Since proposing this on Friday afternoon, I know of nearly 100 emails that have been sent by Central Devon voters to the constituency Labour and Lib Dem offices supporting the idea of a ‘unity’ candidate on 8 June. There may be many more. I hope to share some of them soon, for they put forward great arguments about why we need to do this now. In some, they admit that it’s not how they would normally like to do things – naturally, people who get involved in politics tend to think carefully about the issues, and there are good reasons why they choose one party rather than another. In deciding to join the Green Party several years ago, I did exactly the same. But the common theme is that right here, right now, in Central Devon in 2017, having to choose between three parties, when you’d essentially be very happy for any one of them to represent you in Westminster, and where all three are far preferable to an having a Conservative MP who has been a loyal supporter of everything that the Tory government has done since he was first elected in 2010. As a fellow voter, this is how I feel too.
I’m NOT trying to create a back room deal here. There is no ‘quid pro quo’ being discussed here. It’s also as public as possible and the response I’ve seen so far has been very encouraging. Over the weekend I discovered that it’s possible to register a candidate so that they appear on the ballot form as ‘joint’, ie representing 2 or more parties. This has happened in the past between Labour and the Cooperative Party, and Green and Plaid Cymru. I’m sure I saw a reference to a Green + Lib Dem joint candidate somewhere too. The law was made clear under the coalition government, though as far as I know, there’s never been a joint candidate representing three parties. We have the opportunity here to take our broken ‘First Past The Post’ electoral system, and do something different; to take a grown-up approach to politics rather than the usual childish tribal warfare, that really serves nobody well.
I believe that if we could make this happen here – BY 4pm this Thursday, 11 May! – it could have a truly renewing effect on politics here in Central Devon.
Under ‘normal’ circumstances, I would agree with those who say that everyone should have the opportunity to cast their vote for the candidate or party which most closely reflects what they want to see happen in this country. It’s why I stood here in 2015 for the Green Party, knowing that the best I could hope for was to increase the size of the Green vote, and perhaps to take our arguments to the half a dozen public hustings which happened. But this election is not a ‘normal’ one. It is being held at a time when our country is in a state of turmoil and division beyond anything I could have imagined. The governing party faces allegations of criminal electoral malpractice in the last election in 20 constituencies – a greater number than its parliamentary majority. It is now dealing with Brexit – the consequence of incompetent legislation and campaigns – which has now replaced the real important issues of our times (eg climate change and the global refugee crisis), and which risks breaking up the countries of the United Kingdom. All for what? So David Cameron could win a few votes from UKIP?
The Conservative Party has managed to govern this country on its own since 2015 having won just 37% of the popular vote, from 24% of the electorate. Never mind ‘strong and stable’ – in that time it has lurched from one disaster to another, endangering our education system, our NHS, our ‘United’ Kingdom and the respect we’ve always had from the rest of Europe and the rest of the World. Everything right now points towards them winning this General Election in a similar way. We have an opportunity here to make a stand against that by creating a clear choice, where normally there would not be one. Vote Conservative or vote for something different.
So far, the Labour Party has said publicly, and in an email yesterday to its members in Central Devon that it will not be part of a Unity candidate agreement. So far, the Lib Dems have in private made promising noises and say they are actively considering this suggestion. Both parties surely know that it is the only way for the people of Central Devon to have a clear choice where every vote will count. We don’t have much time. The deadline for nomination papers to be lodged is 4pm on Thursday. Where this has been done already, it’s still possible to change things so that a single joint candidate appears on the ballot paper. If you haven’t already, email the parties to let them know what you think – post about it on social media (here’s the Facebook version of this post). If you know other people who agree, then ask them to do this too.
Secretary of Central Devon Labour: Paula Frisby: firstname.lastname@example.org
Central Devon Liberal Democrats: email@example.com
South Devon Green Party: firstname.lastname@example.org (I’ll see this one – so copy us in).