How Labour could get some green votes

312px-CarolineLucasMEP_Oxford20060411_KaihsuTaiIt’s a matter of continuing disappointment that the Labour Party appears not to have anything much to say on wildlife and rural issues. Maybe there will be a mesmerising  list of positive policy announcements over the weeks and months running up to the general election (four calendar months distant on Wednesday (and actually 17 weeks from Thursday)) but, also, there might not be.

So, here’s an idea that would immediately capture quite a lot of goodwill and even some votes for the Labour Party: announce that Labour will not contest Brighton Pavilion and will make Caroline Lucas Secretary of State for the Environment if Labour forms the government or the major partner in a coalition government.

What would Labour lose from this?:

  • the possibility of winning Brighton Pavilion but it looks a bit of a long shot to me anyway
  • some face, because it would look like Labour needed the help of another party
  • if it came to pass, a truly radical voice around the cabinet table

What would Labour gain from this?:

  • a better-informed, more highly-experienced, more-eloquent and more-passionate environment secretary than they can find, probably, in their own ranks. And I mention those attributes in descending order of importance to me. There is no doubt that Caroline Lucas knows her stuff, she has demonstrated that over and over again in the present parliament.
  • some face, because it would look as though Labour treated environmental issues seriously, wanted to do a good job, and was prepared to seek talent wherever it could be found.
  • the votes of some wavering Labour supporters all over the country, some in marginal constituencies, who would feel that they were voting for a socially fair and considerate government that would actually get something done on environmental issues.
  • a pretty good answer to any environmental criticism levelled at Labour for the next few months. ‘What is Labour going to do for the environment? Well, for a start we are going to co-opt a green MP to work at a senior level within the government – you won’t find the Conservatives or any other party offering that!’.
  • a truly radical voice around the cabinet table.

It won’t happen – but it would be a smart move if it did happen. Remember, there may be some considerable horse-trading going on on 8 May 2015 and maybe for quite some time afterwards. There may well be some difficult compromises and deals to be done. Why not show the electorate that you are able to be flexible and act for the public good ahead of having to do so in a rush and in the confusion of a hard-fought election campaign?

photoAnd by the way, this blog will put a lot of effort into keeping you informed of your electoral choices on the run up to the general election. It will welcome Guest Blogs from the political parties, from politicians and from informed, interesting and provocative writers. And I will aim to give you a well-informed commentary on, and guide to, the environmental aspects of the main parties’ manifestos.  Sometimes people mistake my membership of the Labour Party as undying devotion and complete adherence to all that it says – you may well find that that is very far from the case during this campaign (but, we’ll have to wait and see).





Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive

Get email notifications of new blog posts

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

22 Replies to “How Labour could get some green votes”

  1. i know you like horses, Mark but why go on flogging dead ones, i.e. the Labour Party. They were very much needed post World War Two and put in place a great welfare state, which ironically, New Labour have been instrumental in destroying. The world has moved on though and to be honest, I'm more concerned as to how the Greens can get more votes from Labour (and any other party!) For me, Green politics is the politics of the future and no current major party is going to embrace that. So let the Labour Party wither and die. They have sullied their great past and damaged the reputation of those that created the welfare state. Time to move on to a green socialist future and I can't see how that will be achieved under Labour.

  2. Brilliant idea, Mark. Fully support it. We just need the main parties to bury their pride and go for ideas like this. Not sure they will though, that is the pity of it.

  3. Labour have to do a lot more than become greener to get my vote. Getting rid of Ed Milibland would be a good start.

  4. An interesting concept and one that I'd be very interested to hear about from Caroline Lucas/ Green Party and Labour. I can't see it happening...yet...but if the Greens secure a few more seats at the next election then it may become, just may become more plausible.


  5. What could Labour lose from your plan? A lot of Old Labour stalwarts' votes for a start. Caroline Lucas and the Green Party really frighten the horses for a lot of traditional Labour voters. As you say she'd be "truly radical voice" which, on social issue particularly, isn't what many Old Labourites want at all. Anti-monarchism, liberal policies on drugs, prostitution etc.

    She'd also be a perpetual loose cannon on the Labour front bench.

    Probably be a good way to get even more Old Labour heartlanders going over to UKIP though!

  6. The outcome of the next election is hard to predict but another coalition is a distinct possibility. If that is what happens I fear that whoever is the junior partner will, like the Liberal Democrats, find that it is a painful experience with its supporters ending up disappointed that despite having a hand on the levers of power the party won't be able to force through much of its own agenda.

  7. I tend to agree with the above comment by Jonathan Wallace. I think it's imperative that the Green Party stay out of any potential coalition and hopefully become an effective opposition, unless by some miracle they become the party of government. The Green Party experience of coalition in Ireland, for instance, was a sad one; they managed to push through some excellent policies but got the blame for the major party's shortcomings at the last election and have now been completely wiped out.

  8. Mark,
    I fear you may be falling into the personality/policies trap here.
    It doesn't matter how well informed/experienced/eloquent/passionate Caroline Lucas is (and she is and I will vote green); what matters is the Labour policy which she would have to espouse and there's the rub. Sadly, Labour has no really radical environmental policies and worse has had no Minister/Shadow Minister with any real grip or fire since Michael Meacher/Elliot Morley.
    Plus ca change...
    Consequently I will vote Green after many years of supporting Labour.

    1. I've pinged this blog post over to a Green Party PPC and also to Ed Miliband & Caroline Flint's offices. "Many thanks" was the reply from EMs office.

      Irrespective that they are both in safe seats they can't say that they've not been warned about risk elsewhere?

      Meacher is remembered with some affection in these parts, £17.3m for our (still) beleaguered 'bogs'!

  9. What I find depressing is that the environment simply doesn't feature in the debate at all, not from any party (except the Greens of course, but the media powers-that-be don't include them in the debate anyway). None of the mainstream parties give a monkeys about the environment, because they all think the economy, immigration/EU, and the NHS are all the voters care about. Even more depressingly I think they're probably right.

    If we could only get them (Lab or Cons - UKIP are a lost cause and the Libs are about to be wiped out) to start thinking about the Environment as Health, Tourism, etc rather than just "impediment to development" that would be a start, but we don't seem to be able to make any progress even with that limited agenda. Eyes closed hands over ears na-na seems to be the political response - but then evidence doesn't seem to drive any party's agenda anyway, why should the environment be different?! All very depressing.

    1. By the way, I meant to ask your Scottish readers, what's the SNP like on environmental matters? When I lived in Orkney a few years ago they were average (ie OK ish) , but that would make them quite good by today's standards. Or have they abandoned environmental concerns like the other parties?

      1. Hi Bill

        I've no direct SNP experience, but I do recall a cavalier attitude to SSSI in one case in the relatively recent past:

  10. I severely doubt Lucas would even contemplate being a member of a govt with the party of the illegal Iraq War, austerity, big business and the rest. Thankfully.

    The Greens are the future. Labour are now a free market party that exists to get itself elected. They belong to the past and environmentalists, conservationists and those with a social conscience should get behind the Greens.

    And Mark, your constant cosying up to a member of that party doesn't look pretty to me.

  11. You are behind the times Mark Avery. The Green party is no longer just "environment", but faces up to the fact that you can't separate environmental issues from social justice and democratic renewal. The Greens are what Labour should have become in the 21st century. I am an active member of the Green party, have delivered thousands of their leaflets, have donated serious money, etc. The idea of a bit of horse trading of Brighton Pavillion against some Labour seat is OK as far as it goes, but no longer good enough as far as I am concerned. My message to Labour is that there is now only one thing which would make me support Labour, and indeed with the same commitment, but on a temporary basis for this election as a strategic move, namely Labour's rock-solid commitment to introducing proportional representation if they form a government. We are past tinkering with little tactical games and have to start doing real grown up politics. And by the way, any party which claims to have "won" an election on the basis of getting only about a third of the vote but got more parliamentary seats than they deserved, is living in a fantasy land if they believe that they will have a legitimate mandate to govern.

    1. Tom - welcome! I'm not behind the times, but it is the environmental expertise that attracts me to the Greens just as it is environmental apparent disinterest that worries me about my own party, the Labour Party. Having said that, the radical nature of green social policy doesn't put me off at all.

      1. I have no illusions about my party. If we Greens continue to grow as we have been doing recently and gain a bit more political power we are going to have to learn to cut some deals - perhaps even distasteful ones - and that will be very difficult for us. But as far as I am concerned, there are a few red line issues. The first one is: how can you possibly cooperate with a political party which aims to gain and maintain power though a fraudulent electoral system which seeks to turn electoral minorities into parliamentary majorities and which is designed to deny parties like the Greens, significant but geographically dispersed numbers, all access to power? That wouldn't make any sense at all. Not just because it is difficult for the Greens but even more so because it makes people cynically vote for the least obnoxious lot rather than for what they believe in. The second one is Trident. Apart from its practical uselessness and expense, how can you possibly associate yourself with a party which supports the mass murder of innocent people as an operational option in defense policy? (and is such a point of view really radical?) Then there are any number of second order, but unpalatable, matters such as TTIP - anything negotiated in secret is unacceptable - cynical and lazy populist posturing to try to get some Daily Mail readers on board on subjects such as immigration, benefits, and so on. On its own, our environmentalism or environmental expertise isn't worth much. That's just some elitist middle class project. The "environment" is a far away, abstract issue if you are poor, oppressed, on an insecure zero hours contract on crap money, or suffer the humiliation of getting emergency rations from a food bank, ripped off by buy to let landlords, and so on. Over the last 5 months I have spent more of my time and resources on support for the Doncaster health workers' strike than anything environmental. And what did the Labour party do? Labour's lack of environmentalism shouldn't worry you but its lack of passion for social justice. Work on that and the environmental issues will emerge by themselves because you see what environmental degradation does to poor people in both the short and the long terms. Environmentalism is a struggle between the powerful and the powerless. You can't pick and chose and borrow some of the Greens environmentalism because it it is a nice thing to add to the mainstream package. That's why the Tories' promise of "the greenest government ever" never convinced anybody. Making a deal to exchange Brighton Pavillion for some other constituency is in the first place a profoundly cynical and anti-democratic thing to, as if voters are serfs to be bought and sold. In the second place, appointing Caroline Lucas as Environment Secretary in a Labour government as part of that deal is pure tokenism. Not convincing, for we all know that environment secretaries don't have that much power anyway to disrupt the status quo. It would be a very bad and damaging deal for the Greens. The sort of thing the LibDems have now learnt to their cost.

  12. I think it is a great idea – great minds think alike! I’ve had a similar dream which I think I wrote in a comment to your Tug Tug blog. I think you make a very strong case. In that comment I put a link to a Sky News report I saw which reported that the Greens may lose Brighton and by splitting the left vote might cost labour 17 seats to the Conservatives.

    I think it makes great sense and if the Greens did not contest those 17 seats it would be win win for both parties. This agreement would have been made before the election so it would be democratic and would allow both parties to keep their promises unlike the last coalition.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.