In the Last Chance Saloon?

Written by Mike Renouf.

The world is getting hotter, and we need to vote for the right people to be in charge.

Politicians and party activists will always tell you that a general election is very important for deciding how the country will be run for the next five years.

And they are right, but it has never been as urgently important as it is at the next general election.

The climate and ecological emergency has become even more critical.  Global warming is accelerating alarmingly.  The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has, with good reason, referred to our ‘our boiling planet’.

In the UK, our Climate Change Committee says that our targets are being missed on nearly every front.  The clear message is that the UK government is not doing enough and we are increasingly and highly unlikely to be where we need to be by 2030.

The government that gets voted in at the next election, and the overall character of the new Parliament, will determine what happens in the few remaining years before the crucial 2030 deadline.

What can we do?

We no longer have the opportunity to vote in European elections and play a part, as we did, in deciding what happens on a wider stage. The upcoming general election is our only real opportunity to influence what will happen in the remainder of this critical decade for the climate.

Beyond the election, other opportunities for our voices to be heard are reduced as our ability to protest has been severely restricted by recent legislation.  Fortunately, various protest groups do continue to push for attention to the climate emergency, at risk to themselves, and there is evidence of increased general awareness of the issue.

Polling indicates that most of us are concerned about the climate and ecological emergency, and want the government to do more.  But research also suggests that public support for action can prove fragile once the lifestyle and cost implications are presented. 

This makes politicians nervous, and we see ideas to tackle the climate emergency put forward by political parties being hastily rowed back on as they consider what may secure their own survival rather than that of the climate and environment we enjoy and need. 

In some cases, politicians appear to have no understanding of what urgent action must be taken to protect everyone and the world we live in.  In other cases, they appear indifferent.  And inevitably, they will, of course, be lobbied by those who oppose climate action.  But politicians should be left in no doubt in the run up to the next election that the majority cares about the climate emergency. 

However, we come to the dilemma presented by our first-past-the-post voting system.  Supporters of it are happy to use it to their advantage, especially over issues where different opinions can be effectively exploited.

So, do those who would vote for the Green Party do so to maximise the vote for the party, even where it will not win the seat?  Or do such voters vote tactically to support another party which promises, in this case, to take action for the planet? 

And how reliable is that promise, and will that ‘lent’ vote be taken without any reward, or perhaps even thanks?  A tactical vote may work to produce a different result to good effect.  Or it may not, and either way can diminish the standing of the donor party, especially where there is no publicly declared arrangement.

Some will say this is all the stuff of politics, it was ever so, and the voting system we’ve got is what we have to live with until at least one of the main parties decides otherwise. 

If only all politicians would realise that they, and the rest of us whether we like it or not, are almost certainly in the last chance saloon for the climate.  And do they really understand or care?