Time to decide – a voter’s guide

It’s a fascinating general election which has been preceded by a tedious and shallow election campaign. None of the political parties, certainly not the ‘Big Two’, come out of the campaign with much credit. It’s been a ‘heads down’ rather than an ‘eyes up’ campaign, with little analysis, little laying out of political philosophy and an overwhelmingly large amount of promising of goodies and slagging off of the other side.

If climate change is the greatest threat faced by this and future generations of people on Earth, and it is, then why has hardly anyone mentioned it?

There is more to choosing where to put your cross tomorrow than the environment or wildlife concerns – of course there is. However, if you are a keen environmentalist with a love of nature, then here is a guide to how you should vote.

1. I’m glad to see that Russell Brand has been following this blog and my writings elsewhere (eg in April’s British Wildlife), and he’s right to say that if you live in Brighton Pavilion then vote Green, vote for Caroline Lucas. It would be a tragedy to lose the hardest-working and best-informed MP of them all on the environment.  The House of Commons would be a poorer place for her loss.

2. In a similar way, if you live in Richmond Park then vote for Zac Goldsmith. Loath though I would normally be to urge anyone to vote Tory, Zac is rich enough to be thoroughly independent as an MP, and he has been on the right side on almost all environmental issues since gaining his seat.

3. Wherever you are, do not vote UKIP – a climate sceptic, anti-EU party cannot get  the thinking environmentalist’s vote.

4. If you live in a safe seat where your vote ‘won’t count’ (all votes count really) then vote Green.  Far and away the greenest election manifesto (the clue is in the name), the more voters express this preference the more it might shake up the other parties to do far better – as they need to do.  I would be very surprised if there were fewer than one, or more than one, Green MP on Friday morning but the Greens do have an outside chance in seats such as Bristol West and Norwich South and your vote might help make history.



But what of everyone else?

I could not vote Tory for a number of reasons. There are many good Tory environmentalists (although quite a few are standing down at this election – see tomorrow’s blogs) but the current Tory party is not full of John Gummers,  Tim Yeos, Ken Clarkes, John Randalls etc. The current Tory party feels like it has a strong UKIP wing (which maybe should split off after the election) with climate sceptics and anti-EU figures. If we could have another Caroline Spelman, with a bit more clout in cabinet, then that wouldn’t be too bad, but imagine another Owen Paterson at Defra? How scary is that? And how scary is it that Cameron thought he was a good choice for that role?

Labour has shown little interest in the environment during the campaign, nor really during the last five years. There are some stand-out exceptions, Barry Gardiner has been vocal and active (and is one of the ‘Sodden 570’), but they seem to be lone voices. When Labour saw the surge in Green membership and reacted by attacking the Green Party with no suite of green policies to back up their attacks, then the party of which I am a member reached a pretty low low point.  My hope for Labour, is that if they get into power then although they have sounded unconvincing in opposition, they will take notice of wise NGOs and do some of the right things, as they usually do, once in power.  Labour tends to set a low baseline of expectations in opposition which it then exceeds in government. I’m hoping that will happen again (the first bit already has happened). And I’d like a Labour government so that I can demonstrate my independence by giving them a hard time in this blog, after a brief honeymoon period, every time they screw up.

The Lib Dems look quite good on wildlife and the environment but we might doubt whether they are going to push hard on these matters if they form part of a government – they haven’t over the last five years after all (except, and this is obviously important, on climate change).  However, their ‘five green laws’ are front page manifesto commitments – the ones that Nick Clegg keeps saying that they really, really, really mean. However, the LibDems ‘red Lines’ – which must be the ones they really, really, really, really mean include climate change (good) but not the ‘5 green laws’.  It appears as though the LibDems would beef up the environmental credentials and policies of any government of which they form a part but it is not clear how far they would go w.

There are perhaps 194 marginal seats in this general election – ones which would take a swing of less than 5% to change hands. Here you really do have to think about the candidates, the record of the incumbent MP (if they are seeking reelection), and who you don’t want as well as who you do want.  The possibility of a Paterson-like Secretary of State for Environment is very scary – very, very scary. And there are plenty of potential candidates out there, he was no one-off.  That would persuade me to cast my vote against any Tory candidate. In Tory/LibDem marginals the LibDems are generally a much better option. In Tory/Labour marginals, I have faith in Labour being a better option when it comes down to it, even if they have hardly demonstrated their ability over the past five years. What about Labour/LibDem marginals? Well, there aren’t so many of them, but I am a Labour party member so that’s how I’d vote although it would be despite, rather than because of, Labour’s policies on wildlife and the environment.

Other parties are available, particularly across the Irish Sea, over Hadrian’s Wall and beyond Offa’s Dyke but I can’t vote for any of them.

Here are links to my more detailed views on the environmental and wildlife sections of the manifestos of the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP, Plaid Cymru and SNP.

Do vote tomorrow – even if you decide to go against every bit of wisdom contained in this blog. It’s your future so have your say.





10 Replies to “Time to decide – a voter’s guide”

  1. Mark, agree with much of what you say here except the bit about Richmond Park. The candidate may have good environmental credentials but his party doesn’t and, like you, I cannot vote for them.

  2. I would add that this advice is good even for folk who are not ‘keen environmentalists’. I may be now the only person in the UK to hold the view but it would be a mistake to decide between the three ‘traditional’ main parties on the grounds of their policies on managing the economy. In practice they might pursue different policies but they will not do so because of policies they have declared. Which is not to accuse them of duplicity, still less of ‘fudging’. Governments, quite properly, respond to events in the best way they can as time moves on.

    Of course, on broader social and economic policy there will be a difference between a Labour-led and a Conservative-led coalition. Indeed, because both Labour and the Conservatives are forced to the centre ground on core economic issues, so their attempts to differentiate themselves on other areas are further to the left or right respectively than usual. I’m not sure that’s good, moral hazard will prevail on many of these more invented ‘policies’.

    In a way all of that is more a guide to following (or for some reason rejecting) gut instinct when deciding on the policies put in front of us. Maybe that’s why the opinion polls are as they are.

    But Mark, I disagree with your confidence that Labour will somehow ‘come good’ on the environment. I hope you are right. But Labour is now far more metropolitan than it ever was and one can only read the manifesto they have written. Which is not just weak but uncomprehending on environmental issues. Given that Defra has become institutionally politicised how can one see Labour changing that if they don’t see the problem?

    So if we care even a bit about the environment it is not wrong to make it our main reason for your voting choice. Shun the tedious and largely meaningless exposition of policies. Shun even gut political instinct. Vote Green even in the 194.

  3. Interesting summary – thanks Mark. The Greens are the only ones that have nature, wildlife and the environment at the heart of the policies. All the other parties have some policies that would get my vote but many others that don’t. Apart from the obvious choice of not voting UKIP – some tactical voting may be required.

    1. Sadly no greens available here, just the usual suspects and with a majority so no real choice but I shall get up early to cast my vote.

      Time for serious reform, no way do we need 650 + 850?

      More of the calibre of Caroline Lucas & the environment might stand a chance, here’s to her return.

      Will we see some responsible adult behaviour after the stupidity of the punch & Judy run up?

  4. Mark
    I think the Labour have been quiet on the environment solely because they will win more voters over through the risks to the NHS, welfare, job security and housing.

    We should remember that it was a Labour government that in 1949 brought about SSSI’s, National and Local Nature Resreves, Ecological research stations, National Parks, AONB’s and Rights of Way – and in 1947, the basic framework of the planning system. And more recent Labour governments gave us open access, the declaration of national parks in south east england and Scotland and an CAP package that had a strong environmental agenda.

    Sure a Green vote will extend the boundaries of the environment agenda. But we should recognise that of the parties that will form a government, Labour has some good form, and a sound heritage of championing the environment, whilst the Tory’s claims of “Greenest Government Ever”, “Hug a Husky” and “Big Society” have been exposed as deeply cynical lies, from a government that has ignored the science, pursued their own interest at every time and who wishes to break apart the postwar consensus.

  5. I’ve done a vote swap. Not my first time of voting tactically, interesting to see how it goes.

  6. Vote Green.

    They are the only party committed to a sustainable future. And that is the only reason you should need.

    That this blog continues to support labour never ceases to amaze me.

  7. I’m strongly tempted to vote for King Arthur Pendragon, who is standing as an independent candidate. He used to be a member of the Green Party, but found their foibles too daft for him – after all, he has a certifiable IQ. He rejects one-size-fits-all-ism and promises to do what is best for Salisbury – which is nice. However I think he will need more than the two votes he can rely on.

  8. Mark – thanks for a brilliant summary and an interesting take on voting choices. I went out early and voted in an empty polling station and was disappointed not to see my first swift of the year on the way there or back, which kind of reflects how uninspiring the campaign has been. I did see a couple of swallows though and the fresh green leaves on the trees looked lovely. Hope for nature? Hope for democracy?

    I live in a safe seat so was relieved to read in your summary that I’d done the right thing! It was a close call as the local labour candidate who spoke to me on Saturday seemed very articulate (including on the environment) and gave my daughter a balloon, which was nice of him, although it shriveled up after only a day. Perhaps he should have been giving out tablets of stone instead.

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