If, as the saying goes, ‘a week is a long time in politics’, then 7 May 2015 is an age away, although for Green Party campaigners around the country it is terribly close – so many leaflets to deliver, so many doors to knock on before then. When I’m not doing that, I’m often talking to the media and coming up with creative new answers to the question, “What will happen in May?”
Creativity is needed, because while I’m confident that the future of politics doesn’t look like the past, and that there’s a real possibility that politics will break wide open at this election, I can’t predict with any kind of certainty how far that will go.
Beyond our No 1 target of Brighton Pavilion – on which we have to lavish attention and effort – the party has identified 11 more seats around the country that we’re particularly focusing on.
So where will the votes come from?
It probably won’t be true of every seat – some individual local MPs will hang on – but it is clear that the Lib Dem vote will collapse in much of the country. You’ve probably seen that we’re matching or outpolling them in increasing numbers of national polls. In the seat where I’m standing, Holborn and St Pancras in London, the 29 percentage points they collected last time (with considerable expenditure) are clearly largely up for grabs.
It’s also clear that the Labour vote is very ‘soft’ – many are not firm in their determination to vote for what is their traditional party. This is my experience doorknocking around the country – talking about our policies of a £10/hour minimum wage by 2020, bringing the railways back into public hands and reintroducing zero tuition fees often produces a sigh of relief from voters that they’ve got a real, alternative, positive option.
Some Tories too are coming to us – driven by the threat of fracking, or the drive to concrete over the green belt. And many former non-voters are inspired by our policies, or horrified by UKIP.
So what’s going to determine the outcome?
One key issue will be turnout, particularly among younger voters. The change to individual voter registration is a potential threat. We need to get the message out loud and clear, particularly to students, that each person has to complete their own form – most easily at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. We’re polling at up to 22 per cent among young voters – that’s support that we’ve got to make sure is turned into actual crosses on ballot papers.
Another key factor will be the level of enthusiasm, of hope, that our campaign is able to offer. An important YouGov poll showed that 26 per cent of voters nationally would back us if they think we can win.
Hope of real change – the kind of change only the Green Party is offering – is also key in another way. An increase of 20 percentage points in turnout from 2010 would have the potential to deliver a far different result. The Scottish referendum vote is the inspiration here. Just imagine in late April next year, if we had an electorate in which 97 per cent of eligible voters were enrolled, and 85 per cent of them turned out on 7 May.
The 2015 election is very different to 2010 in so many ways. In 2010, most voters thought that the financial crash was simply a cyclical event, that Britain would quickly rebuild and go steaming on in the same old ‘greed is good, let’s keep trashing the planet’ way. Very few think that now – they’re looking for real change, a hope of security and certainty, freedom from fear.
Every leaflet, every phone canvass, every stall and every doorknock has the chance to push this campaign a little further towards being entirely transformative.
This is in our hands.