What Caroline Lucas can do about the Green vote collapse

Did the Progressive Alliance cause the 55% slump in 2017 Green votes as compared with 2015? No, but Caroline Lucas has been leading us in the wrong direction.

This is a last ditch appeal to the Green Party leadership. It is not primarily a criticism, but I do believe that Caroline has been following a path which was bound to lead to just this disaster.

Please read my last three blogs, 8th, 10th and 18th June, but here is a recap of how we got where we are:

In 1973 (what became) the Green Party was formed in response to the MIT warnings in ‘Limits to Growth’ that we were reaching  the limits of the ecosphere to cope with human  economic activity.

I joined, pointing out to the founder members’ alarm, that they had just formed a wildly socialist party, because the ‘steady state’ economy they proposed would involve drastic redistribution if social justice was to be guaranteed. They pointed out, correctly, that the crash if we did not heed ‘Limits’ would be much worse than  their  proposal. I introduced the Citizens’ Basic Income to enable a soft economic landing. It may be a bit harsh to say the Green Party never really grasped this point, but the (successful) ‘Target to Win’ strategy shifted the focus from global to local, so the ‘de-growth’ nettle was left ungrasped. Crucially, it still is.

According to Naomi Klein’s recent book ‘This changes Everything’, the small clique which eventually led the neoliberal hegemony also realized the egalitarian implications of no-growth. ‘Limits’ was duly attacked and rubbished, and in due course the massive climate denial campaign was set in motion.

In the 1989 European election Greens gained 2.3 million votes, uniformly proportional throughout England at between 40% and 45% of whatever the Conservative vote was. Caroline, de facto Leader (before we had a ‘proper’ one) explained about the redistribution. For some time  she lost no opportunity to stress how socialist the Green Party was, but more recently I think she has taken someone’s advice to downplay this. At the 1994 Euro election our vote dropped to a figure less than 2017. [Our core, truly Green vote then was less than 500,000. If we had stood in all constituencies in 2017, it would have been circa 700,000]

Blair became Labour leader in 1994. He gained a massive majority in 1997 due to his aspirational thatcherite theme, but what was less noticeable was the modest, but steady growth in the Green Party, due to alienation from what the Labour Party used to be about.

The Green Party was then firmly on the course which led to the débacle in June 2017. We had no option but to propose drastic redistribution, but until 1994 there was a clear consensus that this must be in the context of limits to the ecosphere. Thereafter an increasing number within the Party were unreconstructed former Labour Party members who viewed ecological concerns as a millstone round their necks.

The ‘peak’ of 1.1 million votes in 2015 was not a recognition of ecological realities, it was a judgment that Green policies were closer to what those voters wanted than Ed Miliband’s Labour Party.

For what it is worth, several seats can be identified where the Progressive Alliance either was, or would have been effective if my proposed strategy (blog 27th April) had been followed. There are seats where the Tory majority was slimmer than the Green vote even on the reduced figures, but Tim Farron’s Lib Dem survival in Westmorland & Lonsdale can plausibly be attributed to Green forbearance. But this misses the point.

The genuine Green surge will come where it happened in 1989 – Conservative heartlands, and it can be done without sacrificing social justice.

I claim that in the Sedgefield (Tony Blair) byelection in 2007 we had evidence watching the count that we had persuaded obviously affluent people who intended to vote Conservative, but who did take the climate threat seriously, that what they will get for higher taxes is a planet fit for their grandchildren. The Basic income takes too long on the doorstep – it is better explained on TV by someone who has it at their fingertips to a hostile, aggressive Andrew Neil, or Jeremy Paxman.

The Basic Income can be presented as entrepreneur friendly. If you have nothing but a bright idea, the Basic income supports you. Once your idea succeeds and you become rich, you pay more than the Basic Income is worth to you in tax.

But above all the Basic income enables a mind-set change in those who think the present sanctions scrounger-bashing culture makes sense. The sanctions régime deliberately misunderstands the poverty trap. Means tested benefits have the effect of a massive tax on anyone moving from benefits to a low paid job, so ‘scrounging’ has always been the rational option, surpisingly chosen by remarkably few low paid. Universal Credit was supposed to remedy this, but has still reached only a fraction of its intended recipients.

Not only does the Basic income ‘make work pay’ better than the Universal Credit even if that existed, it calls the bluff of anyone who thinks the poor are poor because they are stupid. Once there is a level playing field for all this can be put to the test. If you are bright, whatever your start in life, you will get on.

Apart from polite acknowledgments I have heard nothing in response to my appeals to our leaders, so I must assume that they are being ignored. That disappoints but does not surprise me. What depresses me more is comments of which I am aware from the party generally. But that does not surprise me either. I am asking a party which includes many who think of Tories as enemies to see some of them as our new friends. At all events I appear to be in a minority in stating what to me is so obvious.

In the Isle of Wight, the candidate’s agent tells me that there is a change to a less consumerist lifestyle. But I am aware of no one else who sees this as the key to the Green Party’s future. And I confess myself disturbed that the Green success there is not part of a pattern, though there are faint echoes in where deposits were saved, and  the differential vote this time between Conservative and Labour held constituencies.

I am particularly worried by the results in Fylde, where Tina Rothery has been pursuing an energetic anti-fracking campaign – 2.72%, and Thirsk & Malton, the other site, Kirby Misperton, where fracking operations have started – 1.97% – not even the average in Conservative held seats. Not much sign of a less consumerist ethos there.

But neither have I seen anything to contradict the evidence of the 1989 election, or Sedgefield in 2007. In 2015 the average Green vote was around 4% in both Labour and Conservative held seats, but in 2017 there was a clear difference – 2.18% in Conservative seats  and 1.61% in Labour seats (1.77% if you include Bristol West and Sheffield Central).

As I said on doorsteps in East Cowes, the government record on the environment has been appalling ever since 2010. But to remove that government means taking votes from it. And Caroline, if you really want the Progressive Alliance to work you will have to persuade the Labour party that instead of dirty tricks against Greens, they would be better helping us to remove Conservatives.

All this assumes no change in the weather. . .


16 responses to “What Caroline Lucas can do about the Green vote collapse

  1. Hi Clive
    given your “a recession can be fun” theme, I thought you might appeciate this quote from Vaclav Smil.

    Also, a question. You say:
    the (effective) ‘Target to Win’ strategy shifted the focus from global to local, so the ‘de-growth’ nettle was left ungrasped. Crucially, it still is.

    But, do you not think the installation of green councillors could be valuable from the resilience point of view? The green localisation agenda goes back a long way does it not?

    • Even now that so many Green councillors have a formidable record, wild horses won’t persuade them tostart the de-growth debate, but to get them in in the first place it would have frightened too many horses.
      Thanks for the link. I don’t suppose you have read ‘The political Brain’ by Drew Westen. His main theme is that emotion is always dominant, never rational arguments. But another key point is that humans are hard wired against loss, however slight. What Vaclav Smil says is eminently rational, but hasn’t ahope inHell of getting anywhere – unless we can a) ttellpeople that something worse might happen, and b) guarantee their security when it does (see my blog again for how that might happen).

  2. Hello, Clive. The UBI did survive in the 2017 Manifesto, EC661 did not survive.
    UBI works best in Countries with a Sovereign Currency and therefore potential of Using the mythical “Magic Money Tree” creating money as a distributive and not re-distributive policy.

    The Anti-Democratic and “Deplorables2 Like stance of Caroline on Brexit will explain a lot of the problem in the Green Vote collapse. The other is the Social Democracy resurgent Labour Party.
    Mike Shone did an excellent analysis of how ineffectual the “Progressive Alliance” was, due to the resurrected Labour vote.
    ” Greens “standing down”: the effect on the Tory total in Parliament
    Labour made 28 gains and Lib. Dems 5 from Tories on election day in England and Wales (they also had a few losses).
    In these 33 gains from Tories , Greens fielded candidates in twenty-two constituencies. We stood aside in eleven. It appears that in only one seat : Oxford and Abingdon was the absence of a Green candidate extremely likely to have been decisive for a Tory loss. (There in 2015 the Green vote total was 2,497 and the Lib Dem majority in 2017 was 816. So it seems pretty clear that the presence of a Green in 2017 would have led to Tory retention ).
    Looking at Labour’s thirty-three most vulnerable seats with majorities of less than 3,000, Greens stood in 17 of them. Only in Newcastle under Lyme and Bishop Auckland did the absence of a Green candidate prevent a Tory taking a Labour seat. And the absence of Green in Tim Farron’s seat saved him from being defeated by a Tory.
    So overall it looks as if standing aside only contributed decisively to one Tory loss , but also to two Labour retentions and one Lib Dem. retention.
    In general, Greens standing aside had the effect of making the majorities against Tories bigger than would have otherwise been the case, but had limited impact on the Tory total.”

    Subsidiarity is a Keystone of the EU´s Constitution and of the Green Party Ethos, Both Leadership of the Eu and The Green Party have forgotten what Subsidiarity is and That Devolution of implementation of Policy and Initiation of Policy at a more centralised level should flow from the Smallest Units of Organisation.This goes for All policy and Distributed Networks or any system must be governed by sensitive feedback communication. The Current Leadership in pursuing a Pound Shop Liberal Democratic stance, has I think devalued the Green Parties strengths which lie in Radical solutions to the problems which are clearly not being solved in the top down elitist model pursued under Neo-Liberalism.
    David Malone will be challenging for the Leadership of the Green Party in 2018, the present Regime is, in my opinion, a failing experiment in a Presidential style that frankly has annoyed rather a lot of people.


  3. Hi, Clive, I see my comment remains unmoderated. This comment regarding your exchange with Martin on which you are both missing the point. Growth is usually expressed in GDP terms, this is a monetary metric whichever way you look at it.

    “discussions — of ‘value,’ of fluctuating prices, of the gold standard, of changing interest rates, of items of pecuniary wealth which are at the same time items of debt — are
    merely discussions looking toward a readjustment of the factors which prevent them
    The problem of analysing political choices against the metric of a Monetary measure is the Money as a Thing is most certainly a Variable, and like any good technologist, scientist or metrologist will tell you a unit of measurement has to be clearly defined and fixed.”
    – Name one measure we might implement immediately to improve the situation.

    Stop lying to the public about the Magic Money Tree. It’s about the allocation of resources, not money. Money is just a tool to move stuff
    around. Nobody has ever had ‘inflation’ written down as their cause of death. Malnutrition and Exposure: yes, Inflation: no.

    De-Growth is a poisoned well of a definition of sustainable post-Capitalist Economics. Re-defining assumptions and new metrics for the New Paradigm is where the cutting edge of Green Policy should focus.
    Shoe Horning concepts like Distributed local grid renewable energy systems or Permaculture cooperatives into the capitalist mode of production simply does not work as they can not work under the scarcity and debt based allocation systems which define how Capital is constituted and measured.

    • sorry Roger, lot’s to do. yours was one of the longer comments which needs more thinking about, and even now it is quite late.
      Everything yousay makes sense, but i am not clear on how getting away from money solves the central problem: everyone assumes an expanding economy, however defined or measured, and somehow we have to trim our demands on the ecosphere. No matter how we measure that reduction, it will register as alower standard of living (e.g No car, but adequate public transport).We humans are all haard wired to resist loss, however marginal.
      You can go throughthe paradigm shift Bhuddist-wise, as i have in effect done – not a practising Buddhist, just content with my simper lifestyle, or persuade people i]somethign worse will hapen to them if they don’t.
      I don’t see how re-defining money gets away from the basic problem of accepting finite limits.

      • I don’t fully understand ‘WordPress’. It says there is an unmoderated comment. I thought i had replied to rogerlewis, and this is an attempt to remove the red dot.

      • Hi Clive, I think you have solved the un – moderated comment, it comes up with no additional awaiting moderation script in any case.
        On the question of doing away with money, my argument does not rest with doing away with money but doing away with usury, It is the Interest upon money and especially compound interest which drives our debt based money system to require infinite growth to avoid inevitable implosion where the supply of money does not grow.
        Money creation without Interest leads to a different emphasis from monetary growth to resource allocation. It removes the destructive imperative of Exponential growth in money supply to sustain the money supply regardless of the economies potentials and limitations. I made a very long post in one of our previous discussions quoting Margrit Kennedy, Joseph Proudhon and Helmuth Kreutz and also the great currency expert and Writer Berard Leitaer. Someone I don´+t think I mentioned in that discussion was Henry Georg and his Progress and Poverty. George is as relevant today as ever esåecially in the large Urban Conurbations His Single Land Value Tax addresses so much of the misallocation of resources that we see under the present Standardised Taxation regimes in the Washington consensus. Taxation at its heart is a form of Rationing, by the control of aggregate demand, its conflation with Balancing the books and housekeeping economy as opposed to a full expression of the realities of Political Economy leaves us in something of a pickle.
        Caroline had a tangle with Jacob Rees-Mogg on the issue on Question Time last week, pointing out to Mr Rees Mogg that there seemed something of a contradiction that individual Student Debt was good whilst Government debt was bad by his analysis. Now by my understanding of events and of the 2015 Green Manifesto Policy EC661 , Caroline is absolutely right to point our Mr Rees Mogg´s mistaken reasoning which is 180 degrees at variance with the Facts of how money Is done in the modern Economy of the UK, Student Debt or the National Debt are both straightforward political decisions based upon an ideological position. The Green Party Policy on UBI has my full support but I must tell you it will not work with the current delegation of money creation to Private commercial banks from who the government chooses to borrow to get its own money. This position was first reversed under the Bank Charter Act of 1844, and the process was taken back in House with the Nationalisation of the Bank of England in 1945. Gordon Brown made the setting of interest rates Independent of Government is 1997 when The Blair Government came to power. This was a missed opportunity. UBI can only work with Sovereign money distributed as newly created money, doing it through Taxation would be unpopular but further, without changing the money creation process it will breach the Fiscal Rules Governments in the Washington Consensus accept from the IBS/WTO and World Bank and IMF.
        Policy EC661 and UBI are necessary for the future all economic indicators show this to be the case. Renewable energy is already washing its face with the ridiculous monetary metrics imposed by Money at interest. Kreutz shows the interest element of social housing g to be 77%

        ”The capital share in garbage collection
        amounts to 12 % because here the share of capital costs
        is relatively low and the share of physical labour is particu-
        larly high. This changes in the provision of drinking water,
        where capital costs amount to 38 %, and even more so in
        social housing, where they add up to 77 %. On an aver-
        age we pay about 50% capital costs in the prices of our
        goods and services.”
        from http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~roehrigw/kennedy/english/chap1.htm

        That’s again old ground we went over in our previous discussion.

        The fact remains Carolines Question Time discussion with Mr Rees Mogg would have been game set and match with Policy EC661 still in place as it would have been with Amber Rudd in the Leaders Debate on ITV before the Election.

        I interviewed David Malone at length two weeks ago and we touched on The GP vote collapse, in some depth Heres a link in case you and your readers are interested.
        http://letthemconfectsweeterlies.blogspot.se/2017/06/not-leadership-coups.html ( Link to Livestreaming event page in Blog)

    • Origina comment not moderated becasue I had to find time to listentot your first link, at nearly 50 minutes. I agree with the general gist of it, but it does nothing to refute my claim thet there is a more fundamental reason for the ‘Tragedy’ – strategies for growth are the worst pssible startegies for sustainability. You say nothing which conflicts with my claim that Easter Island dempnstrates this principle
      In your follow-up comment, you seem to imply that I am among those seeing growth in GDP terms. On the contrary, I am seeing the Sami (Laplanders) way of life being destroyed, Antactic Ice retreating faster than thought, orangs being extermianted to grow palms, corals whitening ….

  4. The Green vote didn’t ‘collapse’. Greens responsibly realised they must vote tactically with the election candidate most likely to beat the Conservatives. They realised that if Tories were given free reign to neo-lib tactics there would be little left of the democracy that allowed progressive, environmental and redistribution policies. Having hampered the neo-libs, we can now get back to green votes and better society. I support PR but with Conservatives in charge its a distant pipe-dream.

    • Tactical voting had little to do with it in this election. I have trawled through the results, and what emerges is that the best 2015 Green results, all of which COLLAPSED, certainly ALL our second places, were in seats with Labour majorities in excess of 10K. Absolutely no question of tactics. On the doorstep, I would (did) advise anyone with your point of view to use your otherwise pointless vote to signal your worries about the climate. At the risk of repeating what cannot be said too often, yes, we must get rid of this unjust and ecologically damaging government, but by taking the votes in places like the Isle of Wight and Herefordshire, or Protestant parts of Belfast, where they return Cons, but who are more likely to worry about climate change than those on or in fear of benefit sanctions.

    • I have tried to explain in the ‘Page’ on this blog: ‘Quick Guide to citizens’ Income (including graph explanation). i’m not sure Caroline Lucas or Natalie Bennett fully understand its effect.

    • An attempt, yes. I thought I explained in the Graph explanation on the ‘Pages’ that MTR = Marginal tax rate, so if your JSA stops dead as soon as you earn, your MTR is 100%. PTR, Participation Tax Rate, is the proportion of your total income you lose overall due to real tax or withdrawal of benefits. The point here, and maybe I need to spell it out more, is that whilst EVERYBODY who claims no benefits has paid that 100% tax equivalent on the first part of their income, that is utterly irrelevant if you are on £150k pa. Your PTR and MTR converge.

  5. Pingback: What Caroline Lucas can do about the Green vote collapse – Not The Grub Street Journal·

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