Rob, our Communications Officer and Campaigner in Central Ward, writes about why he is backing Diana and his take on progressive alliances
For those who are interested, this is my take on why I’m supporting Diana Toynbee, the Green Party candidate in Hereford, and why although I am very much in favour of progressive alliances, it won’t work in Hereford – yet.
Firstly, to my Conservative friends, family and colleagues (even if you’ve never dared admit this to me!) – I respect your right to a different view and wish to stay friends! But I have no respect for the way this government are underfunding and selling off our NHS, decimating local services on which the poor and vulnerable depend, and implementing massive school budget cuts whilst imposing a stressful and frankly irrelevant Victorian curriculum on our teachers and young people. I have no respect for the way in which Theresa May seems to want a Soviet or North Korean-style parliament that is ‘united’ behind her, rather than the traditionally British idea of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition which actually improves government through effective scrutiny. I have no respect for the right wing extremists who have taken over the Tory party who will use Brexit to seek to remove current EU employee and environmental protections – and freedom of movement – in an attempt to make Britain an isolated tax haven for the super rich.
I’m voting for, and spending a frighteningly significant part of my time at the moment supporting Diana because I want to give Herefordshire her voice back in Westminster. Our Conservative MP is too busy in London being the minister for fracking, and he cannot speak out on what matters to us: massive cuts to school budgets, an NHS in crisis and being sold off for private profit, and a council which doesn’t even have enough cash to run our libraries, care for our elderly, or fill in the potholes – although it does seem to have enough to research building a motorway around the city to attract more traffic away from the M5.
With our grossly unfair election system in which people can win on a minority of the vote, there has been a lot of debate locally about standing a ‘Unity’ candidate to try and combine anti-Tory votes. Greens have stood down in a couple of seats nationally to support a better placed candidate, despite Labour and Liberal leaderships rejecting our calls for co-operation. Labour are still trying to unseat the UK’s best MP Caroline Lucas. Such a deal will not work in Hereford for the following reasons.
Firstly, the seat needs to be marginal, so that the deal has a good chance of success. Hereford is not marginal, and it is not even clear who the main challenger is. Here, UKIP were second last time, Labour third, and the Lib Dems who used to hold the seat were fourth. We don’t think UKIP are standing this time which is interesting, Labour are heading for a rout, and although the Lib Dems are growing nationally, I doubt they can make a lot of progress here where they have crashed from running the council to having fewer seats than the Greens – and where a strong focus on REMAIN will play negatively in a seat that voted strongly to LEAVE. Greens standing down or voting tactically will make little difference here – whereas in Ealing for example it could tip the balance.
Secondly, as with any deal, both sides need to gain. People join and support political parties for genuine reasons. We share values and want to change our country for the better. Where Greens have stood down, they have gained commitments on fair votes and climate change, or reciprocal support in other seats. This is not the case in Hereford where Greens would gain nothing for standing down. This is not being selfish – we are in the Green Party because we believe the environmental justice crisis is THE crisis of our age, and we don’t advance our cause by supporting people who want to build more roads or those who oppose the fairer voting system which would unlock progress on so many issues.
Thirdly, an alliance only works with a key local issue and a candidate who everyone can unite around. This worked in electing the NHS doctor Richard Taylor to Westminster in Wyre Forest as an Independent. He was an expert, he was genuinely good at working cross party, and there was a clear local issue – the local hospital. In Hereford, it’s hard to vote Labour when that party isn’t even in favour of voting reform and they are staring disaster in the face nationally. Anyone suffering from Tory cuts will remember the role the Lib Dems played in starting this unnecessary transfer of cash from poor to rich, even under duress. The declaration of our Mayor as an independent caused some to think he could be a ‘Unity candidate’, but there are problems with this too. Jim is a decent, hard working local councillor, but an MP is more than being a good local councillor, or doing lots for charity. They represent us at national level and we expect them to vote for us on a wide range of issues such as military action, trade deals, schools policy, tax, climate change and the NHS. I cannot know what they will have to vote on for the next 5 years so I need to be confident in their principles and their ability to learn and listen. Jim has told me he is not interested at all in national politics, only local. I cannot in all good conscience vote for that, however good a bloke he is. It’s not just about promoting Hereford – this election is about my whole country too.
So Diana Toynbee is the only candidate I have confidence in on all these issues. Although I totally oppose Theresa May’s attempt to get rid of opposition by calling this unnecessary election now, a tactical alliance between opposition parties simply doesn’t stack up in Hereford. I hope it works elsewhere, and that we can keep discussions ongoing. I’ve had really positive conversations with both Lib Dems and IOC (the local-only party our independent candidate sits with on the council) in Hereford this week, which bode well for the future.
But now, for me – and I hope you – this is about voting for what you really believe in. I want to wake up on June 9th and feel I did the right thing for the long term, not feel queasy that I voted tactically for the short term (and didn’t get what I wanted anyway). Its not easy. But I think Diana will do well here – and the more votes she gets the more the issues she promotes will get addressed in the long run. That’s why I’m Voting Green.
If you made it to end of my article, congratulations, thanks for reading this far, and now feel free to go for a lie down in a dark room!