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Which voters should we be targetting for the Euros?

A fairly important question – we can’t elect MEPs purely on the votes of our target wards, we need to gain significant amounts of votes from places where Greens have a marginal or non-existent presence locally. We certainly can’t please everyone, and as George Lakoff says, if your message doesn’t alienate about 30% of the electorate it isnt working. So whose support should we be seeking and why?

2010 Labour/Lib Dem swing voters

This is perhaps the most obvious pool of voters for Greens to appeal to. These are left wing voters who historically vote Labour but were disillusioned by issues such as Iraq, privatising public services and who were left behind in general by New Labour. They lent their support to the Lib Dems who were positioning left on some of these issues but betrayed their trust upon teaming up with the Tories. When doorknocking I’ve met scores of people who said “I used to be a Lib Dem, never again”, and we’ve won over many of them before.  Additionally, this group includes people caught up in Cleggmania during the 2010 campaign, but who went back to Labour when the vote came, their fear of the Tories trumping enthusiasm for something different.

There are two main reasons to target these people – firstly that they are in line with our values as a left wing party as well as open to the environmental agenda the Lib Dems often used to promote. But secondly and perhaps most importantly, they have switched parties before, meaning they require far less persuasion than others to switch again. In a European election, we don’t get to speak to every voter on the doorstep twice a year, where persuasion can be most effective, so to me this makes a lot of sense. Finally, these people have at least expressed a need to vote with their hearts, making them natural Green targets in a proportional election.

Pro-EU voters

With UKIP setting the agenda on Europe for the big parties, there is a gaping hole in the political landscape for pro-EU voters. Labour will likely toe a triangulated eurosceptic line that tries to pick up the section of UKIP’s base that used to vote Labour, and the Lib Dems will remain toxic. Cameron will try to make the campaign a referendum on scrapping the workers rights and other social protections offered by the EU. This is an opportunity for us to stand up for the kind of Europe we believe in – one that guarantees protections for the environment and workers, whilst allowing member states to run their economies in their own best interests, rather than forcing crippling austerity on nations such as Ireland and Greece.

In fact, saying “we agree with David Cameron that the EU needs reform, but in the opposite direction so that people have more rights than big business” might be about right.

Ethnic minorities, anti-racists, anti-fascists and other UKIP-haters

As a New Internationalist article said, UKIP is cultivating a broad alliance of the electorate that can gain the support of as much as 20% of people. But there will be at least as many people who actively oppose their fantasy vision of an all-white, 1950s socially repressed Britain. This might be what some people mean when they talk about a ‘UKIP of the left’, either that is the Green Party or we will become irrelevant.

The best rallying-cry that suits here is one we used in my Council election campaign this year:

“Cameron, Clegg and Miliband have ruined our economy and they’re trying to shift the blame to immigrants and vulnerable people, don’t let them.”

This proved really effective with students (who all had friends from other parts of the world) and other ‘liberal’ types, and there is whole section of voters who will be repulsed by UKIP’s surging support we can appeal to with this kind of message. This is even more important as one of key targets is the North West, where our candidate Peter Cranie says he will once against be up against the BNP. We will also up against UKIP in several regions for the final seat, so giving people the stark choice between the Green Party and the far-right is going to be crucial.

It also allows us to talk in plain language about who is really to blame for the crisis – bankers, big business and the politicians from the big parties who aren’t brave enough to stand up to them.

We can build a broad, progressive coalition of voters

Crucially, what I’m proposing above is not a exercise in ‘segmentation’, where parties tailor individual messages to groups of voters but which has no central coherence or message – all these pieces fit together to paint a picture of the society we want. If we adopt this kind of campaign we will be campaigning for a confident, proudly diverse society which values and provides for everyone, above the demands of a tiny wealthy elite which is systematically transferring wealth upwards away from ordinary people.

Ynys Mon by election – what can Greens learn?

Last Thursday saw the people of Ynys Mon (Anglesey in English), in North West Wales vote for a new Welsh Assembly Member, caused by the resignation of former Plaid Deputy First Minister and party leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones. The island has a history of strong support for Plaid but has voted Labour in most recent General Elections, and is seen as a place that can swing quite regularly. At the last Assembly election in 2011, Jones delivered a stable but non-unassailable majority.

This time round, Plaid selected a former BBC TV presenter, and pulled off an astonishing landside with nearly 60% of the vote, Labour struggled to pip UKIP with just 16%. With Welsh Labour one seat short of a majority in the Assembly, its believed they threw the kitchen sink at this election to set the stage to win this seat at the next election. So why did Plaid pull off such a result and why did Labour fall back despite their efforts?

There are a few factors that I’ll put to one side for now; Rhun ap Iowerth was a very high profile candidate from his previous career and also grew up on the island. It’s also worth noting that Plaid have been fairly stagnant in recent years so there was probably some interest in pulling off a big win to energise the grassroots.

But there must be something else behind a win of this scale. Most readers may not be aware that Welsh Labour keeps significantly to the left of their UK counterpart and this is largely why they have performed so strongly since 2010, in contrast to Scottish Labour. When the 2011 Assembly campaign was ill full swing, the Welsh media was focussing on Welsh Labour and its agenda, and people could be expected to vote on that basis. During this by-election, there was no such coverage and so voters are more likely to be getting their cues about where each party stands from the London-based media. This is more relevant because of course, Plaid gets no mention there.

So rather than being seen as part of the big political landscape, right now Plaid may seem like the underdog, offering something different to the Westminster-austerity consensus. The campaign seemed to focus strongly on job-creation, supporting local business and providing opportunities for young people. Add to this that Plaid are an unmistakably anti-austerity party and you have the stage set for a reaction to the political establishment that’s also happened in Scotland with the SNP, Bradford West with George Galloway, Bristol with the election of an independent mayor and Brighton with a Green Council.

This result from Ynys Mon seems to be further evidence that right now, whenever a credible left wing alternative to Labour is presented to voters, they are willing to elect them. With a few exceptions this is a trend that has largely passed us Greens by.

Now, I’m not suggesting we can suddenly wish into existence a by-elections machine comparable to what the Lib Dems used to have. What is clear is that people feel badly let down by politics as usual and are open to radical and credible alternatives. If we are more willing to embrace this, like I did this year, getting elected to Council in Oxford on a platform of defending immigrants and protecting social care services, then I certainly see us speeding up the pace of local gains.

But the real test for us will be next year’s European Elections. With the media inevitably obsessed with and therefore fuelling UKIP’s continued rise, it falls to us to challenge their agenda for what it is, offering false solutions for the economic failure of our Government and pushing politics to the right. We are far more likely to make an impact and be on course for the gains we’re seeking (6 MEPs in Natalie Bennett’s opinion) if we enthuse those who believe passionately in a diverse society and call out the main parties for blaming immigrants for the mistakes of bankers, rather than trying to be the ‘nice’ party who everyone can buy into.

If we can pull off those impressive gains next year with an appeal in the opposite direction to where UKIP are trying to take people, we will be noticed, and we will be well on our way to start shifting the current narrative to where we want the country to be. 

My short manifesto.

From years of elections experience and speaking to people across the country, I know how ambitious people are about the party’s future, and also frustrated by the slow speed of growth. We have plenty of talented people willing to be Councillors, MPs and MEPs, but not enough winnable seats.

Many members feel like they are excluded from winning elections unless they live in a handful of areas. Many members also feel like the national party hasn’t worked out what the elections ‘plan’ is since electing Caroline Lucas MP.

I have experience of winning and often losing elections, becoming a County Councillor this May. I’ve learnt lessons from those experiences I want to share, including bucking the national trend to beat Labour. I know what’s needed to build a local elections machine, and what it’s like struggling alone to make an impact.

We have two major, potentially game changing elections over the next 2 years. We have set an ambitious goal of 6 MEPs but it’s not clear how we plan to meet this.

We face a huge opportunity with the big parties pursuing unpopular policies, but we can only fill this political vacuum with the infrastructure and strategy to match our ambition.  Our popular vision for investment in high quality sustainable jobs is an alternative to austerity the whole country needs to hear if we are to make further major breakthroughs.

If elected I will:

  • ensure our election campaigns are integrated, so European campaigns support local and general election targets
  • support and develop the Advanced Constituencies scheme, building our chances of winning more MPs in 2020.
  • work to ensure every local party trying to win has the knowledge and materials they need
  • work to make elections at the core of everything we do, improving communication between national, regional and local levels, creating a long term plan for action.

Experience:

  • County Councillor in Oxford
  • 2011 Welsh Assembly Campaign Manager
  • Worked for  leading student campaigning charity
  • co-Chair of the Young Greens for 3 years
  • Have sat on GPEx for 9 months

Contact

s.coates1@gmail.com / 07590008249