Interesting letter in The Independent today (in fact there are a number of them) which attacks the Green Party policy on backing Ken Livingstone with a second preference vote in the London Mayoral election. The letters goes;
So here is my response (we'll see if they print it);
Sian and Ken: the rainbow fades
Sir: Sian Berry could have at least doubled her 3.15 per cent of the vote as Green candidate for London mayor (Letters, 7 May) if she had not made a Faustian pact with Ken Livingstone.
By telling her supporters to vote "Sian 1, Ken 2", she confined herself to a left-wing ghetto, a green stripe in a fast-fading "rainbow coalition". Sian would have been better to appeal to voters of conservative and liberal disposition as much as to disillusioned left-wing voters. Many conservatives and liberals are active environmentalists and are profoundly worried by the consequences of unbridled economic expansionism.
Unfortunately, the Green leadership place their nostalgic commitment to the left before ecological principles.
Sir: Aidan Rankin writes (Letters, 9th May) that the Green Mayoral candidate, Sian Berry, could have doubled her vote if she had not called for second preferences for Ken Livingstone. That might be true, but so what?In fact, the more I think about it, the more important, in purely electoral terms, it was to take a position on the Ken and Boris show. Everyone who did not clearly back Livingstone (apart from Boris) performed worse than they expected at the ballot box, squeezed in this highly polarised election.
If votes were all that mattered then she should have stood for the Tories, but she didn't because Greens have principles and are willing to take positions that might (or might not) cost them votes sometimes. Livingstone has faults, but he has virtues too, including a track record on the environment so far beyond his rival that they would need binoculars to see each other.
Mr Rankin cites the undisputed fact that some Tories and Liberals are very concerned about the environment, but it's difficult to see how Boris Johnson, who opposed the Kyoto treaty and has had, shall we say, a robust approach to environmental measures fits into that picture. The Mayoral campaign itself pushed Johnson towards making concessions on the environment and moderate his worst excesses, but we shall see how long that lasts.
It's a sign of a mature political organisation when it's willing to back a rival despite their differences for the good of London, regardless of how that might effect their vote. In the end the Green assembly members were re-elected in very difficult circumstances, had Greens taken a blinkered 'neither Ken nor Boris' approach that may well have not been the case.
Jim Jepps, Cambridge
The Liberal Democrats vote sagged humiliatingly, the Left List vote was abysmal, and there but for the grace of Ken would have gone the Greens. Even the BNP, who did marginally increase their vote share by the smallest of margins, failed to capitalise on the collapsing UKIP vote which appears to have uniformly migrated to Johnson.
It's absolutely true that not all Green voters followed our advice - in fact not all Green members did. When speaking to people on the street it was clear that there was a great deal of resistance to doing anything that felt like support for Livingstone. It may well be that there were some voters who did not vote Green due to the position on Livingstone, but there were many people, mainly traditional Labour voters, that rewarded the Green's sensible approach by voting for them in the all important list vote.
At the end of the day it was right to call for a second preference for Ken simply on the basis that he's infinitely preferable to Johnson, but this was a difficult election for everyone and I'm more and more convinced that, where others saw their vote collapse because they were marginal to the outcome, the Greens positioned themselves bravely next to Ken and were able to increase the numbers voting for them, ensuring thier Assembly Members were re-elected. That outcome was by no means assured.
Update: No sooner do I post on this than Sian Berry writes a piece for the New Statesman on the very same topic.