Lib Dems and Greens: Vote tactically
Peter Tatchell of the Green Party sets out the case for tactical voting by Lib Dems and Greens, to advance democracy and electoral reform
London - 29 April 2010
voters who do not normally support the Liberal Democrats have to admit
that the sudden surge in their support has changed the possible
election outcome. It is breaking the two-party duopoly that has
strangled British politics since 1945 and lumbered us with parliaments
that do not represent the full spectrum of voter opinion and with
governments that are supported by only a minority of the public.
This election is our best chance in 100 years to get a government that will legislate for a fair voting system that will lead to the election of a representative parliament and a government with majority public support.
This change won’t happen if Labour or the Tories win. To secure change, we need a different result from past elections – a balanced parliament with more MPs committed to democracy and electoral reform.
This momentous, historic electoral opportunity for change has led me to qualify my call for people to vote Green. For the sake of the bigger prize of real democracy and fair votes, I have urged people to vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats in seats where the Greens are not standing, and in some other selected seats.
I urge the Lib Dems to show equal generosity and reciprocity by supporting the Greens in our key seats, such as Brighton Pavilion, Norwich South, Lewisham Deptford, Cambridge, Oxford East and elsewhere.
The Lib Dems have been very happy to accept Green support but they have not yet shown similar support for the Greens. This reciprocity is necessary in order to defeat the main opponents of democratic reform, Labour and the Conservatives.
I reiterate my appeal now:
We have got to end the corrupt voting system, whereby successive Tory and Labour governments have won a majority of seats based on a minority of votes.
In some constituencies, people should consider a tactical vote for the Lib Dems. In other seats, the Lib Dems should vote tactically for the Greens. This way, both parties benefit, as do all people who want progressive, democratic change.
Where are the Lib Dems who are calling for green and gold electoral cooperation in order to advance a democratic and fair election result? I don’t see any.
I am disappointed by the way some Liberal Democrats have sought to undermine the Greens in our target seats by misrepresenting and exploiting my appeal for mutual solidarity. This is cynical, manipulative politics. It is short-sighted, sectarian and selfish.
This election could be a real change-maker, or at least open up the possibility of future change. All progressive change-makers – including the Greens and the Lib Dems – should be working together to ensure that the old two-party ‘dictatorship’ is banished for good.
Where does this leave me and the Greens?
I still support the Green Party. I believe it has the best policies for a fair, green and compassionate society - and world. But like most Greens, I put values and ideals before narrow party interest. The lack of a democratic and fair voting system is the single most important issue on 6 May. If we don't have a representative parliament and a government with majority support, we don't have democracy.
The Conservatives and Labour oppose a fair voting system. They reject the democratic principle that a government should have majority public support. They accept that parties with a minority of votes are entitled to win a majority of seats, and that small parties with sizable public support, like the Greens, should have no MPs at all.
The Lib Dems support electoral reform, which is good. But they have recently indicated that they might accept the Alternative Vote system, which is not true PR. AV favours larger parties (including the Lib Dems) and would perpetuate the present flaw whereby a party with a minority of first preference votes could end up with a majority of seats.
The Greens, in contrast, do not accept AV. We believe that each party’s proportion of MPs in parliament should correspond to the proportion of votes won by that party.
Nevertheless, in order to prise open the door to a fair voting system and a representative parliament, tactical voting for the Lib Dems may be justified in some constituencies. But not in constituencies where the Greens have a good local base and a strong showing – such as Brighton Pavilion, Norwich South, Lewisham Deptford, Cambridge, Oxford East and so on.
In particular, in seats where the Greens have strong and growing support, I urge everyone to vote for the Green candidate.
I urge the Lib Dems to behave honourably and to not misrepresent what I have said; to not exploit my generosity towards them in order to damage the Greens in our target constituencies.
To the Greens who have doubts about what I am advocating, I say this:
My support for tactical voting takes the long view. The Lib Dems are our best (albeit flawed) hope for some form of electoral reform and, as a result, to secure more MPs from left-of-centre parties like the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Greens.
If the Tories or Labour win the election, there is no hope at all.
Although Nick Clegg has recently alluded to compromising with AV, I am quietly confident that he and others will eventually have to accede to a more democratic form of PR (most of the Lib Dem grassroots will demand it, as will the wider public).
The long-term success of progressive politics depends on PR. This election is our best chance in a century to get it.
As to the accusations of disloyalty to my own party:
I have suggested tactical voting for Lib Dems in some constituencies not in order to undermine the Greens but to help secure their future success. In politics, sometimes we have to sacrifice short-term gain for greater gain in the long run. This election is, I think, one such occasion.
Click here to return to the Politics Index