As the European Election approach, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats will be looking to do as well as they can ahead of the schedules 2015 General Election. For Labour, gains are essential, while the Liberal Democrats need to hold seats that are at risk. After finishing behind the Greens in the last Proportional Representation elections in London, they will fear that result being repeated in a number of Euro regions.
For the last few years, we've seen increasing rhetoric and harsher policy for benefit claimants, immigrants and anyone who doesn't fit into the "hard working families" swing demographic, not just from the Tories, but the Lib Dems and Labour as well. However, the European Elections are approaching. Voters choose which party they support under a system of proportional representation and it isn't an election about who can attract marginal voters, but about which party you broadly support.
The Greens gained a 8.6% share of the national vote last time, but we still only won 2 seats. If we had gained 10% we would have managed 6. That is our target this time, and the message that if just 1 in 10 voters back us we can treble our representation is a strong one. If voters want to vote Green, they'll choose Green, but that won't stop some pretty desperate attempts by the red and yellow parties to apply a coat of greenwash in the run up to the Euros.
The Independent reported yesterday that:
"...the polls suggest Labour's "lost" Lib Dem voters have switched mainly to the Green Party or the UK Independence Party. Some eight per cent of former Lib Dem supporters would now vote Green, up from five per cent in February. The Greens are now running at three to four per cent in the polls -- by historical standards, a relatively healthy showing for the party."
So what will we see in response? LabourList carries this article stating that:
"Some Labour party members have been far too dismissive of the importance of the green agenda. That they ignore the overwhelming majority of science and the links between the environmental crisis and the crisis of capitalism that we’re living through is bad enough. But there will be no addressing the squeeze on living standards if Labour doesn’t get back into government. There are no excuses for Labour if it doesn’t improve its environmental offer."
And adding notably, "...Labour should be hammering the Liberal Democrats on these issues not losing voters to the Green Party."
Nick Clegg is also making his pitch. In the Telegraph today they report (with cliched stereotyping) that:
"...it is already almost possible to sketch a picture of Mr Clegg’s dream voter. They are middle class (and able to afford green taxes), and rather metropolitan in their outlook. All Lib Dem MPs and strategists agree that these voters are the sort who fret about whether they are doing the recycling properly."
So for the next six months, expect to see both Labour and the Lib Dems trying to be very nice again, in attitude if not in policy, on the environment, with that approach promptly ditched on May 23rd, when it becomes all about the General Election and a resumed narrow interest in the views of a few thousand marginal voters in key seats. Unfortunately for both of these parties, the world has changed and continues to change.
You can't have your party leader make a speech about social justice and follow it up with two senior shadow cabinet ministers drinking an £800 bottle of wine hours later, without your credibility coming into question. Similarly, you can't promise a target of a 20% reduction in (domestic only) CO2 emissions during 13 years of government, but only achieve a 12.5% cut (with "outsourced" emissions up), and expect to be taken seriously as a "green" party. I won't bother starting on the Lib Dems since going into coalition...
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats move towards environmental issues is welcome for us. The bigger the focus on these issues in 2014, the better the Greens will do.