from, and nobody had told them that sustainablity was inseparable from reducing inequality – world wide as well as locally. They still have not been told that. This election could have been used for that purpose, with the Basic Income as a key element.
It would only require a success rate of 2% – 400 Conservatives switching to Green from every 20,000 to have not only reversed three of the above results, but saved several deposits where we only missed doing so by a whisker. I have trawled through 162 seats (25%). 132 were contested by Greens, 29 deposits saved, and I have identified 16 where we would have saved the deposit if this had happened. This is not an idea culled from thin air. Those 2.29 million 1989 Green voters took threats to the global environment seriously, but had not made the connection to fairness. Is recovering a tiny proportion so unrealistic?
I have to reiterate the three reasons I think the Basic Income is pivotal: to make a recession feasible, to ‘make work pay’ where the Universal Credit has failed, and to form the basis for a reconciliation between former enemies. What the Green Party must now do could have been done in this election campaign: to approach Conservatives more in sorrow than in anger. Without sacrificing any principles and retaining all the support we have achieved, it is possible to approach Conservatives who do have a sense of fair play, and who can see the logic of saving the planet for their grandchildren, the price being a less unequal society, in other words higher taxation from them. If insisting on less inequality makes us rabid commies, then we are rabid commies, but it could have been projected as “Please, we only want redistribution to the extent necessary to give everyone security whilst saving the environment ” rather than “We are coming to get you greedy b. . . s”, as the Daily Telegraph successfully portrayed us.
I am more sad than angry, but my Basic Income briefings were not mentioned on Green Activist, or did I miss the email? Only 69 hits on that page, where if there are 60,000 Green members there should have been at least 50,000 hits. One intriguing ray of hope is that my take on how the Basic Income is relevant to immigration (25th April 2014) has received 530 hits, with a recent surge. The absence of recent comments makes it difficult to know whether readers agree or not, but we could have made unquantifiable inroads into that UKIP tally, without sacrificing anything.
I often use Johnny Void blogs. I find them invaluable. But he supports Class War, which put up a handful of candidates which I doubt reached 1,000 votes between them. But the devastating evidence he provides should be a part of the Green Party case for the Basic Income as ushering in a totally new approach: persuasion instead of force. There are Conservatives who would have been uneasy about food banks proliferating as a direct result of Iain Duncan Smith’s sanctions and workfare regime if the case had been put in the way I would have liked.
Never mind, there is always next time , but we must start now.