We have entered that period of the political season that is often referred to as the silly season. Silly because in the absence of hard political news from Westminster the papers often resort to other news to fill their pages, news that is often less than serious – and occasionally outright daft. Yes, after all the excitement of the installation of a new Head Boy the school term has ended and all the boys and girls have returned to their constituencies to pack their bags and go on their holidays. Or are they? As several political commentators have pointed out, the antics of our new Head Boy appear to be very much like those you would expect to see at the start of a general election campaign. So, despite the denials, should we expect one in the Autumn?
I ask this because, as the Green Party prospective parliamentary candidate for West Dorset, this will affect me directly. I will, for example, become very busy for several weeks, and will need to have answers prepared on a whole range of policy issues – some of which are impossible to answer without greatly offending someone. I have caught myself starting to construct considered responses to questions being asked of other politicians in the media. Psychologically, I think I’m starting to prepare myself.
I also expect some heated debate about the possibility of our local ‘progressive parties’ working together to defeat the Tory candidate (whoever that may be) and oppose our leaving the EU. In 2017, there was pressure on me to stand aside in favour of the Lib Dem candidate. Most of it, it must be said, from that candidate himself. In principle I’m against this, and for a number of reasons. Green Party supporters deserve to have a candidate of their own to vote for. We have been working hard locally to build our profile and support base. Not standing gives the impression that we are not serious, whilst standing gives us a great opportunity to further extend our message. Additionally, not standing, particularly if repeated in a number of constituencies, distorts the measurement of our national level of support, measurement that is then used against us.
However, I would be prepared to stand down provided this was formally agreed at the national level. This would require any party entering into such an agreement to commit, if in power, to a second referendum (and campaigning to remain) and to introducing some form of proportional representation. It would also require each party to agree in which constituencies they would stand down to provide a clear path for a ‘progressive candidate’ with a good chance of winning. I would expect this agreement to take a balanced approach; that if, for example, it was agreed that a number of Green Party candidates stood down in favour of Lib Dem candidates, that reciprocal arrangements were agreed elsewhere.
I have also suggested the idea of an ‘open primary’ for West Dorset. This would allow each of the ‘progressive parties’ to put forward their own candidate well in advance of an election. These candidates would then appear at a number of public debates across the constituency followed by a local election to select the one that would stand as the opposition candidate. Voters who want to take part in this process could register in advance and pay a small fee that would cover the administration costs of the primary. I accept that there are many fine details that need to be worked through to make this work, but I do think it worth some serious consideration.
So, just as my diary starts to ease of Dorset Council meetings and training sessions, just as I finally have time to do some reading (and perhaps even go away for a few days), I find myself starting to mentally prepare for a general election. Or should I just allow the silly season to wash over me?