On May 2nd we go the the polls to elect three councillors who will represent Bridport on the new Dorset Council for the next five years – five crucial years in which a lot of vitally important decisions will need to be made. Now, I know that most of you are totally fed up with politics and politicians, but could I please ask you to not dismiss these elections out of hand – they are important! Our First Past the Post voting system means that if people use all three votes for the same party then, with the opposition vote divided, Conservatives will quite likely win all 3 seats with about 40% of the vote.
Bridport members of the Green Party have decided to purposely stand only one candidate in this election. We have done so in the hope that supporters of all the progressive parties that take issues like the fast approaching climate emergency, the need to fight Conservative austerity and their creeping privatisation of public services and the NHS, and the need be proactive in addressing our housing crisis seriously. We have done so with the hope that if our supporters decide to co-operate and make a collective response we can prevent Dorset Council becoming a one-party council.
A Conservative dominated Council will not be good for democracy, it will not be good for the people of Dorset, and it will certainly not be good for our planet. But that is the likely outcome of elections not run on some form of proportional representation. I accept that I represent a minority party – but that does not mean that supporters of this party should not have their views represented on the council that will be responsible for so many of their local services. Even if only 10% of voters agree in principle with Green Party policies they deserve, and have a right, to be heard. In actuality it is difficult to be sure of just how many voters support the Green Party because so many vote ‘tactically’ for parties that they think have a better chance of winning. This is just not democratic!
When we learnt that the Bridport ward for Dorset Council was to be a three-member ward our initial reaction was one of hope. Just do the maths. In both the 2017 Dorset County Council elections, and last year’s by-election, the Conservatives in Bridport received 40% of the vote. Collectively, the Green Party, Lib Dems and Labour received 60%. So, if these three parties agreed to co-operate, agreed to stand just one candidate each, and urged their supporters to use all three of their votes for these three candidates, the chances are that all three would get elected. And each party would have a far greater chance of having a candidate elected than if they stood a full slate.
However, it soon became clear that this would not happen. For too many reasons such rationality is too easily defeated by tribal politics. And even my Green Party is not completely free from guilt.
So, we are where we are. We have gone alone, and taken a chance. We have decided to stand just a single candidate – myself. I know from talking to many people in Bridport, ordinary voters, not members of particular political parties, that their loyalties are split. By asking you to cast just one Green vote I am suggesting that you can also cast your other two votes for other progressive candidates in a concerted attempt to prevent Dorset becoming a one-party ‘state’.