Sunday, 4 June 2017

Why I'm Voting Green in #GE2017

Its been a while since I voted in a UK general election.  The last time was actually my first time, back twenty odd years ago when I was a young, fresh faced adult. Back then I was happy to enter this rite of passage to being a proper grown up. And the person and party I voted for got in. Woohoo! I was happy.

Then, slowly, it all unravelled: promises got broken, new policies appeared from nowhere, the politicians appeared to ignore the people they were supposed to represent, and cynicism set in.  It dawned on me that it didn't really matter much which party got in as many of their policies changed with the wind and were more or less indistinguishable over the long term between Labour, Conservatives and Alliance/Liberal/LibDem. Manifesto promises had the moral standing of Monopoly IOU notes. Having "your say" every four or five years seemed completely pointless and was just another tool to keep the population happy.  I decided I'd vote in referendums where there was a single issue I could cast my vote on, but not take part in representative elections after that.

And that's what I've done, perfectly happily, until this year.

What's made me change my mind? Well, those who know me will know that I'm a "greenie" with a small "g" - I'm concerned about climate change, the effects it will have on our planet, society and security, the over consumption in the developed world and the rapidly rising consumption to match elsewhere. For me personally, this is the biggest issue facing us all and everything else is driven from it. I'm active in our local Transition Town group, I invest some of my money into renewable schemes, I garden organically, I've got LED light bulbs... in short I try, however poorly, to do my bit.

Climate change and ways to tackle it are complex though, and solutions need to be carefully thought through. There are many nuances that we need to consider. Is nuclear always bad or can newer, safer nuclear reactors be used to clean up old nuclear waste? Will large scale tidal system mess up marine ecology? Is fracked gas a "bridging fuel" to displace coal in a lower carbon Grid or just an excuse to allow companies to keep pulling fossil carbon out of the ground? Should we allow valuable farmland to be covered with solar farms or housing estates? There'll be disagreements on all of these, and the devil is in the details. So many details.

Unfortunately "complex, detailed and nuanced" doesn't work well in the party politics of emotionally charged general elections.  This is the land of the sound bite, the spiteful riposte, of division, recriminations, hatred and bile. Simple messages repeated ad nauseum.

As a result, for the most part in this election coverage climate change and environmental issues are second, third or fourth rate issues that barely get a mention. Indeed it was only President Trump pulling out of the Paris Accord that seemed to get climate change as a world affecting topic temporarily back up to the top of the agenda at all for a few days. Who'd have thought the arch Climate Change Denier in the White House would be the person to do that during a UK general election?

But then the UK media machine moved on and we lurched back to social security brinksmanship, who'd blink first in Brexit negotiations, who'd launch nuclear weapons, jibes about historical voting records and comments on news from yesteryear.

Of course the various political parties do have all something about the environment in the manifestos, but it rarely gets an airing and most folk don't have manifestoes as light bedtime reading. Lots of election coverage, but little enviromental issues. It was then I noticed that the Green Party weren't on the TV very much. You'd assume they'd at least bang the climate change drum a bit. During the local election coverage during the run up to the general election, UKIP appeared to be getting far more coverage than the Greens. Why were the Greens seemingly being sidelined?

I found out why: whilst we don't have Proportional Representation in Parliament, we do seem to have some sort of version of it in regulated TV and radio election coverage (the newspapers are, strangely, left to their own biased devices as far as I can tell). Whilst the Greens have Caroline Lucas as a sitting MP whilst UKIP have nobody in the Commons any more, UKIP had had more people overall vote for them than the Greens nationwide in previous local and general elections, so they were getting a bigger slice of the media pie this time round. And with that more media focus on issues of immigration and hard/soft Brexiting than climate change. Pants!

So that's the slightly odd reason why I'm going to be voting Green this year.  Not because I think there's going to be a sudden surge of Green supporters appear and Caroline Lucas will sweep into power as PM. Not for some "Progressive Alliance" dream that other progressive parties don't appear to share. Not because I support all their socialist, renationalisation policies (I definitely don't - I'm more a market based "Green Tory" if push comes to shove but there isn't a party for that).

But because for once my vote will actually count for something, albeit in five years time when we do the next General Election. A bit of long term tactical voting. I'll have added just a little nudge to get the Greens more air time in 2022, and they may, just may, take that chance to help climate change and environmental issues to reach a wider audience. The national conversation might just shift in that direction again. It might be a small effect, it might not pay off and it may be way too late, but it can't hurt.