Why the Greens aren’t standing down in Brighton Kemptown
In 2017, I was selected as the Green Party Candidate for Brighton Kemptown, having previously stood for election in 2015. But as a local party, we then made the decision to not contest the election.
The decision to stand down in the constituency was a difficult one, but after an internal debate the party overwhelmingly supported it. This was to enable Labour to defeat the Tory MP, Simon Kirby. We made it very clear that this would be a one-time offer, which Labour understood.
Much has been said about why the fantastic Alexandra Phillips MEP is standing for the Green Party this year. But as the person who stood down previously, I know that the arguments that we should stand aside again are wrong. Here’s why.
Why we stood aside
In 2015 Labour narrowly lost the seat by almost 700 votes to the Tories when the Green Party got 3,187 votes. The UKIP candidate got over 4000 votes.
It is important to remember that in 2015 Labour was an aggressively pro-austerity party (even though its local candidate Nancy Platts – the current Council leader – wasn’t). Nationally the Green Party formed an anti-austerity alliance with the SNP and Plaid Cymru.
Labour’s pro-austerity stance was unpopular on the doorstep here and across the country – that is why they lost in 2015 nationally and locally here in Kemptown. In the last week of that campaign Labour frantically targeted our voters in Kemptown with a “Keep the Tories Out” message that was quite effective but it was too late.
In 2017, we felt that it was important to help Labour defeat the Tories in key marginals such as Kemptown. So we stood down and the Tory MP Simon Kirby was defeated, despite UKIP standing down for the Tories. As a result, Labour won the seat in 2017 with a majority of nearly 10,000 votes. But now the picture is different.
The picture in 2019
Between the last election in 2017 and now, the Green Party on a national level sought an anti-Tory alliance for the long-awaited General Election. But Labour refused to discuss it (and has continued to do so).
For those who argue that “progressives should do everything they can to get rid of the Tories”, they need to realise that a national Anti-Tory alliance would be the single most effective tool – and Labour (not the Green Party) won’t countenance it. The absolute refusal of Labour to consider working with other parties is the single most likely reason why the Tories might win this general election.
The focus on what the Green Party is or isn’t doing is a way to deflect attention from Labour’s massive tribal gamble that it can pull off a Tory defeat all on its own. If it fails, the blame lies squarely with Labour.
Fears of losing are misrepresented
Much confusion has been caused by this article in the Argus, which has been repeatedly cited on Facebook and Twitter, sometimes unwittingly by independent progressives, and sometimes cynically by Labour Party campaigners.
The article is highly misleading for lots of reasons. There was no local opinion poll in the constituency predicting that Labour would lose the seat. This website is set up by one individual pollster with his own unique methodology. It is not endorsed or supported by the major polling organisations.
Its approach starts from an assumption that the average party score in the most recent opinion polls (with Labour 15+ percentage points behind) will be accurate for the final election result. Its starting point is that the Tories will win with a massive overall majority of almost 100 seats It then works backwards to translate that into each local seat. And on that basis it “predicts” that the Tories will narrowly win the seat back from Labour. So to believe its prediction for Kemptown, you have to believe in a national Tory landslide.
Where we are now
Let all this sink in for a moment. If Labour loses the national election by a landslide, it will have managed that outcome all on its own. It won’t be the Green party’s fault or anyone else’s.
So if you think that Labour will lose by a landslide, you are right to think Labour may lose the Kemptown seat. But then the Green Party standing down is a waste of time locally as Labour are going to get thrashed anyway so you might as well vote for what you believe in.
If you think Labour is going to do a lot better than this website suggests, then its entire prediction that Labour may lose Kemptown goes out of the window, so again you don’t have to worry about voting for what you believe in with Alexandra Phillips. This view is reinforced by the fact that the Brexit Party are standing against the Tories in the seat which will take a few thousand votes off the Tories.
Labour have had more than 2 years to defend their majority in Kemptown and build up their support. It is not up to the Green Party to do that for them. We have a track record of doing our bit in Kemptown to keep the Tories out. It’s time for Labour to do theirs.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle is supportive of better working relations with the Green Party. He thanked us for standing down in Kemptown in 2017. He supports PR and Remain. He is serious about tackling the climate emergency.
But nationally Labour refuses to discuss working with the Greens and has never thanked us for standing down in 30+ seats in 2017, ensuring the Tories didn’t get a majority. It cynically supports First Past the Post (which makes people look to tactical voting) rather than PR, and it is officially “neutral” on Brexit. And while its recent conversion to the Green New Deal is welcome, it remains inconsistent – supporting a new coal mine in Cumbria, the HS2 project and Hinkley Point and regional airport expansion – all of which are incompatible with the UK meeting its climate change targets.
Alexandra Phillips will be a great MP
Alexandra Phillips is a brilliant, passionate and experienced politician, who has been elected as councillor in this city for ten years.
Whether it is her personal commitment to a Green New Deal across Europe or the party’s huge commitment to invest in tackling our climate emergency, she will fight passionately for future generations.
She is perfectly entitled to stand in Kemptown this time round as this is no longer a tight marginal. The Green Party and the Labour Party are different parties with different policies. As Labour refuses to endorse a national pact over seats, the Green Party has the right and duty to stand in this seat to allow people to show their support for its policies.
Header image credit: YouTube screengrab
Just a wee correction from Scotland: “In 2015 the Green Party formed an anti austerity alliance with the SNP”. GPEW, the Green Party of England and Wales, doesn’t operate in Scotland – the clue’s in the name – and the Scottish Green Party has never had any pact with the SNP.
A resonable argument, until the subheader “Alexandra Phillips will be a great MP”, of course that may well be true in time, but not in 2019. It is clear given the demographics of the constituency that the Green Party cannot win. As is said people should be able to vote for whichever party best represents their views. In an ideal world I too would be voting for the Green Party. It is not such a marginal that a minor progressive party needs to stand down.
As things stand Labour is set to lose the seat to the Conservatives. I think anybody with a level headed assesment recognises that Labour’s polling will improve during the course of the campaign, as in 2017. Part of this process is solidifying the progressive vote as the Labour message battles its way through the hostile media. In the meantime there is nothing special about Kemptown and wishful thinking doesn’t make it safe any more than it makes it an electoral possibility for the Green Party. Every vote counts.
I respect a Green party vote pushing the Labour party on, which has long been a part of the environmental movement. The Green party vote which thinks it can win in Kemptown is what would could unseat Labour for the Conservatives, and that is what Labour campaigns against.
So don’t stand down Alexandra, take the fight to the Torys, as a SE MEP campaign in Lewes or the IOW where you can make a positive difference. Like Labour in Pavillion, give people the opportunity to vote for you, but spend your energy getting the tories out.
I’m afraid a lot of your post is simply incorrect:
“…anybody with a level headed assesment recognises that Labour’s polling will improve during the course of the campaign, as in 2017.”
That may have been the case in 2017, but wasn’t in 2010 (when Parliament was dissolved Labour trailed by 7% and subsequently lost by 7%), or in 2015 (when Parliament was dissolved Labour were level and lost by 7%).
Your assertion that “every vote counts” would be a good argument for PR, but certainly isn’t one for FPTP – in the 2017 General Election, 68% of votes were wasted.
Your suggestion that Labour is standing in Brighton Pavillion merely to give people an opportunity to vote for them is not borne out by history – Labour threw an inordinate (and ultimately wasted) amount of resources at Brighton Pavillion in 2017 in an effort to oust Caroline Lucas when they could, as you say, have better spent their energy getting the Tories out.
PR is the solution to the rigmarole of tactical voting. Those who refuse to embrace in favour of retaining FPTP are the problem.
You talk about a Labour or Tory landslide, but neither of those are as realistic as a hung parliament or small majority.
Like I get Labour tribalism is frustrating, but you ain’t gonna win and I really hate the Tories
As the Tory/Brexit parties past if for the NO not to stand in seats the Tories won in 2017 therefore they will stand in Brighton kemptown! If you are so sure Greens won’t win Labour should have no problem!