Did you watch the BBC Election debate last week, the one real debate between all parties of the entire election campaign? The debate was notable mainly for a truly extraordinary performance by Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas — including repeated devastating attacks from her on May’s substitute, the hapless Amber Rudd.
A number of commentators tweeted their reckoning that Caroline had ‘won’ the debate overall, including the moderator of the #CorbynVMay debate, Faisal Islam, Labour-leaning journalist Paul Mason, and even legendarily tribal Labour spin-doctor Alistair Campbell. And she picked up more new followers on Twitter than anyone else in the whole debate, Corbyn included, a kind of ‘objective’ measure of her success in the debate.
So, what does this mean for anyone impressed enough with the Green Leader and with Green policies to want to now back the Party? With just days to go until Election Day, does the ‘wasted vote’ argument still work, against the Greens?
Well, the first point to make is that Caroline got to participate in the #BBCDebate because enough voters in Brighton have voted Green to make her an MP already, under First Past The Post.
It’s also worth remembering that about 520–550 seats at this election, under our absurdly undemocratic electoral system, are already reckoned to be ‘safe’ for the Party that holds them. In every single one of those seats where the Greens are standing, a Green vote makes much more sense than anything else, if you want powerfully to voice the thought, #IAgreeWithCaroline. Eventually, if enough people start voting with their convictions, then some of these seats will no longer be safe…
But it’s worth noting too that there are seats where the Green Party is in direct contention to win, especially if Lucas’s scintillating showing in the BBC Leaders’ debate leads to a poll upswing for the Party.
There are a number of seats where the Greens are ahead of the LibDems, including places with recent Green surges in Councillor numbers, such as near where I live, in Suffolk.
There are seats where the Green Party is ahead of the Labour Party, such as Frome, where the singer Theo Simon is Green candidate. In the Isle of Wight, which has a strong tradition of independent voting, and the incumbent Conservative candidate had to stand down last month in disgrace, the well-known local politician Vix Lowthion is Green candidate — and in this seat, the Greens came ahead of both Labour and LibDems.
There are several seats where the Green Party is in second place to Labour, including Manchester Gorton, Sheffield Central (where the candidate is former Party Leader Natalie Bennett) and Liverpool Riverside.
However, by far, the Greens’ best prospect of all is in this election, after Brighton Pavillion where Caroline Lucas is standing again, is Bristol West. Here, Molly Scott Cato MEP, a green economist and longtime colleague of Caroline, will need just 2500 votes to move from Labour to Green to become Bristol’s first Green Party MP. She is up against a Labour candidate who is a vociferously anti-Corbyn and who has refused to commit to electoral reform; favours the renewal of trident; and has a much weaker record on issues such as defence of the NHS — which is partly why Molly Scott Cato has been endorsed by the National Health Action Party.
Why does it matter, that there be more Green MPs to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Caroline Lucas?
Caroline has been worth a dozen MPs from any other Party, in terms of her phenomenal workload and achievements since being elected to Westminster — which is why she has repeatedly won Parliamentarian of the Year awards. But there’s only so much that a lone MP can do. To reach the next level of influence and power — to be able to put forward motions requiring a seconder, for example — Caroline Lucas needs to be Leader of a Parliamentary group. That makes it crucial that she has at least one more MP in her team besides herself! The best prospect of all for that to happen is in Bristol West.
Part of what came over so strongly in the BBC Debate was the different philosophy of the Green Party. Lucas stood completely apart from the other Leaders by being the only one to place concerns about our very future, in particular the rising tide of climate disasters, front and centre. She made Corbyn look distinctively uncomfortable by focussing on key issues that set Greens apart from Labour: such as the Green focus on peace, meaning no to Trident; the Green focus on smart public transport rather than carbon-heavy mega-infrastructure, meaning no to HS2; and the Green focus on the public having a say before any Brexit deal gets final approval.
The Green Party is of course the only Party not fixated on ever more ‘economic growth’, ever more stuff, ever more environmental degradation — and again the contrast with Corbyn and Labour was clear, with Corbyn pitching explicitly in the debate for faster growth, which ensures faster breaching of our environmental limits in general and our carbon ‘budget’ in particular. This is an issue which Scott Cato is particularly strong on (and that I’ve worked with her on, as part of the Green House ‘post-growth project’).
So that’s the bottom-line. It must be great to live in Brighton Pavillion, and thus to have Caroline Lucas as one’s MP. But she’s lonely. She needs company. She needs a team.
One Caroline Lucas has already made such a startling impact on British politics. Think what two (or three or four…) like her could do, together…
Written by Rupert Read, never miss a story from Rupert when you sign up for Medium. Learn more