Monday, March 01, 2010

Green candidate pulls out of Parliamentary race for fear of letting Tory through

I have just issued this Press release to my local media:

No embargo
Dr Richard Lawson, who was to have been the Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Weston-super-Mare, has regretfully decided to withdraw his candidacy, in order to increase the chance of the Liberal Democrats taking the seat from the Conservatives.

Dr Lawson said: "This is the result of a great deal of soul-searching over the past weeks. It was a very difficult decision, as I have had 3 invitations to attend hustings, which I very much enjoy, and was beginning to get my mind into campaign mode. I was particularly looking forward to arguing for increasing income equality as a solution to many social and health problems. If UKIP had put up a candidate in Weson, I would have challenged them to debate climate change.

The thing that swung it for me is the recent news that the Conservative opinion poll lead is declining. This raises a faint possibility that the LibDems could win in Weston.
My candidature was founded on the idea that Weston was a safe Conservative win. The argument was that in that case, under FPTP all non-Tory votes were "wasted" in the sense that they find no representation in Parliament. People should make a Green Vote as that is a far more powerful protest than merely abstaining from the poll.  The Green Vote represents radical political, economic, social and environmental reform.

That platform becomes shaky if Weston becomes vulnerable to a LibDem gain.

I could not live with myself if the Greens in Weston got, say, 1,000 votes, and the Tory won by a margin of 100 votes over the LibDem, and David Cameron formed a Government with an overall majority of one.  Unlikely as that might be, it is incontrovertible that there is a big overlap between Green voters and LibDem voters, and in that situation, I would have been responsible for putting a Tory Government in power.

There is no reasonable doubt that the Tories are a major threat to the security of Britain's society, economy and environment. John Penrose is a decent MP, but his Conservative party  is infested with climate change deniers and free market fundamentalists. He supports the ridiculous and sub-democratic FPTP 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.

I am very angry that the FPTP electoral system has forced this decision on me. Under a more democracy-friendly system, all votes cast in Weston would have had representation in Parliament, and people could vote to support their principles.  FPTP forces people to vote tactically, and in my case, to stand tactically".

Dr Lawson will continue to set out Green political and economic views on his blog

Personal note:
Damn. Damn damn damn. We live in a stinking, smearing, offensive system that is worse than sh*tty, because you can turn that into fertiliser. The present political system needs radical reform, and I was lining up to argue for that in the political debate, but the risk of making things worse was too great. Greens are excluded from the political system by the vote, and by substantial exclusion from the broadcast political debate. 

[update] Correspondence with Weston Mercury.
[update 5th May: a YouGov poll today puts the LibDems in the South West at  41% as against 36% for the Tories. Labour are nowhere. YouGov tends to overestimate the Tories, being run by Tories, so the position may be even better.

This country needs radical political reform. Proportional Representation is the first step. The logic is, Vote tactically this time to get PR, then you can vote for what you truly believe in.


weggis said...

If this is a personal decision and the local party just select another candidate then your guesture will be utterly pointless.

Please reconsider.

There are green conservatives [both lower case] you know and your withdrawal could increase the Tory vote.

We don't know anything until the votes are counted - get in there and fight man.

We are putting up a candidate in Barking FCS. We won't get anywhere if we wimp out. BE BOLD!

Audere Est Facere

a blog reader said...

I disagree with your decision and feel the need to comment.

1) It looks as though you are endorsing the Lib Dems and sending a message to voters that the Greens and Lib Dems are politically on the same page. :-(

2) It's undemocratic to try and 'fix' a Tory loss of your local seat. I hope the local Green Party select another candidate because all those voters should have a chance to vote Green.

3) It's negative. Focusing on the 'evils' of the Torys instead of promoting positive Green policies (which are not the same as Lib Dem policies) is the wrong approach. Spending more time slagging off other parties and encouraging tactical voting just (In my opinion) adds to the negative perception of all politicians and increases voter apathy.

4) It makes the Green Party look less of a serious political party as this doesn't come across as the action of a serious politician.

Best Wishes.

Anonymous said...

I think you have done the right thing, but I'm bias as a Lib Dem. I'm sorry you are taking friendly fire, I got the same when I said the Lib Dems should stand down in Brighton.

May I suggest you write to the Brighton Argos, and ask Lib Dem voters to support Dr Lucas in exchange for your self-sacrifice.

Anonymous said...

Blog Reader, the Green Party is standing down for Respect, is the GP on the same page as Respect, is that undemocratic? The FPTP system is undemocratic.

DocRichard said...

Weggis, I don't think you have understood the argument I made.

Blog reader,
LibDems are greener than the other 2, but the point in this case is that they are for PR. And Vince Cable understands the economics of recession better than Osborne.

It is not undemocratic to try to help defeat a party that opposes a democratic electoral system. It is a pro-democracy move.

I am seriously worried at the prospect of a Tory Government. Seriously. Read the post.

I don't at all want to "come across as a serious politician". Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are serious politicians. I want to get a paradigm shift from anthropocentric ideologies to the ecological ideology.

Thanks, LibDem anon. I will write to the Argus. Though I did propose this to Caroline, and her team did not want an exchange.

Does any of this count as political gossip?

Joseph said...

I only wish that we were not standing in Barking where the reasons are even more compelling. The prospect of a BNP MP is too much to consider and could open the floodgates to a whole new dark era in British politics.

And despite the regional party and every significant political commentator I know urging the Greens not to stand, the local party has decided to do so.

As the French general watching the Charge of the Light Brigade into the Russian guns said: "It's magnifique. But it is not war."

weggis said...

Understanding an argument and disagreeing with it are not quite the same thing.

DocRichard said...

Now I understand. You disagree. That's fine.
Sure, there are green tories. The local MP John Penrose is reasonable, accepts AGW &c. But as I said, his party is infested with deniers, who are bound to have an effect on Tory Govt policy.

Anonymous said...

This is a bold move: I would go further and suggest that this isn't the only constituency where it would be better to not stand because doing so would help the Tories win.

The Tories have a list of marginal seats where the Green vote in the last election could this time make the difference between a Tory gain and a Tory loss: and every gain adds up to a majority, and all the nonsense that would come with it.

Anyway, the Greens are focused on winning Brighton Pavilion. Why bother standing a significant number of candidates outside the one seat where we stand a chance of winning? The Greens might have a different economic philosophy to the Lib Dems, but in practical policy terms they are on the same page: no to nuclear power, yes to renewables, yes to electoral reform, yes to progressive taxation.

More Greens should follow your example. It shows maturity and an ability to see an objective beyond your own personal gratification of standing in an unwinnable seat.

Tod said...

I really sympathise with your dilemma, Richard and can see your point of view on this, which seems sensibly pragmatic. Democratic politics does often seem to come down to “the art of the possible” and choosing the least worst option. For those who doubt that getting Lib Dems in office rather than Labour or Tories can actually make a difference worth having, just take a look at the recent planning decision on the proposed palm oil power station in Avonmouth near Bristol, where council officers tried to tell councillors that they were not allowed to take into account the fact that the type of fuel in the design is environmentally and socially devastating. From what I can tell from reading the Bristol Evening Post account, only the Lib Dems saw that this “advice” was wrong and were prepared to stand up against officers and so it was thanks to the Lib Dems that the scheme was rejected. If there had been fewer LDs then this appalling travesty of a project could have been allowed to go ahead.

And no I am not a Lib Dem - not yet anyway!

DocRichard said...

Anonymous, thanks for your support, but there is a reason for Greens to stand widely - it maintains the local momentum. In many places, wecan deploy the Safe Seat argument - "This is a safe seat, so all votes not cast for the incumbent MP will be "wasted" in the sense that they will not be represented in Parliament. In this case, vote Green to give the two finger salute to the main parties".

Jim Jepps said...

Richard: could I confirm this was a personal decision, or was it the decision of your local party?

Anon: There are two reasons why the Greens stand far more widely than just Brighton.

i) We didn't get where we are in Brighton by only standing when we're in a position to win. In order to get that far you have stand even when you can't win *this time*.

ii) Brighton is not the only place we can win. The Norwich South campaign may not have the national profile of Brighton but we're in a good position there - there are also large numbers of places where Parliamentary campaigns will be part of a strategy of winning more council seats and putting ourselves in a winning position for the next election.

We're long term thinkers in the Greens - it's not all about the least worst option at any given moment.

DocRichard said...

Jim, it was my own personal decision, although the local party did discuss trying an exchange with the LibDems in Brighton; the Brighton Green Team turned down the idea.

After that, I nursed the nightmare scenario of causing a Conservative Government until I could bear it no longer.

Don't forget, I have been in this game for 30+ years. I know all the arguments for giving people the opportunity to vote Green. What we need is a democratic electoral system, one that works. I guess we are not going to get it this side of a General Strike, but there is a faint chance if we get a hung parliament. This is my 2p worth towards a hung parliament.

Jim Jepps said...

Thanks Richard: I'm more than relaxed with the idea that we don't stand everywhere so we need to make tactical decisions about where we do and do not stand.

At the coming election we'll be standing in half the seats so it makes sense to think about which ones we shall stand in and which ones we don't.

Whether this is the right decision is more controversial as I'm not sure we really owe the Lib Dems any favours given their behaviour elsewhere (including where I'm standing).

However, I'm sure you've thought long and hard about this and if it gives you impetus in the local elections then don't let my doubts hold you back!

Anonymous said...

well done

a very brave and bold decision

it shows that you really care and that you don't see politics as a game but as something that affects people's lives and is therefore very important indeed.

Someone who would stand is obviously more bothered about the party and the 'game' than real people. I also remember the last Tory government and I hope your action saves your local area from them.

Good luck.

weggis said...

So, what we are doing here is trying to ensure that the new Tory government, for that is what we are going to have, has less "reasonable" MPs and more wingnuts.

Sorry Doc I don't see it.

DocRichard said...

"At the coming election we'll be standing in half the seats so it makes sense to think about which ones we shall stand in and which ones we don't".

Unfortunately the decision of where to stand and where not is forced by the strength of the local party, rather than tactical considerations.

Ideally, the Green Party would do best if it stood only in safe seats, to deploy the Safe Seat Argument, but it doesn't pan out like that.

"Whether this is the right decision is more controversial as I'm not sure we really owe the Lib Dems any favours given their behaviour elsewhere (including where I'm standing)."

In politics there are lots of situations where positive and negative are mixed together. I agree that there are many instances where LibDems campaign in a totally obnoxious way. Maybe thats what comes of being in opposition for 100+ years. They fight dirty. And there are many instances of them voting for roads and airports, in flat contradiction to their purported "greenery". However, they also have lists of times when Green councillors have voted against green things. I suspect that this happens because of a streak of perfectionism - greens will vote against something if they deem it to fall short of the very best.

Overall however, I think there is much overlap between LibDems and Greens, not least in our shared interest in (different forms of) PR.

FPTP is a total outrage. It is a travesty of democracy. Any critic of FPTP is a potential ally, as far as I am concerned.

DocRichard said...

My "reasonable" Tory MP, John Penrose, if elected, will undoubtedly support Dave's Government, he may even be be a junior Minister in it. But that Government will be infested with climate change deniers, who will have far more influence than John. The Government will also be pandemically infected with free market fundamentalism. This means a continuation of the domination of the world by private corporations like Trafigura and News International. Penrose himself, as well as his party, is solidly behind the ridiculous and sub-democratic FPTP electoral system, about which you may have noticed I have very strong feelings, and this in itself would make me wish to see him out of Parliament. And Penrose would support Conservative Shadow Chancellor Osborne's economic policies, which threaten to bring on a double dip recession onto the country.

I don't know, maybe you are with those who want to see the economy crash, to bring about the dictatorship of the proletariat or something; I know some do. I myself feel partly drawn to the idea of a big crash as a way to re-draw the monetary system; the near-crash we had in 2008 is evidently not enough of a dose of reality to the free marketeers.

Look, I am trying to bring about one less FPTP Tory, and one more voice for PR. I will probably fail in this mission, but at least I tried.

Cameron's "greenness" is wafer thin, as evidenced by the lack of emphasis on the environment in his recent speeches.

Anonymous said...

I’m sure this has been an agonising decision for the Doc, a polymath and real ecologist.

Political parties are means to an end, not ends in themselves. Let’s face it if Liberal Democrat Mike Bell is elected, the Doc’s sacrifice will not be lost on him – ironically Dr Lawson may have more parliamentary influence by not standing. The Green Party is unique in British politics in getting some of its policies enacted by parliament whilst not having any MPs. The Green Party did this by working with Liberal Democrat MPs.

Anonymous said...

In the event of a hung parliament it's naive to think that the Lib Dems would really hold out for PR as part of a deal to support the Tories or Labour in Government. I bet they'd try to get another of their policies implemented instead. If they make it into a position of power they'd want to slam the door on all the smaller parties behind them. Ambition wins over ideology in the case of the Lib Dems, I fear. Their nasty campaign tactics, including against the Green Party, are a testiment to that.

DocRichard said...

Yes, that is a worry; I'd say it is about 50/50 whether the LibDems would really lay it down on PR.
In the end, we need people power to bring about Parliamentary reform, because by definition, Parliament is bound to consider that it is fairly elected. We need demonstrations that do not knock off at 5 o'clock, we need rolling democracy camps in Parliament Square, continuing until the police cells cannot contain any more, or we need the 9 O'Clock Strike.

To get there, we need anger and organisation. The anger is certainly present, but it is frustrated and conterproductive at present ("I'm angry so I wont vote"); and the organisation is nowhere.

Ben Hartshorn said...

I wish decisions like this were base on stats.

I've stood (as a single Green) at District Council level in multi-member wards and seen where second and third preferences go after voting Green Party first, and where I got second and third preferences from. It was pretty much 50:50 between the Tories and LibDems (with no other opposition).

There is next to nothing to suggest that the Greens that would have voted for you will now join an anti-Tory alliance.

What is everybody defects to the 'Demanding Honesty in Politics and Whitehall' candidate (assuming he's standing again)?

Anonymous said...

with luck this is a cunning ploy to wrong-foot the others and Richard will be back in the fray come close of nominations.
I don't think he is that much of an idiot to think that preventing people in Weston from voting for what they believe in is a sensible move.
The LDs are the dirtiest political cheats of the lot - a chain of lies and broken promises right across the SW.
A Tory govt with a majority of one seat and winning Weston by a majority of less than Richard's green votes is far more likely to take action to secure those votes next time than having another limp dipstick party hack representing us.

Yrs, Angry of Tunbridge Wells

DocRichard said...

FPTP is the thing that stops us voting for what we believe in. To get PR, we need either a hung Parliament, with LDs fired up to fight for PR, or a demonstration in Parliament Square that doesn't go home until Parliament delivers PR. Or the 9 o'clock Strike.

We definitely cannot go on like this, as someone said recently.

Steve Pearson said...

I think it is an absolute nonsensical argument.

If you felt that you would take votes away from the Lib Dems fair enough, but go quietly, don't endorse another candidate. If you had made the desicion earlier it would have given the Greens a chance to find a loyal candidate.
My vote would have been Green, but I cannot now support a Liberal Democrat let alone Mike Bell, who has no credentials of interest in local buisness, has come out with the same hollow rhetoric as anyone else in the Lib Dems.

Its a rediculous desicion, and I hope you never put your name forward again. Lets get someone to stand who believes in the policies of the Greens, fight on a ticket of electoral reform, not put out to the press that they are stepping dowen and the Greens should go yellow....pun intended!

DocRichard said...

Hi Steve

Well, you don't agree. That's your right.
I felt I had to explain my decision.
You say your vote would have been Green, and I have to accept that at face value, with thanks, but it is a common ploy for some unscrupulous people to say "I would have voted Green, but this (or that) policy has put me off". It gives more leverage.

You say Mike Bell has no credentials of interest in local business, but you could have said the same about me too.

If you read my blog, you will find that I am critical of the Lib Dems also.

The point is that this election has the possibility of a hung Parliament, in which case we must all hope that they will make PR the central and irreducible policy that they will insist on for coalition.

Now we just have to wait and see what the outcome is. If it is close, my decision will be vindicated. If John Penrose gets in with a big majority, I will admit I was wrong.

Anonymous said...

Richard, you've swallowed the lie, and by promoting Liberal Democrats, you have given them and the Labour Party reasons to undermine other Green Party candidates around the country. I am sick of hearing people tell us we should be stepping down in Stroud, or we will be the reason the Tory gets in.
The only reason the country is facing the possibility of a Tory government is because we have just had 12 years of a Tory Labour government with a militaristic gleam in its eye. Traditional Labour voters, mostly working class people, cannot bring themselves to vote Labour after what this gov't has done to them so they stay at home or look around for someone who is offering what they are looking for. No accident that so many new members of the Green Party are former Labour party members.
I believe the Green Party could emerge from this election as THE party for social justice in this country; The Spring conference confirmed for me that it is the harbinger of THE REAL ALTERNATIVE this country has lacked for 40 years. The contribution made by the Green Party to the political landscape in this election is a vision for the kind of country we want Britain to be, the sort of society we want to live in. It is the only voice in the political mainstream that is making the case for social justice and challenging the old assumptions that you and the 3 main parties are so wedded to. I think the Green Party has the potential to shed its old green fields approach to environmentalism and embrace a true holistic and inclusive approach to working for a healthier planet and its inhabitants.
Your decision and the manner in which you took it expose you as seriously OUT OF STEP with this Green Party, because you cannot see it. Time to take off your grey tinted spectacles.

DocRichard said...

Hi Miriam
I agree with everything you say except the old canard about green fields environmentalism. We never were bunny-huggers, we are ecologists, and ecology includes society as well as the natural world.

The answer to the LibDem "Greens taking our votes" line is to challenge them to stand down in Brighton Pavilion. It's their turn.

We just have to wait and see whether Weston turns out to be close. I will be vindicated if the LibDems win, or come close.

This is all about electoral reform. I have stood many more times than most new GP members. This time, I want to get a hung Parliament, with PR as a result.

Anonymous said...

Partly because the Doc has stood down, I understand the Liberal Democrat PPC in Pavilion is making herself scarce. In other words they are doing everything short of standing down, to assist Caroline Lusus (who I’m told gets on with Clegg on a personal if not political basis).

DocRichard said...

Thanks for sharing this, anon.

Anonymous said...

Miriam, Have you make the same comments to the Green Party in Birmingham who stood down their candidate to help Respect leader Salma Yaqoob?

Pam said...

VOTE LABOUR in WSM, there is a surge comingin the South West. labour is the only Party capable of being elected. The Lib Dems are same as Tories and this action supported the Coalition.

DocRichard said...

Pam, Pam, Pam.
Of the many things that are annoying about politics, one of the major ones is the pretence that the unelectable can become elected. WSM is a pretty safe Tory seat now that the libDem vote has collapsed, and Labour have as much chance there as my cat has of understanding how the telly works.