18 April 2014

The Left Unity Endorsement and Why it Matters (Technical Explanation)

[While I'm posting this today, it was written for yesterday. We will celebrate Easter and I'll take my children to church on Sunday, but with the very urgent time constraints, I'm publishing today after running out of time last night to get everything done]

This post is divided into two parts. The first one is a bit mathematical and is there to explain how the D'Hondt system works in allocating the seats. The second bit is more analysis based. Bear with me if maths isn't your thing (skip to the next bold section)! Essentially this is a post about what happens when people vote for parties that don't have any real chance of winning a seat.

So far in the North West, we may well see the following smaller parties (Greens, UKIP and BNP all won seats in the 2009 Euros so are not defined as smaller) standing a list:

- English Democrats
- Socialist Labour Party
- Pirate Party
- Britain First
- Christian Party
- Socialist Equality Party
- Independent (or 2)

Now imagine that each one of these parties was to hold their deposit. That would be a combined 20% (2.5% x 8) of the vote, with the six parties with a realistic prospect of winning a seat, sharing the other 80% between them. So let's run a possible result:

Labour 25%
UKIP 19%
Tories 18%
BNP 6.5%
Green 6.5%
Lib Dems 5%

In this extreme version (made to illustrate the point), it becomes mathematically possible for the BNP and Nick Griffin to retain their seat in the European Parliament with as little as 6.5% of the vote, but only if they finish ahead of the Greens and Lib Dems.

In 2009 none of the smaller parties (including some listed above) who stood managed to hold their deposit. The total vote for these small parties was just over 8%. That meant that the 91%+ of the vote shared between the biggest six parties meant that the threshold to win the last seat was 8%.

The general principle we can establish is that lots of smaller parties standing in a Euro region will make it easier for one of the larger parties (including the Greens, the BNP and UKIP) to win seats. That is a crucial point.

You might ask what the problem is from a Green perspective? Clearly it is in our interests if other parties fork out a £5000 regional deposit and stand as many Euro lists as possible if it makes it easier for us to win! Well it's of course more complicated than that. The voters that would choose to vote for the Socialist Equality Party, for instance, may be few in number. Some would not vote at all if the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) did not stand, but many will be making their decision on the basis of the ballot paper. Their first preference would be the SEP but if they were not on the ballot paper they would still vote. Where would those votes go?

Left Unity, if they had chosen to stood, would probably have done better than NO2EU and the other socialist groups. Despite only being launched a few months ago, they would have potentially been able to save their deposit and begin to build their political party. However, they've made a regional decision that there is a more important priority at this election, which is to ensure Nick Griffin and the BNP lose their last foothold in British politics. More than that, they have specifically suggested how those potential supporters of Left Unity should vote.

By not standing they raise the bar for the Greens, the BNP and the Lib Dems in the contest for the final regional seat. However by directing their supporters towards the Greens, they are making our chances of winning a seat much better. If the share of the vote for smaller parties is similar to last time, then between 7.8 and 8.6% will be enough for us to win the North West seat. The most recent ICM poll had us neck and neck nationally with the Liberal Democrats (despite very little coverage for the Greens) and ahead of both the Lib Dems and the BNP in the "North" regional breakdown.

Finally, the decision by Left Unity recognises the lessons that the Greens and other left of Labour parties should have learned from the results in the North West in 2009. The Socialist Labour Party and NO2EU gained 3% between them in that election. The BNP beat the Greens by just 0.3% - it's not unreasonable to say that in hindsight, had NO2EU and/or the SLP not stood, or even directed their supporters to back the Greens, Griffin would never have been an MEP.

There is no criticism of NO2EU and SLP in respect of 2009. They chose to stand as did we. Once the nominations were in, it was up to the parties to campaign to get the best vote possible. However, nominations for 2014 have not closed yet. The leaders, both regionally and nationally, of smaller parties on the left are making an active decision to spend at least £5000 of member/supporter money. If they do stand again, and we end up seeing a rerun of 2009, then ignorance of the mechanics of the election will not be an excuse.

So thank you again to Left Unity for not standing and actively endorsing the Green Party - you have demonstrated in a single action that Left Unity will live up to its name and do things very differently.

If you didn't like the maths bit, here is the second bit, which summarises the key points:

- Some votes are more valuable than others if you are voting against the BNP (in 2009 a single vote for the Greens was worth 6 extra votes for Labour)

- If you are intending to vote NO2EU, SLP or SEP in 2014 and you want your vote to count against the BNP, then I'm sorry, it won't. That isn't the fault of the Greens or Labour, but it is the electoral system that is proportional, but doesn't allow for preferences

- If you are organising the NO2EU, SLP or SEP list in the North West, the effect of your party standing is to lower the threshold vote and make it easier for the Greens, Lib Dems or the BNP to win the final seat

So with just a week to go until the close of nominations, I can say that efforts have been made on our behalf by the respected Trade Unionist, Alec McFadden (who stood as a NO2EU candidate in 2009), to contact and discuss these issues with NO2EU. We have clearly had discussions with Left Unity, that have been positive, and we are in ongoing discussions with other parties and independents. Our door, and my door in particular, is open to co-operation on common issues and particularly anti-racist campaigning. Attempts have been made to rewrite history from 2009. Our door was open then too, and we had endorsements from outside the party in that election too. It's my hope that we minimise the possibility of the BNP making a polling day recovery (in the event of a controversial media story) and ensure that we elect a Green and not Griffin.

17 April 2014

A Good News Day

Today, the principled action of an MP from the Green Party has made the headlines. Caroline Lucas was found not guilty in relation to the offence she was charged with at a peaceful protest in Balcombe. Shockingly, this has been the only truly national coverage the Greens have had in these European Elections, but for those interested in the issue of fracking, it is a powerful one. A North West Euro candidate, Laura Bannister, faces similar charges for protesting peacefully at Barton Moss. Many, many others also face trial and we owe each and every one of them a debt of gratitude for their stand against the climate madness that fracking would bring.

We've had coverage here in the North West after Left Unity endorsed me as the Green Party lead candidate in this region. It is a powerful endorsement that sends a message to those currently considering a reluctant vote for Labour, those who are expected to back NO2EU out of loyalty, and to other left of Labour political parties that might be standing here in the North West. Left Unity has had a lot of publicity in the last couple of months and their support will help us in this region. I personally want to extend my thanks to all of those who have been involved in making this happen.

Finally, at a local level in Liverpool, we've benefited from Natalie Bennett's visit today, in the form of some good local coverage in the Liverpool Echo with us highlighting smog related deaths locally.

More on the Left Unity endorsement tomorrow.

Austerity, Budgets and Trident

Liverpool's 2 Green councillors proposed the following motion to full council yesterday:

"Council regrets the devastating loss of government funding for local authorities in general and for Liverpool in particular.

Council considers that a new formula is needed which clearly addresses the need to redistribute the share of funding from more affluent areas towards areas with high deprivation; in particular, central government should fully fund the cost of adult social care.

Council considers that the total size of the budget for local government should be restored to a level that would undo the damage done by the Coalition government since 2010 and that any future government should replace the destructive austerity programme with a programme of investment to create sustainable jobs, in green industries such as energy saving, public transport and renewable energy - a "Green New Deal".

Council further considers that the cancellation of the Trident nuclear weapons programme would create a capital saving to help finance a transition from austerity to a Green New Deal.

Council therefore requests the Mayor to use his influence on any potential party of government in pursuit of these aims."

This motion was derailed by a Labour wrecking amendment. This is very disappointing. Are there any Labour councillors in Liverpool who are members of CND or Greenpeace, and if so, why not allow a debate on Trident? Politics deserves real debate and as Seumas Milne and the IEA have both pointed out, there are really difficult choices for any incoming government.

Liverpool was once a radical home for politics, particularly Labour politics, and it could be again. Joe Anderson, to give him a little credit, was ahead of the national Labour party (although well behind the Greens) in demanding in public that the bedroom tax should be scrapped. If local Labour groups won't even apply pressure on the national party to consider scrapping Trident, why should any CND or Greenpeace supporter locally back them in the European Elections?

Once again, I end with a reminder that the first year of any Labour government will stick to Coalition spending plans. It's not good enough and to have any impact on that policy and the approach of the Labour Party in government to Trident, then Labour supporters need to vote Green in the European Elections. It is the last chance to lean on the Labour leadership before the General Election.

15 April 2014

Remembering Hillsborough

I was on a train travelling back south from Carlisle at 3.06pm today. We commemorate those who lost their lives at Hillsborough, but we also pay tribute to the local people in Liverpool that have fought and still fight to bring the truth into view, against the powerful forces of the establishment.

I work with and know a few people who were personally hit by that tragedy. It's important we remember.

11 April 2014

Youthsight Student Poll Has Greens at 14%

After my visit to Chester University on Thursday night to catch the excellent Hannah Clare, Chair of Young Greens North, in debate with Labour, Tories and UKIP, and some really good conversations with a few of the students there, I decided to look how we are doing in terms of student support. These figures came from a google search and although the link is broken at the moment, the cached page is available (published on April 9th).

Support for the General Election for different parties stands as follows:

Labour 43%
Tories 24%
Greens 14%
Lib Dems 6%

Given that some of the students I met at Chester, were Labour members but would be voting Green in the Euro Elections, my view is that this would be at the bottom of the range for our support for the Euro Elections from students.

There are some really interesting quotes from the Youthsight article:

"At their peak (April 2010) the Liberal Democrats were polling 50% of the student vote, while the most recent figures show their student support at 6%."


"The Green Party student support has more than doubled since the last election (6%-14%), first pushing the Liberal Democrats to fourth place in April 2013."

So some good news on polling for us here in the North West, but also in other regions. We have Cumbria, Lancaster, UCLAN, Edge Hill, Liverpool Hope, Liverpool JMU, Liverpool, Chester, Manchester Met, Manchester, Salford and Bolton with large number of HE students. Many come into the North West to study and the unusually early date of the Euro Elections should provide us with a welcome electoral boost.

To support our campaign sign up on Facebook to Green Not Griffin as we look to replace Nick Griffin with a Green MEP for the North West. We need just 8 to 9% of the vote to win a North West seat, so a big student turnout is really crucial.

9 April 2014

A New Front Against Nationalism: Taking on UKIP

With apologies for the delay since Friday's hustings, which deserves a write up. I've been a bit under the weather since Sunday and although I made Monday night's meeting in Macclesfield, I've had to miss one campaign event in Lancaster on Tuesday. I'm returning to the election battle tomorrow though.

If you missed it, please read this comment piece in the Manchester Evening News. I'm now a full on target for the UKIP online machine, because the truth for UKIP really does hurt them. Share widely and make sure people know that there is one party that will take on UKIP, from the front, and challenge them, as I have at the West Kirby hustings two weeks ago, where I destroyed their "City of London" spokesperson on the issue of benefit fraud.

3 April 2014

Nick Clegg Loses His Gamble

The challenge to Nigel Farage was a politically astute move by Nick Clegg, but it was also a gamble. It was also a necessary risk because the Liberal Democrats are at risk of losing all 12 of their sitting MEPs, and needed a game changer. The first debate probably encouraged the view that he had got this right, but the second one may have just made things that little bit harder for his party.

The media narrative is that he lost the debates and he lost the second one fairly convincingly, despite the open goal of Nigel Farage's admiration for Putin at the start. Like it or not, politics can be affected by how people perceive leaders. Neil Kinnock, Iain Duncan-Smith and Gordon Brown are all clear examples where a leader can disadvantage their party.

Losing to Nigel Farage in a debate on Europe is a desparately poor result. As I cheekily tweeted last night, the biggest winner in the debate was Tim Farron (although of course Tim had to disagree with my analysis!) but what this does mean is that we could try and bring this government down within months, rather than wait for another year of austerity. If you haven't already read it, please look at how a strong Green vote could bring down this government early.

The battleground for the Greens to overtake the Liberal Democrats is the North West region. This is their 3rd safest seat out of the 12 they hold, and it is the seat we were closest to winning in 2009, and our first likely gain in May. If we win a seat in the North West, the Greens will overtake the Liberal Democrats nationally. If you want to help, donate here.