Vote Green, Get Tory (and other stories)

In News on June 6, 2016 by dadge Tagged: , , , , ,

An unmistakeable fact about first-past-the-post elections is that fringe parties and candidates can cause the wrong side to win. The intervention of Ross Perot made it easy for Bill Clinton to win the US presidential election in ’92. Ralph Nader cost Al Gore votes in 2000, and though in a normal year that wouldn’t’ve mattered, 2000 wasn’t a normal year. Nader got 97,000 votes in Florida, and just 600 of those votes would’ve won Gore the election.

Of course everyone has the right to stand for election, and elections are sometimes the best or only time to get the attention of the people, but at the same time most politicians are intelligent people and it smacks of arrogance to help the opposition in this way. This year’s US election may be similar to the examples above: Gary Johnson’s candidature is very likely to seep votes from the GOP, giving Clinton a slightly easier ride.

After the 2010 UK election I was one of several people who pointed out how Ukip had probably denied the Tories a majority. Since then Ukip has become more balanced in its support from left and right-leaning voters, but at the time it was pretty clear that Ukip candidates and voters who had previously supported the Tories had prevented Cameron from winning outright. (Or getting very close.)

Last year the Tories fought an amazing ground game (possibly somewhat illegally) and were able to win a majority in the House of Commons. And in this endeavour they were aided by the Green Party, whose vote exceeded the Tory majority in several seats, as explained by James O’Malley here. Not everyone who voted Green would’ve voted Labour, but easily enough would have done to have denied the Tories up to seven MPs. 330-7=323 equals no majority.

So, what should people do to get their opinion across, and garner support, in the British or American democratic system? Well, I really would advise against standing in the elections themselves, unless (a) there are special circumstances in your area; (b) you have substantial grassroots support (that you’ve probably been building up over a long period) such that you might actually win, or (c) the candidates from the main parties all disagree with you. And I mean really disagree with you. How many Green candidates really didn’t mind if the Tories won? How many really don’t care if people die because government policy denies them their meagre benefits payments?

A better option than standing an actual candidate is to endorse a Labour or Tory candidate (or other candidate who has a chance of winning). If necessary, use blackmail, i.e. withhold your support if the candidate or party doesn’t support whatever it is your single-issue party thinks is important. In other contexts this would be unethical, I grant you, but in the context of such a fucked-up democracy, it’s all fair game. And devote some of your energies to campaigning for a fair voting system so that people don’t have to put up with this shit.


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