As I threatened to do in my last post, I’m going to use this blog space for a bit of politics. Thanks internet for providing me the opportunity! Even if you read no further, please make sure you’re registered to vote, and that you do in fact then vote on June 8th.
Recently I’ve been hearing a lot from political adversaries, colleagues, friends, and even family, about how confused, disappointed, or unhappy they are about Natalie Bennett standing in Sheffield Central in the coming General Election. This in turn gave me feelings of confusion, disappointment and frustration. So here are my corresponding thoughts in response.
Why have you parachuted Natalie in to Sheffield?
That’s simply not what happened. Natalie chose to move to Sheffield after her time as leader of the Greens. She was selected as our prospective candidate after moving to Norfolk Park in Sheffield Central.
Why are you targeting a Labour seat?
Greens came second in Sheffield Central in 2015, with the third best result in the country. It’s a natural target for us, as a seat we could actually win. We desperately need more Green voices in parliament. Just look at the amazing work Caroline Lucas has been doing. Natalie would at least double our ability to put fresh, Green ideas on the table. In our deeply outdated and broken electoral system, smaller parties must target winnable seats to make any progress and have their voices heard.
If you don’t think the Green Party and our ideals should exist at all, well, fine. But
I hope you are willing to accept that we do have a place in UK politics, whether it’s calling for an end to NHS privatisation, putting climate change on the agenda, standing up against a hard Brexit, campaigning for women’s equality, a universal citizens income, or an economy that works for everyone and our environment. With the political discourse shifting evermore rightwards and towards authoritarianism in recent decades, it’s vitally important that we continue to promote Green ideas and values. For me it’s the only way of pulling the conversation back towards the things that really, really matter. If you accept that the Green Party has a right to exist, and provides an important aspect of modern, pluralist politics, then you have to accept our attempts to win seats in parliament, even if that means targeting Labour seats. If we don’t stand up for these values, I have no faith that the Labour Party will instead.
Why not send Natalie to target a Tory seat instead?
This one is a favourite of those who feel Labour is entitled to all left-of-centre votes. Would they rather Natalie stood in a Labour/Tory marginal? Of course not. Perhaps they mean a safe Tory seat? Well, that’s not going to get us anywhere is it? Alright, they must mean a winnable Tory seat! Yes, there is one, possibly two seats in the entire UK where the Greens have a chance of beating the incumbent Tories. That’s Bath, where the Lib Dems are working hard to take the seat back from the Tories, and more excitingly, the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight has been Tory/Lib Dem forever, but in 2015 there was a huge swing to the Greens, who beat both Labour and the Lib Dems. Since then, lots of work has gone into electing our first Green local councillor on the island, and there is a real possibility that the great Green candidate Vix Lowthion might have a chance of winning, with the homophobic, misogynist Andrew Turner stepping down. (I’ve met him – he told me that Westminster doesn’t need more women, minorities or working class people as those sorts aren’t as good at politics). As an island community and with a great candidate already in place, it would make no sense at all for Natalie to stand there.
What about the progressive alliance?
The Greens have stood down in 20+ seats in the hope that by backing the Labour or Lib Dem candidates there, they might help beat the Tories. The Lib Dems have stood down in Brighton to support Caroline Lucas (thanks!), but Labour have categorically refused to back any other anti-Tory candidate, and even expelled their own members for working at a grassroots level to oust the odious Jeremy Hunt. An alliance doesn’t just mean Greens abandoning all their principles and joining the fractious and stubborn Labour Party. No-one has a monopoly on political ideas, nor a divine right to all left-leaning voters. Labour’s extreme tribalism and total lack of forward thinking has effectively sealed their fate.
Plus, in Sheffield we’re actually very lucky in that the Tories are absolutely nowhere to be seen. They have no councillors, no activists, and no chance of winning. This means there’s no need for a progressive alliance here. Voters can have the full choice of parties, and we can have really great, constructive conversations on the doorstep and elsewhere (as I have been having), about progressive ideas and ways forward towards a better future.
But why Sheffield Central? The incumbent Labour MP is a good guy, and we should be fighting the Tories.
I’ve met Paul Blomfield (the Labour candidate) on several occasions, and he does talk a lot about his progressive ideas. But he’s still a middle-of-the-road Labour MP, who campaigned against Corbyn in both leadership elections, and has always voted with the party line. I’ve been disappointed with his voting record on numerous occasions, and he’s been known to tell his constituents that he believes one thing, and then vote the opposite way when the Labour whip tells him to. After this election, if Labour lose a lot of seats (as I fear is likely), what direction will they take then? Will they successfully oust Corbyn and drag themselves back towards the ‘centre’ (which we used to call ‘right-wing’)? If they do, you can be sure that Blomfield will follow the party wherever it goes. At least with the Greens you know exactly what you’re getting, now and in the future.
And yes, Paul does good constituency work, but with 4 paid-up staff on his team, that’s the least we should expect. Natalie would work even harder, because we Greens know that no vote should be taken for granted, and every constituent deserves the support they need.
Why should I support Natalie?
Natalie is incredibly hard-working, and a very experienced campaigner. She appeared on the 2015 televised leaders debates, and is deeply passionate and enthusiastic about working for the people of Sheffield, and bringing Greens principles and ideas to parliament. She would make a fantastic MP, put Sheffield on the national agenda, and do a great job of holding the Tories and Labour to account for their promises, and their mistakes. One more or one less Tory or Labour MP won’t make a difference to the final outcome of this General Election, but one more Green MP would be a massive win, a huge story, and a brilliant opportunity for progressive change. Please help me to help Natalie to win.