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Opinion: Soul-searching as Greens field candidates for Lancaster & Morecambe


Chris Coates
Chris Coates
Chris Satori


After weeks of soul-searching the North Lancashire Green Party voted this week to nominate its parliamentary candidates for Lancaster & Fleetwood  - Rebecca Joy Novell - and Morecambe & Lunesdale - Cait Sinclair. Lancaster & Fleetwood is a marginal constituency that has changed hands between Labour and Conservative MPs for many years. Currently it's with Labour's Cat Smith; at the 2015 election she took it from the Conservative's Eric Ollerenshaw with 17,643 votes and a majority of 1,265. The 2015 Green candidate, Chris Coates, achieved 2,093 votes. 

Before that, in 2010, Ollerenshaw won it with a majority of just 333 over Labour's Clive Grunshaw. The Green's Gina Dowding (reelected last week as a County Councillor) got 1,888 votes.

Morecambe & Lunesdale is also a swing seat, but held with 45.5% of the vote by the Conservative's David Morris in 2015, who increased his majority to 4,590 against Labour's Amina Lone (34.9%). Green candidate Phil Chandler got 1,395 votes (3.2%). 

Former Green candidate asks for Progressive Alliance

Former Green candidate Chris Coates has written to both Rebecca Joy Novel and to Cait Sinclair, the Green's candidate for Morecambe & Lunesdale, saying: 

"I can see no positive outcome for the Green Party from standing candidates this time. Given the feedback I and others have had from Green supporters it is clear that many of them support the idea of a Progressive Alliance and are going to vote tactically this time. There is disappointment that we are now putting forward candidates and it looks very likely that our vote will fall considerably.

"Standing at this unusual election seems to me very short-sighted and parochial – we could gain a huge amount of goodwill from voters and from members of other parties by standing down which would help to build up our support locally in the future. Locally we clearly have support for our councillors from Labour supporters who we run a real risk of alienating by standing in this General election.

"In my mind it would be much better for you to stand down and for us to campaign for a vote swap whereby Green voters in the two constituencies are twinned with Labour voters in the Fylde where Tina Rothery is standing as an anti-fracking Green Candidate. I urge you to personally reconsider your position."

The members

There's a great deal of overlap between the Lancaster's Greens and Lancaster Labour. Both are vehemently opposed to fracking and keen on renewables. Both local candidates support proportional representation (PR). Both see a fertile future in green jobs. But there are also people in the Labour Party who support Trident, and people in the Greens who would rather get rid of parliament altogether in favour of consensual decision-making. Perhaps via facebook. There are people in both who would never vote for another party because, perhaps, they feel that once integrity starts getting complicated, it's not really integrity any more.  They'd probably vote for a lump of dead wood if it were painted the right colour. And there are people in both who will weigh up both the odds and the candidates' policies in every election and make a choice they hope will work best to bring the whole 'representative' body closer to (or least furthest from) their own personal agenda. These are the 'tactical' voters.

For example, in Westmorland and Lonsdale the Greens are stepping aside in favour of the Lib Dem's Tim Farron. The only hope of defeating the Conservative candidate. 

In democratic parties the decision of whether to field a candidate lies with the members of each constituency. They vote on it. No-one else can tell them what to do. So Lancaster & Fleetwood Labour members can't tell Blackpool & Fylde Labour members what to do. Not even if they gang up with Morecambe & Lunesdale members. Similarly, I assume, Green constituents make the calls for their own constituency. An election campaign is a chance to educate the public and grow a party - in theory at least. PR would offer a more sustainable route to balanced representation and Cat Smith's recent report proposing to make it official Labour Party policy is likely to feature in the Labour Party's election manifesto, which will be published this Monday 15 May. 

Anyone know any policies?

Who reading this really knows all the policies? We know the Greens are big on the environment, renewables and PR. But who knows their policies on taxation levels, housing and social care? For sure they've got them, people have likely been working their asses off configuring them, but you have to search to find out what they are (or click here). Labour has a lot of policies too (here's the 10 main categories). It's a massive organisation, with more members than any other party. It created (against Goliath-like opposition) almost every public service you've ever used; of course it's got policies. 

One noticeable difference between Green policies and Labour policies is that every time you switch on the TV or radio you will inevitably hear someone exclaiming at how bad Labour policies are generally, how deluded Mr Corbyn is, and then someone else agreeing with them, for balance. The national media has at times been more understanding about supporters of Al-Qaida than they have been about supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. But can we tell spam, scam and artfully placed propaganda from real? God knows, we've had the practice. 

Strong and Stable

Conservative policies are fairly obvious. They are about being strong and stable, as the last three years amply demonstrate. If you are not strong and stable - if you are frail or struggling to make ends meet, they are not for you, you're too - negative.  You have to be entitled. Naturally, I secretly believe I'm entitled, because I'm special, obviously, and maybe so are you. While the s**t keeps on hitting the fan, as it inevitably does, we'll be alright with the Tories, what with all that strength and stability. The Tories are our club bouncers, aren't they? We're wearing the right shoes, so that's ok.  There's only so much room on the inside, it's getting tighter by the day. But Theresa May and Boris Johnson are knocking themselves out to save chairs for me and quite possibly for you too.  Of course they are. Let's keep this our little secret. Don't tell the others, they'll only spoil it for us.  If they want education, this will teach them. Am I right? I'm always right.

FYI There's still no date set for the Conservative election manifesto publication. They've been busy sorting out their expenses paperwork from the last one. 

One outcome of all this is that our nation's children seem to be quite literally going mad - or at least cracking up - quite possibly because they can't see the emperor's clothes, although everyone keeps insisting they are of the highest quality and much better than that other bloke's jacket. The one thing that can keep a young person going is hope. You might not have much (any) control now, but if you can see your way to a real chance of moving on to a life that makes more sense once you come into your majority, it's something to aim for. But now their education is being cut, their health service whittled away; everything's being bought up by middle eastern billionaires and nameless tax haven post boxes and everyone's bleating on about strength and stability like a social worker telling you which Care Home would suit you best.  

Tit for Tat? 

So what do you do if you're Green?  You don't see the Labour candidate stepping down in Brighton. Or anyone stepping aside to make sure Gina Dowding stays on the county council. Surely the world can see that keeping at least a single Green on the board makes the world a brighter (and more representative) place? Labour's candidates reckon they provide an option for people who wouldn't contemplate voting Green. Local prominent Greens have expressed doubts about Labour's committment to delivering on its environmental promises and want to keep the pressure up, not to mention taking the chance to showcase an alternative for people who won't vote Labour or who might not vote at all, otherwise. Gina Dowding posted that there will be 'a lot of people who voted Labour last time who do not like Jeremy Corbyn. These people will vote for the Lib Dem’s [sic] if we do not stand.'  And there it is. At least until Labour gets a chance to sort PR out. 

You can see it's a headache. People are handling it in different ways. I have before me the 'Green' election leaflet distributed by one of their county council candidates. The one printed on red paper, that says LABOUR front and back in banner print  - telling Labour voters to vote Green in the local County election because 'there's no chance of the Tories winning here' (Lancaster East).  It also 'explains' that 'Labour councillors have to vote the way their party tells them even on things they don't agree with but Greens are free to vote the right way..'  (He clearly hasn't been listening to the BBC.) As if you'd get the only two Greens on a county council voting against each other. 

Desperate stuff. But still a fair few people voted for him - about as many as Cat Smith's majority, in fact. The Greens aren't the toughest factor Labour has to contend with at this election, but round here the Greens can, and do, definitely make a difference. 

Step up and choose

Integrity does get complicated in elections. It's the biggest picture.  There are lives at stake every way you look at it. Not to mention my peace of mind, which I've not seen for a while now. I'm not letting go of hope yet though. Not while there's any chance.   In the General Election you don't get to decide who will govern the country - but you do get a vote in who will represent your constituency. For Lancaster & Fleetwood it will be either the Conservatives' Eric Ollerenshaw or Labour's Cat Smith, who is also Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons. They are both applying for the job and you basically have to decide which one you want to employ to handle the business of your life and broker into reality values you care about. Whatever you do will affect that outcome, and ultimately your agenda, even if you do nothing. So, you've employed them both before. Which one would you call to ask to fight your case for you? Check them out. 

In Morecambe & Lunesdale the successful candidate will be either the Conservative's David Morris, who has, apparently, been there a while, even when he's been abroad, or Labour's Vikki Singleton, a youth worker and former Westgate councillor. This is a bit different because Morris is a recurrent embarassment to Morecambe, even if he did once get a grant for Heysham Golf Club. When he's not indignantly denouncing anyone who notices Tory policies being anything less than manna from heaven, or innocently struggling with his expenses paperwork (it's very complicated, money), his occasional activity seems to focus on holding doors open for Peel Ports, EDF and BAE Systems to access £billions in public investment. A perfect job for a piece of dead wood painted blue. 

Interview the applicants

The current and planned Education Cuts are a big issue for the future of both constituencies. Masked by endless distracting reorganisations, they are so dire (and most particularly in our area), that even the National Audit Office is sounding the alarm.  You might well be special, but what about your kids?

If you want to take a look at Cat Smith, you can see her at the Education Cuts rally being held by local primary school headteachers at Dalton Square this lunchtime (Saturday). If you want to check out Eric Ollerenshaw, he's down in Great Eccleston and Fleetwood, holding the door for Cuadrilla. 


Chris Satori has been a member of Lancaster Labour Party (LLP) since June 2016. However the contents of the article above are expressed solely as her own personal opinions and do not and are not intended to represent those of the LLP or any other individual or organisation.