Sunday, March 07, 2010

To the Editor of the Weston Mercury

The Weston Mercury ran the story of my withdrawal from the election last Tuesday, and also carried this editorial :

No such thing as a 'wasted vote'

Aspiring politicos of all persuasions are dusting off their snappy suits and colourful rosettes, and preparing to hit the campaign trail to convince people why they most deserve the public vote.

Or at least, that's how it should be.

But here in Weston, one party's candidate has already conceded defeat, dropping out of the race and signalling his wish to see a rival party secure the victory.

Doctor Richard Lawson - who earned close to 1,300 votes when he stood previously - secured his Green candidacy as an embodiment of the party's ideals, and spoke boldly of the need for action on his environmental agenda.

Undoubtedly he would have won friends and support, even if - as he suspects - not in sufficient numbers to have triumphed.

Yet those ideals and would-be voters have been abandoned.

What do Green Party voters do now?

'Vote Liberal Democrat' is Dr Lawson's instruction in what he transparently admits is a tactical ploy to deny victory to the Conservatives.

But how much credibility do these instructions have?

Many prospective Green voters will feel marginalised and betrayed by Dr Lawson's concession, so it's difficult to imagine an ongoing loyalty which would see them follow the instructions of a party which has turned its back on them.

Whether one supports Britain's 'first past the post' electoral system or not, the fundamental principal which allows freedom of candidature and voting makes Dr Lawson's decision unfathomable.

He may feel otherwise, but minority party backers will argue there's no such thing as a 'wasted vote' - the chance to throw your weight behind a cause or ideal you believe in makes your vote a significant message, even if it's not in a winning cause.

And that's exactly what the Green Party option stands for - or at least, what it could have stood for, and what the people of Weston will now be denied.

Here's my response:

The Editor
Weston Mercury

Thank you for reporting and commenting on my withdrawal from the General Election race. I would like to clear up some misunderstandings. You say my motivation was “unfathomable”, but I set out my reasons very clearly in my press release.  I said that the Conservative party  is infested with climate change deniers and free market fundamentalists. The Conservative Party supports the ridiculous and sub-democratic First Past The Post electoral system. The Conservative Shadow Chancellor Osborne's economic policies threaten to bring a double dip recession onto the country. Cameron's "greenness" is wafer thin, as evidenced by the lack of emphasis on the environment in his recent speeches. If you are unable to publish these reasons because of their political content, then I would be grateful if you would at least publish this link, , where people can find out my reasons for withdrawal first hand.

You state that I gave “instruction” to people to vote Liberal Democrat. I categorically deny that, as you must agree if you read my blog. The fact is that although we Greens do take votes from across the political spectrum, there is a significant overlap between Green and LibDem voters.

You suggest that I have conceded defeat. It is impossible to concede defeat if you never claimed victory, and throughout my political career, I have never made unrealistic laims about victory. I did predict victory on the times when I actually was elected. The most likely victor in Weston is the sitting Conservative MP, and Mike Bell perhaps has an outside chance, if he makes a supreme effort, and manages somehow to get a high turnout. All other parties, including Labour, are also-rans.

The fact is that this appalling decision was forced on me by the worthless and outdated First Past the Post (FPTP) system, which makes many people vote tactically, rather than for the party they believe in. By extension, my tactical withdrawal is to assist a party that might bring about electoral reform. With FPTP, all votes apart from the ones that back the winner, are “wasted” in the sense that they gain no representation in Parliament. FPTP is associated with safe seats, low turnout, higher expenses, political stagnation and an ominous tendency towards elective dictatorship.  We have to break the dead weight of a not fit-for-purpose electoral system, and to do that, sometimes it is necessary to think outside the box, and take action, no matter how personally painful and difficult that decision might be.


No comments: