Matt Woods – more familiar to ConservativeHome readers as "Cleethorpes Rock" – reflects on the rise of the Greens after his visit to Norwich North on the ConHome coach trip, and wonders if the Conservatives might be able to benefit from their improved showing.
Something occurred to me the other day as I walked round Norwich North, observing the Green Party posters that had sprouted up all over the place. When I got home, I looked at an opinion poll and thought about it a bit more. Do we stand to gain by building up the Greens?
Graeme Archer and I were chatting away on the ConHome Battlebus and I remarked on the number of posters from the Greens, which I sneeringly ventured might have been printed on organic hemp paper. Graeme said how surprised he was that I was so disparaging towards those I referred to as Watermelons (you know, Green on the Outside, Red on the inside…). My answer was that I supposed the leadership of the Greens was indeed Red under the bed and a tie-died, pot-smoking danger to the Tory party.
Then, after more discussion, we all agreed that Green VOTERS (at least at a local election)are probably more Tory inclined in their thinking; after all, if we’re not for CONSERVING things, what are we for? Taking care of our surroundings, an understanding of the countryside and an aversion to wastefulness ought to give us some common ground with those who hitch their caravan to the Green bandwagon. We should also remember the electoral advantages the green agenda might bring in certain areas.
Whilst we are waiting for the result from Norwich North, an ICM poll for the News of the World put the Greens just 1% behind the Liberals in the constituency, with other polls having suggested they may challenge in seats in Oxford and Brighton. Now consider Labour and Liberal seats where there is a sizeable Green vote and where the Greens act as a receptacle for dissatisfied Labour or left-leaning voters: what do we have to gain by pushing “green” issues in such areas when the outcome would seem to benefit someone else?
The First Past the Post system means that by bringing green issues to the fore, we may encourage more left-leaning voters to consider the Greens (particularly where they are strong) but also pull more conservative-minded Liberals towards us. Coming through the middle in Green strongholds is a real possibility if this triangulation can be worked well. How would we do it?
The time has come for us and our MPs to actively talk up the chances of the Green Party. The Greens themselves acknowledge that they would win more votes if people thought they had a chance (as was the case with the Liberals pre-1997), so why not give them that chance? Is it really so inconceivable that the Greens could do for Labour in 2010 what the Referendum Party did in 1997, or UKIP in 2005?
A green Tory will vote Tory in a General Election. A Green Socialist might not vote Labour. If we want to reap some benefit of this, we need to praise praise praise the Green performance in Norwich today, and tomorrow, and every day in areas where they can do damage to Labour. Eric Pickles or David Cameron stating “This result also shows that the Green Party are gaining support and are now real challengers to Labour and the Liberals in many areas” may just galvanise a clutch of a dozen seats to give 500 votes to the Greens that might otherwise go to Labour or the Liberals, and give us some bonus victories.
That’s something (unlike hemp posters and watermelons) not to be sneered at!