Home > politics > Reflections upon the General Election 2015 in Eastbourne

Reflections upon the General Election 2015 in Eastbourne

Another General Election is over and the hoary rituals of Parliament begin all over again, complete with pink ribbons for tying swords to coat hangers and having a pinch of snuff from the doorkeeper at the entrance to the House of Commons. For full details of just how stuffy, bizarre and out-dated some of the Parliamentary rituals are, just read Caroline Lucas’s new book Honourable Friends? Parliament and the Fight for Change.

Honourable Friends  Parliament and the Fight for Change   Caroline Lucas

More seriously, the most out-dated aspect of Parliament is the first-past-the-post voting system, which has delivered a parliamentary majority for the Tory party on just 37% of actual votes cast and about 25% of the total electorate. That’s just not fair and undermines both the credibility and legitimacy of Parliament itself. The Green Party got well over a million votes, roughly quadrupling its total from 2010, yet it remains marooned on just one MP, the incomparable and highly respected Caroline Lucas. The need for voting reform has now become acute and is likely to be a running sore throughout the new Parliament, especially if the Tories implement in full the austerity cuts planned for the next 3 years.

As for my part in the General Election, my role as the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Eastbourne & Willingdon was simply to put the Green Party on the map given that the party had no candidate for this constituency in 2010. I’m proud to have achieved that, gaining nearly 3% of the vote and establishing a bedrock of support the Green Party can build upon for greater success in the next General Election. Given that Eastbourne is now an even more marginal seat than it was before the election, with the winning candidate now only having a majority of less than 800 votes, the next election will be a hard fought one, and all the candidates then will have to take note of the fact that the level of the Green vote could be decisive in getting over the finishing line to victory. That guarantees that green issues will now feature significantly in the local political landscape over the next 5 years, and already I’ve been heartened by the messages I’ve received from local politicians since the election, signalling renewed intentions to act on green issues over the next few months. As for me personally, the election campaign was intense but immensely rewarding and very enjoyable. Despite our political differences, all the candidates got on quite well with each other on a personal level, and the hustings were very cordial affairs.

HeraldToryfrontpage

But the election proved to me in a very dramatic way how crucial newspapers are in forming people’s views about how to vote. A massive amount of money was put into political advertising of various kinds during the campaign by various candidates, but what was possibly decisive in swinging the election here in Eastbourne was the 4 page ‘wraparound’ advert by the Tories on the last edition of the Eastbourne Herald just before polling day, cleverly designed to look like a front page ‘editorial’ by the Herald itself. You had to look hard to realise that it was just an advert. Moreover, the advert itself screamed the politics of fear, especially the fear of the country running out of money (therefore justifying more austerity) and the fear of Scots having too much influence in Westminster (therefore justifying voting against against everybody except the Tories, who promise to impose austerity upon the Scots as well as us English). Money, especially the big money of big corporations and banks, clearly still swings elections, and the use of fear as a tool of negative campaigning rather than the use of hope and a positive vision as a way of motivating voters is still, it seems, a hallowed part of electoral campaigning. I have already submitted a statement to the Electoral Commission about the infamous Eastbourne Herald wraparound, and judging by the feedback I have received from many Eastbourne voters, it is clear that the Herald will lose readers as a result of its electoral advertising policy. The Herald is, I understand, carrying out a review of that policy, which is a clear signal that it realises that its commitment to objective journalism and its credibility as a politically independent newspaper has been undermined.

As for the next five years, things don’t go quiet on the campaigning front. The Green Party is part of a broad grassroots movement for progressive change, and I’ll be an active part of exciting developments in Eastbourne that involve many of the issues that Greens are passionate about, such as developing community renewable energy projects, and setting up food growing projects such as community orchards. The transition to the zero-carbon society we need to deal with climate change is proceeding apace, without waiting for the Westminster elite. For example, the clean energy revolution is sweeping the world, and an alternative financial world is evolving from the grassroots to fund that transition, a world in which community shares, peer to peer lending, community banks, credit unions, and crowdfunding platforms are undercutting the need for accessing the dysfunctional and untrustworthy financial institutions of the “too big to fail” banks and the City of London. I’m a passionate supporter of credit unions, and we’re very fortunate in having the East Sussex Credit Union now operating in Eastbourne, which is even offering loans to small businesses. I have recently opened an account with the East Sussex Credit Union and I would heartily recommend you doing the same if you’re an East Sussex resident, especially if you’re looking for a much fairer and much more affordable alternative to pay day lenders!

My first ever foray into politics has made me feel more empowered as a citizen and able to have more of a say, no matter how small, in this flawed democracy of ours. Telling truth to power and providing another choice for my fellow citizens at the ballot box has been both an exhilarating and enriching experience and I’m deeply grateful to the fantastic support I’ve received from my colleagues in the Eastbourne Green Party in my parliamentary campaign. It’s been a team effort from the very beginning, and it’s as part of a team that I go forwards into the challenging political future for the next few years, fighting for a fairer, more sustainable society.

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  1. May 14, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    As you will see, I have ‘Liked’ this blog. However, given the details of your election result, please read my blog (if you do not already)
    clivelord.wordpress.com
    I need to know what you make of it. If you have doubts, we need dialogue. If you agree, then please help me to take the Green Party where it needs to go, and (spilt milk) should have gone in this election.
    As you will see from my blog, there are over a million missing voters in areas where Conservatives or Lib Dems used to be the only serious contenders.. We could set out our stall to reclaim them with no sacrifices, and no change in our policies. We just tell them that we have had the policies to save the planet AND deal with austerity. Complaints that anyone who voted Tory is selfish miss the point. They are simply not aware of what is happening to the unemployed and disabled.

    • andydharma
      May 19, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Clive. I find your blog fascinating and stimulating. I agree with you that we need to promote Citizens Income much more prominently from now on, especially as the inevitable collapse of Universal Credit within the next few years will open up political space to talk about the only workable reform of welfare: the Citizens Income, which appeals to quite a few Conservatives & UKIP people as well. The Green vote in Eastbourne was about twice the majority of the winning Tory candidate, which means that it would be possible to deny her the chance of winning again if the Greens could avoid any aggressive anti-Tory rhetoric and appeal to Tory voters on the Citizens Income front and point out that this not only would SAVE money on welfare in the long-run, but also end hunger and foodbanks, something that the Tory candidate was vulnerable on during the election at the hustings I went to. Selling the Green case on dealing effectively with climate change will be easier next time round in Eastbourne as the vulnerability of the town to sea level rise becomes even more apparent than now. Even some of the Tory residents with seafront properties have recently pointed out how their sea defences are useless now even before the effects of climate change are factored in!

  2. May 19, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Your reply of course angers me. With an intelligent use of the Basic income (by the Party, I am not getting at you), you would have denied the Tory that seat this time, talking about the failure of the Universal Credit linked to food banks. But we are where we are. I did a presentation on the BI for the Yorks & the Humber GP in December, and I have it on a memory stick. I could try to email it to you, but I am trying to get invited round the country with it, if I can get Green World to mention it. I would need travel expenses but can bring a sleeping bag.

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