The Green Party is targeting Lewisham Deptford as its only target seat in London (out of three nationally), which makes my campaign an interesting fight. In 2005 the Green Party came in fourth place behind Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives, by a few hundred votes. Darren Johnson, their Parliamentary Candidate, has stood in the area twice before, is a local councillor, an Assembly Member and Chair of the London Assembly. They are fighting to take the seat from Labour’s Joan Ruddock, the sitting MP of almost 23 years, and the party itself is throwing everything it can at it: money, volunteers from afar and media.
In most normal election circumstances (if there really is such a thing) the Greens wouldn’t stand a chance, even in an area like Deptford. However, in a year of expenses scandals, Duck Houses and moats and MPs available for hire like taxi cabs, it seems that the British public are apathetic to politics and fed up ‘with the lot of them’. Which isn’t surprising. I’ve certainly lost count of the number of times I’ve heard ‘they’re all as bad as each other’ on the doorsteps in Lewisham.
Voters want to strike out, remind politicians that the power is in their hands (firmly where it should be) and teach them a lesson. For an area like Lewisham Deptford this could be disastrous. Of course the Greens have no chance of winning in Deptford, but if people vote with their feet in the way they say they want to up and down the country, but don’t really have the chance, we will have a long term problem on our hands. If the Greens increase their share of the vote considerably this time around, purely as a result of statement voting, by people that haven’t thought about what the Green Party stands for, they might be in a position to properly challenge the incumbent MP (whoever that might be) next time around.
The Conservatives are going down well in Lewisham. What is clear is this: no one wants to see another five years of Gordon Brown, not even hardcore Labour voters (of which there are many). The area has changed a lot in recent years and with good transport links to central London, there are more and more potential Conservative voters moving into the area. However, with these changes have come two other groups. There are the Socialist Alternative and the people that will genuinely vote Green because they are deeply socialist and completely behind the party’s values.
However, in Lewisham I feel that voting Green has become a way of life for some people, “I buy organic, I cycle to the shops – I vote Green”. Voting Green makes them feel good about themselves. Perhaps I’m wrong, but do these people really know the Green Party wants to introduce an NHS tax that will be locally set? Presumably need in Lewisham would be amongst the highest in the country, with perhaps fewer people paying high taxes.
Do they know that they want to scrap Academies? From what I can tell there is only one secondary school parents want to send their children to in Lewisham, Haberdashers' Aske's (incidentally an Academy). Are they sure they believe the Party when they say “we owe all old people a decent standard of living”, but want to scrap tax relief on pension contributions, which would prevent hard working people from properly investing into their future? They say this would mainly affect the wealthy. But it’s people who own moderate homes and live sensible lifestyles, like the types of people that have always lived in Lewisham or the ones that have moved here in the last five or ten years, that would be affected.
What I’m trying to do in Lewisham is remind people what is important to them. Even in such a strong Labour seat, it seems the shared objective is to stop another five years of Brown. It’s my job, supported by a growing team of committed Conservative activists, to remind people that, even if elected, and even if in fact their policies were fit for our country, one Green MP would do nothing to remove Brown. I have to remind them that Cameron needs to win all the seats the party won in the last election and gain another 117 just to win a majority of one. Voting Green might split the vote in Deptford, but it won’t help get rid of Brown. It's decision time.