An article in the Independent (8th of March) (1) offered an interesting insight into the tactical thinking of the Conservatives as they try to win the general election by focusing on waverers in marginal constituencies.
This is what the Conservatives reckon, according to the Independent: that in thirty marginals where the Greens polled more than 2 per cent of the vote last time, Labour’s tactic will be to focus on stopping Green voters switching to Conservative. And one Labour councillor is quoted as saying Labour’s campaign “is based on green issues,” although he denies it’s just about vote-grabbing to thwart the Tories.
If the Independent’s right, I don’t think the Conservatives remotely understand what motivates Green voters, or that Labour understands why it loses votes and members and seats to the Greens. All evidence shows that the crossover between Green and Tory voters is practically non-existent. So if Labour in these places are basing their tactics on stopping Greens voting Conservative, they are definitely barking up the wrong tree. And the Tories are plainly out of theirs, if they imagine Cameron’s green posturing will woo Green voters.
Here’s why Green voters don’t vote Conservative: because Green Party social and economic policies are decidedly at the very least left-of-centre.
In fact, that’s why the Greens win more council seats off Labour than off any other party, and take more members from Labour than from any other party. Disillusioned Labour voters are very comfortable with the Green Party’s policies on investing government cash to create jobs. Disillusioned Labour voters love the Green Party’s policies on protecting the NHS, stopping PFI schemes, increasing the top rate of tax, opposing the privatisation of the Royal Mail, and improving public transport and social inclusion and maternity services and restoring free NHS dentistry.
These are what Green voters routinely vote for, so the idea of a switch from Green to Tory is ludicrous. And these are the policies that have allowed the Greens to take so many voters away from Labour. Let’s face it, the reason Labour are about to lose Brighton Pavilion to the Green Party’s leader Caroline Lucas has relatively little to do with environmentalism. It has far more to do with the fact that, with increasing numbers of Green councillors in office in Brighton, the voters there are accustomed to seeing the broad range of Green Party policies, not just the environmental bits. And the reason Labour’s Charles Clarke is so afraid for his Norwich South seat, in a city that has twenty Green councillors, is similar.
In these cities, where the Greens have outpolled all other parties in every election for several years, the ridiculous old stereotype doesn’t work, and the voters know the Greens stand for job-creation and resisting service cuts and improving the NHS.
So please let’s hear no more of this nonsense about Greens voting Tory. A far bigger switch, both historically and judging by recent opinion polls predicting a Green Party breakthrough in this election, is from disillusioned Labour supporters to the Green Party.
1. “The fight on the beaches,” Paul Vallely, Independent, 8.3.10, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/the-fight-on-the-beaches-1917719.html.