Don’t swap your vote – vote for the future
This election campaign has seen the rise of ‘vote swapping‘ websites – some with thousands signed up – where Green and Labour voters across the country ‘trade’ their votes to increase the chances of kicking out Tories and Lib Dems.
In this piece, Green member Joe Levy argues wherever you are, progressives should reject ‘tactical’ voting and instead vote Green.
Vote for what you believe in. It’s a fantastic slogan in that for many it has been really powerful in the way that it makes you think “yes, I have had enough. It’s time I did things differently”. It also captures the image of what we want the politics of the future to look like. The idea is that we vote on our beliefs and hopes rather than on cynical assumptions of what will happen. Voting for what you believe in is a rallying cry to all of us without fear, to stand up and proudly say no to tactical voting.
However many of you may find on the doorsteps and at hustings that people need a more tangible expression of this. Even when told to vote for what they believe in, they still fear cuts and they still fear what will happen if the party they like the least gets into power. The reason many feel this way is because they feel powerless and by voting for the party they like the second-least, they feel they are entrusting their voice to someone who actually does have power.
So how do we break this pattern? If people feel their vote is wasted, it can be very difficult to convince them that their vote does indeed count. However our strength is not in a single leaflet or a single slogan, but in our long term aims and goals, carefully thought out and constantly evolving to reflect our party membership. People who vote for us now are not only voting for this election, but they are voting for the future – in so many ways.
There is an obvious way which chimes with some people. Many local parties will be primarily hoping to save their deposits. Achieve 5% of the vote and you keep your £500 deposit, achieve less than this and the money is lost. In this sense every vote counts as you are making a more physical, economic investment in the future of your local party.
However, my eminently wise Green parliamentary candidate in Exeter, Diana Moore, made me realise how we need to be careful with that argument. The argument is certainly true, and we should not ignore it as a part of the way politics currently works, but we are about so much more than the price of our vote. People who vote for what they believe in, regardless of their party’s chances of winning, are investing in the future of the party. The Green Party did not win Brighton Pavilion in 1997, when 3% voted Green there. We did not win there in 2001 when 9.3% voted Green. We did not win in 2005 when 21.9% voted Green. It took until 2010 for Caroline Lucas to be elected in Brighton Pavilion as the Green Party’s first MP. Yet in those preceding elections, even though the Green Party did not win and did not seem at all likely to, people put their faith in the candidate and voted for them. Today many might call those votes wasted, but as we know, ultimately they were not. Could your constituency follow the same trajectory? That is at least partly up to you.
I have often heard supporters of particular parties, notably Labour, saying that if Green supporters vote Labour, they will get electoral reform and be able to vote Green next time. Aside from my tendency to be suspicious of such promises that have been made before and not met with action, there is a far better way to achieve electoral reform. Where is the injustice in a statistic which shows the winning party getting a mandate from number of votes? Your ballot paper only says one party, it doesn’t say “the Labour Party candidate but I wanted to vote for the Green Party candidate” (the printing costs would be astronomical). The only way we will achieve electoral reform is if enough people vote for what they believe in. Can you imagine a greater electoral injustice in our country than millions of people voting for a party and yet only returning one, maybe two MPs? If you really want electoral reform your best bet is, instead of giving a mandate to someone you don’t especially like, voting for someone you actually do.
Many people will probably vote tactically on May 7th, that is the reality of the situation. They will say what they said in 2010: “this is the last chance I am giving x party” or “next time I will vote for them, but this time I need to vote x to keep y out”. So will you be one of them, forever waiting for when the time is right? Or will you stop waiting and start voting for what you believe in? Voting for the future.