For all Caroline Lucas’s musings around the adversarial and absolutist political system, she was a key contributor to the discussion regarding whether the Greens should support the AV campaign, where she made it clear that she was fully in favour of the Greens doing so. Lucas argued that she didn’t want to be on the outside looking in, or fighting a no battle with the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
This ignores the fact that there will be trade unions and many a progressive person/group/affiliation fighting against the AV bill. But it also plays into the dichotomous view that you either have to take a for or against AV stance when it comes to campaigning time. Derek Wall made a good point when speaking in objection to the motion, that there are alternative forms of protest we can do, such as spoiling the ballot via placing a + on the AV option.
We don’t need to front a pro or an against campaign. We could have let the members decide and remained neutral as a larger organisational body. Alternatively, we could have forged a pro PR campaign, this could have helped us reinforce our distinctiveness to other so called progressive parties, such as the LibDems.
Caroline Lucas rightly, as she did at conference, has made some important comments regarding the out of date political system, such as in a recent Guardian article she claims:
“This adversarial system impacts on everything from the membership of select committees to the selection of amendments for debate. Everything is decided in a mysterious, opaque fashion. At first sight, it seems so laborious for any outsider, or novice, to understand – or influence – because parliament is so steeped in tradition and pomp. But the reality is that parliament is this way for a reason: it keeps power in the hands of the few. The main parties don’t want smaller parties to make use of the powers of the institution, whether to legislate or scrutinise the government.”
As, I and Darrell Goodliffe commented upon in our conference review, the amount of obstacles politicians have when it comes to getting on with their job is very worrying. Her comments are a damning indictment of absolutist politics. And quite a good and rightful one too. But then, as I have said above, why did we then feel obligated to have to come down on a for or against position regarding AV? Why heel to the first sign of electoral reform? Especially when it will be reform of little consequence.
We wouldn’t have looked anti-reformist. We could have fronted a campaign where the benefits of PR were emphasised, instead we are to waste time and energy (and some resources) talking up the benefits of AV to most likely see it be defeated. As many have said, those who believe in AV being the best option for change should have been given that chance to argue just that – but there are many skeptics in the party who rightfully think that the arguments for AV will undermine future reform.
The motion that passed through conference argued that AV removed tactical voting and the wasted vote problem. Some may then find themselves asking, well why do we want PR then. These factually incorrect arguments will only undermine any case for future reform, as we take a wrongly absolutist stance of which we are encouraged to do so by the very system that Caroline Lucas is rightfully defaming.
I am most likely going to abstain from voting, as I feel a general sense of apathy towards voting for or against it (however, spoiling the ballot is also an option). Hopefully, I will be wrong and this wont undermine the Greens and future reform. However, it seems as though we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t – so instead of engaging in absolutist politics; a neutral stance – allowing individuals to pursue their own conscious based decision – would have been the most applicable option.