by Joe Burns
Progressives in the constituency of Norwich South have a difficult decision to make tomorrow. It is a decision that has come up many times before. Do you vote for the party that you most strongly align with or do you tactically vote to keep Conservatives out? It might be that few in Norwich want a Conservative government in power, but is voting for a weak opponent to the Tories a risk worth taking? Aren’t Labour popular enough in the city to win without the support of Green Party or Liberal Democrat voters? Weighing those odds is tricky.
In many constituencies around the country the decision is relatively easy. There are dozens of websites that can quickly and straightforwardly tell you which party to vote for in your area if you want to vote for the party with the greatest chance of keeping the Tories out. This is the case in zones where Tory and Labour candidates score closely and no other party comes close to matching them. If you’re a small party voter then your vote makes little difference to the outcome anyway.
Unfortunately, the favourite candidate to win can be uncertain in Norwich South. In 2005, the top three candidates won 22.7, 29.0 and 37.7 percent of votes and Labour’s Charles Clarke was elected. In 2010 the result was closer, as Liberal Democrat candidate Simon Wright won with 29.4 percent against Labour’s Charles Clarke’s 28.7 percent. 2015 saw several changes. Notably, Clive Lewis won back the constituency for Labour with almost 40 percent of the votes. Though the Green Party has gained votes in Norwich South every year since 1997, they dropped very slightly in 2015, but it is still a good sign that progressive politics is maintaining decent support here. Also in 2015, Conservative candidate Lisa Townsend won 23.5 percent of the vote, the highest mark for a Conservative candidate in Norwich South since 2001. It was a good day for the Right and Left.
is Labour strong enough without Green or Liberal Democrat voters in 2017?
So, is Labour strong enough without Green or Liberal Democrat voters in 2017? Voters that usually vote Green or Lib Dem might hope so. In hope, even without their vote, Labour can win the seat and more localised Green councillors can make gradual progress while Labour are in power. After all, it is probably easier for progressives to work with Clive Lewis (who is, as he was in 2015, the Labour candidate for Norwich South this year) rather than Tory candidate Lana Hempsall, who has campaigned focusing on Brexit, business, private schools and academies without a mention of sustainable energies, foreign affairs or voting reform. Hempsall has said that she became a successful businesswomen even though it felt like everything was stacked against her. Feeling like everything is stacked against you is exactly why the Tories must not be in power.
An indicator that Labour might be certain to win in Norwich South is the recent local election result, as Labour won almost every division in Norwich. Clearly, Labour support is very strong. However, UKIP have recently announced that they will not be standing any candidates in Norwich in an attempt to help the Tories win here for the first time since 1983. In response, Clive Lewis has called for progressives of Norwich to vote for him to be sure that Norwich stays Tory-free. It’s a strong message that is sure to attract support from those to the left of Labour.
Feeling like everything is stacked against you is exactly why the Tories must not be in power.
But the argument cannot always be to vote for one party just because you don’t like the other one. Labour must make dedicated efforts to legitimately attract the progressive left and perhaps the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader reflects that. Corbyn is one of the most left-wing candidates put forward by the Labour Party in decades, and this will likely pull in many people from the farer left who want to see Theresa May exit 10 Downing Street. Corbyn himself is a man that shares many further liberal values. He is most probably in favour of complete nuclear disarmament and has promised to abolish university tuition fees. This is not as far as a Green parliament would go but it is a good start. It definitely makes him electable. Potentially, it might become clear (under his leadership) that progressives could attempt to employ ideas in Government more successfully if Corbyn’s Labour are in power. We could even see a prominent Green MP take a cabinet position as Energy and Climate Change Secretary.
An important part of voting is how you feel morally about your chosen candidate and party. For Green and Lib Dem voters, voting for a Labour candidate even though they are not the person you most want to represent you can be difficult. For years, the message to progressives has been to vote for Labour to make sure the Tories don’t retain or take power. Though, nothing ever truly progressive is enacted. It seems hopeless. If you don’t ever vote for the far-left, then certainly, they will never be in power.
This is all a strange game. Corrupt, unfair and unnecessary. We know that the first-past-the-post system is deeply flawed and historically unfair, but it is how the voting system is currently structured. There is enough talk about voting reform, but what we need now is a party that might do something about it.
The Norwich Radical is non-profit and run by volunteers. All funds raised help cover the maintenance costs of our website, as well as contributing towards future projects and events. Please consider making a small contribution and fund a better media future.