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Why are Greens standing in the General Election in Dover and Deal?

We believe that this Tory government is disastrous for people and planet and needs to be removed. Sadly, the Labour Party seem more interested in preventing Greens growing stronger than in getting rid of the Tories.

Nationally, Labour have not been prepared to make any agreements with the Green Party on standing aside or not campaigning in particular seats, despite being asked. Locally, Labour in Dover and Deal have consistently refused to make agreements that would benefit them in exchange for an agreement in areas where Greens are the strongest placed party to defeat the Tories. This was the case in 2017 [1], 2019 [2] and more recently in the 2023 [3] local elections where they stood two candidates in Eastry Rural.

Greens are a political party – standing in elections is what we do.

The Green Party are a distinct political party with clear and progressive policies. We exist to get the change we so desperately need through the political process by getting fresh people elected to all levels of government. Greens believe it is important to work through both the electoral system and campaigning organisations like Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion and Amnesty International, as well as grassroots groups working locally.

We see the difference it makes in political decision making to have a few elected Greens in the room. For example Caroline Lucas has had an outsize influence on UK politics far beyond her sole Green MP status.

In Dover and Deal due to hard work over many years, Greens are now the third party in the district. We hold power to account, whether that power is wielded by Labour or by the Tories. But we also work collaboratively with those who want to get things done to improve the lives of local people, whatever their political affiliation.

We give voters the opportunity to vote Green or to choose to vote tactically.

We believe that everyone should have the right to vote Green (or for any other legal party). If they choose to vote tactically (for example, to prevent a party they dislike from winning) that is their choice. To force them to vote tactically by deliberately not standing and removing their right to vote for their preferred candidate would be wrong.

For another party to tell the Greens not to stand (for example, to get the Tories out) is also wrong and smacks of authoritarian states in which only some parties are allowed to stand.

We argue that there is an exception when the Green Party enters into a reciprocal agreement with another progressive party to support a shared aim, like preventing a disastrous Tory government getting re-elected. In this case, although the Greens would not stand in one area, it would only be in exchange for another party not standing in another area where Greens have the best chance of winning. That way each party and their supporters get a benefit from the arrangement.

The ‘splitting the vote’ narrative is simplistic and inaccurate.

We should never take anyone’s vote, or their reasons for choosing a particular party, for granted. It is often claimed that if Greens were not standing, ‘their votes’ would automatically go to Labour. This is patronising to voters and not true.

For instance, in 2019, in an election dominated by Brexit:

  • Some traditional Labour voters voted Tory because they supported Brexit and weren’t convinced by Corbyn – Labour lost these votes to the Tories; Greens did not steal them.
  • Some ‘Remain’ supporting traditional Tory voters voted for the Green candidate Beccy Sawbridge as the Remain candidate, but would not vote for Labour – so Beccy reduced the Tory vote.
  • Some were torn between Green in principle and tactically with Labour – they made their own minds up, because by standing, Greens gave them the choice. Some voted Labour, some Green.
  • Some Green voters have told us that they would either not vote or would spoil their ballot if there was no Green candidate to vote for.

So it is not as simple as ‘splitting the vote’. In 2019 Natalie Elphicke won because more people voted for her than for Charlotte Cornell. Labour failed to persuade enough people to vote for them. That’s  how the First Past The Post (FPTP) system, supported by the two big parties, works.

Greens support proportional representation (PR).

Many of these tensions between progressive parties would be minimised by PR. What’s more, our current Government disaster has been accentuated by an electoral system in which a party that received support from just 43.6% of voters could command a massive parliamentary majority, able to force through a hard Brexit, a succession of unelected Prime Ministers and austerity against the wishes of the majority.

Greens have always supported Proportional Representation and already use it for all our internal elections. The Lib Dems also support PR. PR was in Labour’s 1997 manifesto, but was never implemented. Despite the majority of Labour members supporting PR, it seems that Keir Starmer is not – and will not be – a supporter, especially if he gets a large majority at the next election. Greens do not believe this is how democracy should work.

Not standing in an election costs the Green Party money.

Under the current rules, opposition parties receive funding from the taxpayer, under a scheme called ‘Short Money’. The amount payable is £19,400 for every seat won at the General Election plus £38.75 for every 200 votes gained by the party. By not standing, the Green Party reduces the amount of money that its elected MPs receive to run our back office operations. With no wealthy donors, or trade unions to fund it, the Green Party relies on this form of funding to run its Westminster offices.

Some questions and answers about our decision to stand

Why are you standing a candidate?

We have an excellent parliamentary candidate in Christine Oliver, who lives locally, understands the particular context of Dover and Deal and who we believe will do a better job for the people of Dover and Deal than either Natalie Elphicke or Labour’s candidate, Mike Tapp. Given how similar the policies of Tories and Labour are, it is crucial that the assumptions underlying them are held up and shown to be found wanting. Christine will do this.

Do you think local Labour supporters are aware that you offered an agreement and that Labour refused?

No, we don’t think they are aware that we offered an agreement in previous elections and again this year. Labour Party members often come to the Green Party, asking us not to stand, and are genuinely very surprised when we tell them the history of offers we have made to Labour.

If Labour changed their minds, and offered to do a reciprocal deal, favouring Labour in Dover and Deal and favouring the Greens in a constituency where Greens have the best chance of ousting a Conservative MP, would you accept?

Yes, if it was genuinely reciprocal.

If the Greens didn’t stand, where do you believe the Green votes would go?

‘Green votes’ sounds like we own them. We don’t; they belong to the individuals concerned. We believe we have to win votes at each election by having better policies, harder working and more honest and committed politicians.

If there was not a Green candidate, many who previously voted Green would probably vote Labour. Others might vote Lib Dem because they support PR. Others would not vote.

We are also aware that many previous Conservative voters are considering voting Green because they are horrified by the Government’s record on Brexit, Partygate, PPE scandals and lack of action on the nature and climate emergencies. These ex-Tory voters may not, however, be prepared to vote for Labour. So overall the picture is complicated.

During your general election campaign, will you be actively targeting Labour supporters?

We will inform everyone about Green policies and let them make their own minds up who to vote for. However, after 12+ years of the most disastrous series of Conservative Governments, we believe that ex-Conservative voters will be desperate for a change (as is the rest of the country).

[1] 2017 snap General Election.  We offered local Labour’s then election agent, Simon Bannister, a written agreement to stand down in return for a written public commitment to fair proportional voting and an agreement by Labour to stand down in one 2019 DDC rural ward.

[2]2019 snap General Election. Labour’s parliamentary candidate, Charlotte Cornell, was a principled local activist who played a full role within Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform. Our local Green Party membership agreed to suppress our own vote by messaging that we stood a candidate because voters deserved choices, that choices would be easier if we had PR, that we understood if voters chose to vote with their hearts in local elections even if they voted for a bigger party in general elections. We could have doubled or tripled our vote if we’d messaged differently.

[3] 2022 / 2023 Local Elections. In July 2022 our election agent offered  that we would not field candidates in the 11 DDC seats held by Labour, to end Tory rule at DDC with a rainbow coalition. In return we asked Labour not to stand candidates in Eastry Rural ward. In early Feb 2023 this was discussed with the leader of Labour DDC group. An email was sent to new election agent G Cowan in March 2023. We kept to our word. If Labour respected it, the Tory group at DDC might now be down to 12 with a greater margin of safety for the Labour majority group. By making Tories fight hard to keep Eastry Rural and other DDC Tory wards, we reduced their campaigning capacity in the 17 seats (6 gains) Labour fought to take.