Climate voting campaigns could damage the Green Party

Michael Munson, PPC Eastbourne Green Party, analyses the risks of Greenpeace’s Project Climate Vote and the Just Vote campaign for the next general election.

ULEZ has proved a major consideration for voter strategy among political parties
ULEZ has proved a major consideration for voter strategy among political parties

Labour and Conservative stances on environmental issues appear to have been affected by a perceived voter response to the extension of ULEZ in London

Michael Munson

Two well-funded national campaigns, Just Vote and Project Climate Vote, have launched recently to influence how people vote at the next General Election. While they seem to have impeccable climate credentials, both could damage the Green Party’s electoral chances, finances, and long-term growth.

Just Vote stems from Ecotricity founder Dale Vince. He is diverting his funding of Just Stop Oil to persuade young people and first-time voters to support Labour. His openly partisan campaign has a simple "Labour is Green, Tories are not" premise. It asserts that ‘a vote for anyone other than Labour, or no vote at all, means a vote for a Tory government’. This is contestable on multiple levels, is overly simplistic, and underestimates the political intelligence of its target audience. 

A vote for Labour in Green Party target seats will not deliver the strongest climate policies. In Bristol Central, where twelve of the fourteen local councillors are from the Green Party, and Brighton Pavilion, where Sian Berry stands to hold on to Caroline Lucas’s seat, Labour is the main challenger. Green Party victories in Bristol and Brighton will not usher in a Tory Government, and a greater number of Green MPs may strengthen a Labour Government's resolve on environmental and social justice. Conversely, votes for Labour in either of these constituencies may encourage Kier Starmer to wear his climate flip-flops as readily as the ULEZ by-election did.

In a worst-case scenario, Just Vote’s strategy would actually result in Conservatives winning in the other two Green Party target seats, where we are best placed to challenge Tory incumbents. The Green Party had the highest local election vote share in the newly created seat of Waveney Valley, and in North Herefordshire we are running a close second. Any increased vote for Labour here would split the anti-Tory vote. 

Project Climate Vote is Greenpeace’s re-energised version of the charity’s 2019 rating of party manifestos, now with added door-to-door canvassing, and ‘I’m a Climate Voter’ posters. In 2019 the Green Party topped Greenpeace’s climate policy ratings with 95 per cent, Labour came second with 80 per cent, then the Liberal Democrats on 75 per cent. 

Climate Vote’s volunteer canvassers will identify and persuade ‘climate voters’ to; give their contact details to Greenpeace, display a poster, discuss climate policies with political party canvassers, and hold their newly elected local MP to account. Greenpeace will encourage climate voters to consider voting tactically based on their 2024 climate policy ratings, but notably, only for the parties which have the best chance of winning in their constituency. 

Greenpeace are nonpartisan, and they are not overtly telling people who to vote for. However as they are only targeting marginal constituencies, this is an academic distinction.

Put simply, The Green Party will top Greenpeace’s climate policy ratings. Project Climate Vote will identify voters who care about the climate, whose first choice might most logically and naturally be to vote for us. Greenpeace will then contact them to urge them to cast their vote tactically, for a different party with second or even third rate climate policies. Furthermore, ‘I am a Climate Voter’ posters will expose these voters to targeted mass canvassing at election time, when better-funded party campaign machines descend on marginal seats. Worse still, our members, who understandably want climate issues to be given greater political prominence, are being recruited into Climate Vote to the detriment of their own candidates.

Admittedly, Climate Vote would enhance the chances of Green Party victories in its four target seats, should voters be convinced that a Green victory was possible. Unfortunately, these seats are unlikely to be considered marginal enough to be selected for the full Climate Vote campaign, although this is yet to be determined.

Greenpeace’s tactical voting strategy risks reducing UK climate politics to a two-horse, one-time electoral race, in which The Green Party horse didn’t make the starting post on many racetracks. A ‘one time’ tactical vote is often reproduced on other parties’ leaflets to show ‘Greens can’t win here’.

Indeed, the belief that a party can win is central to electoral credibility. Impactful breakthrough wins of the kind we are targeting with our ‘four for our future’, can be highly effective and long-lasting in establishing belief in winning. But, belief building is a longer-term process in most constituencies involving; establishing a secure core vote, and steadily increasing active membership, vote share, and finances. The 2024 General Election is the first time we will stand candidates in every constituency. We seek to build the party by enabling everyone, everywhere, to vote for us. By maximising our vote nationally, we will increase our ‘Short money’ funding, which is given to opposition parties in proportion to their number of votes. If there was ever a time for our voters to stand firm behind our party, it is now.

Tactical voting, as encouraged by Climate Vote, is deployed to minimise the risk of the worst possible outcome. With the collapse of the Tory Party and the splintering of the right-wing parties, that risk has receded. As such, voting for policies rather than voting tactically, could achieve better outcomes for the climate, in many constituencies. This would require a marginally more sophisticated Project Climate Vote. 

Greenpeace’s Climate Vote appears to give no thought to building long-term political climate representation nationally. The Green Party's environmental policies will solve our cost of living crisis, create sustainable and well-paid jobs, sustain economic growth, and tackle the climate crisis. Keir Starmer’s ‘Changed Labour’ will not, but they will inevitably form the next Government. Surely in safe seats, or where Labour cannot win, climate voters could be asked to consider voting on the basis of climate ratings alone. This would send a clear message to the next Government to be stronger and bolder in achieving environmental and social justice. 

Project Climate Vote and Just Vote are climate campaigns which in different ways say ‘vote mediocre on climate, because it’s not the worst problem we have right now’. If electoral success can result from mediocre climate and social justice policies, what message does this send to our next Government? 

Greenpeace and Dale Vince’s short-term goals are not in the long-term interest of climate politics. Legislative climate action relies on political parties believing; altruistically, that this is the right course of action for the planet, and selfishly, that this is right for their party’s electoral chances. Without building a truly Green vote, the climate will lurch from one electoral crisis to another, every five years.