Having missed the Birmingham hustings by barely a mile – almost literally – This weekend I actually reached hustings in Stowmarket and Shoreham. I had prepared a well-honed 5 minute spiel, practiced with my long-suffering partner, only to find you got 2 minutes! Useful practice for a politician to think on her/his feet.
The Progressive Alliance came up in questions. I start from a sceptical position. Labour have understandably done their damnedest to destroy the Green Party wherever we show most signs of a breakthrough – Brighton, Norwich , Bristol, Oxford . . . Which is only to be expected – we only take votes from them. My strategy is to reclaim the votes we got in the 1989 Euros. Probably Lib Dems mainly, but almost all in Conservative heartlands. Of course if it works the short term effect of this will be to hand a few Tory held marginals to Labour, possibly enough to ensure a hung Parliament, but our message should appeal to many who would never vote Labour, but who are unhappy at this government’s record on the environment.
If it does happen, the Labour Party should stop trying to get rid of us, and would have an incentive to co-operate in the Progressive Alliance.
We got a challenging question at Shoreham on the role of Leadership. The balance between listening and articulating what the grass roots are thinking and feeling, and new initiatives will always remain a precarious art. But this becomes extremely difficult in a fast changing situation as we have at the moment.
In the main I am standing the ‘wasted vote’ argument on its head: If you think the result is a foregone conclusion, don’t waste your vote trying to decide who will be leader, use it to send a message about what you think is important. In my case this is recognizing that the threats to the ecosphere should be the major issue, and the Citizens’ Basic Income is a part of the answer. Talk of reducing economic growth, or not buying as much stuff is a platitude without something to bring it about.
Nevertheless, I do have to think, what will I say if I have to speak on behalf of the Green Party in an unprecedented situation with no time to consult. Sobering.