Molly Scott Cato Makes Sure That the Green Party Is the True Party of the NHS

“Only the Green Party is offering a bold and effective solution to the NHS funding crisis. We must finally put an end to the pain of privatisation that has been inflicted by Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories. The Green Party is the only party that never has and never will collude in the dismantling and selling off of our beloved NHS. Instead, we will give the NHS the funding it needs to meet the challenges of the 21st century.” – Molly Scott Cato, Green Party candidate in Bristol West


How many times have you heard either Labourites or Conservatives say that it is they who are the true party of the NHS?

If you’re a frequent viewer of Prime Minister’s Questions, odds are that you hear it at least a few times a month.

When it comes to the NHS, the conversation usually centres around a familiar set of topics: long waiting lines, junior doctor contracts, privatisations, missed targets, and the general ineptitude of Jeremy Hunt and the government that he represents. Indeed, we seem to have got so used to the negativity surrounding the conversation that we’re barely surprised when organisations like the Red Cross describe the NHS as being in a state of “humanitarian crisis“.

Perhaps that’s why it feels so refreshing when, on a rare occasion, you get a glimpse of what things could be like if only the society we live in looked a little different, and if only our politicians thought in slightly different terms. Caroline Lucas, the joint leader of the Green Party, provided one such moment when she, during the ITV Leaders’ Debate last week, remarked that a lot can be done to help the NHS by way of tackling climate change.

At a glance, it may seem like a leap — how are the two really connected? — but, of course, the closer you look, the more sense it makes.

In 2016, a report published by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health estimated that health problems caused by air pollution costs the UK more than £20bn per year. (It’s worth noting, here, that the budget for the NHS in 2016 was £116bn.) The same report argues that air pollution contributes to a staggering 40,000 pre-mature deaths per year in the UK. And another report, also published in 2016 — this one by the World Health Organisation — estimates that 19% of all cancers can be linked to air pollution.

It is perfectly clear that environmental factors have an enormous impact on public health in the UK. That the very air we breathe sets the NHS back more than £20bn per year is nothing short of a total catastrophe. And yet, despite this, both Conservatives and Labourites continue to back fossil fuels and the expansion of airports. When it comes to tackling climate change and air pollution, the Green Party really does stand out as the only serious alternative. As such, they also stand out as the only party that is genuinely concerned about illness prevention.

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In Bristol West, the Green Party’s Molly Scott Cato emerges as another politician who, like Lucas, often gives us that rare view of a different kind of politics. Scott Cato’s candidacy — including her approach to the NHS — is, without doubt, informed by her training and work as an economist. As the author of several books on economic theory and policy, she has done significantly more than most politicians in the UK to critically address the way economies interact with social and environmental demands. In much of her writing, Scott Cato advocates a green economy that prioritises environmental protection and social justice. It is therefore hardly surprising to learn that she takes the NHS as seriously as she does, and many voters in Bristol West will surely rejoice in a candidate who has pledged to fight against the privatisation of health services, and to support increased funding.

“[NHS] spending,” says Scott Cato, “is at its lowest since the 1950s and, at the same time, our NHS has been asked to make £22bn worth of cuts — cuts that researchers have concluded are responsible for 30,000 excess deaths a year.”

More, so called Sustainability and Transformation Partnership plans will drastically reduce the number of beds in hospitals around the country.

“In Bristol,” Scott Cato points out, “[these] plans, which were only revealed after pressure from healthcare campaigners, will see £139m of cuts to local healthcare services and a further £104m of as yet unspecified cuts. We can’t stand by and let this happen.”

Privatisation of the NHS has previously had the support of Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Labourites, but it has never been backed by the Green Party. Many would argue that one big problem associated with privatisations is that they make services more expensive. Others might say that they undermine the status of staff, and that it can be difficult to hold private companies to account. Molly Scott Cato would also argue that it’s something that people have never actually asked for. As she said at a local husting a couple of weeks ago: “it’s so clearly an area of policy where Conservative governments and all three of the main Westminster parties have done something completely against what the public want.”

Bristol West is one of quite few constituencies where a Green Party candidate has a real chance of winning. It is, therefore, one of few constituencies that has a real chance of electing an MP that will significantly add to the intellectual and ideological diversity of the House of Commons. Molly Scott Cato is a serious economic thinker and she has spent her entire adult life developing methods for implementing a green economy aimed at delivering sustainability and social justice. And, just like the party that she represents, she promotes a political model that comprehensively addresses the challenges of the NHS — from air pollution to privatisation.

What is party is the true party of the NHS? Well, it’s worth having a think about it.

#VoteGreen2017 to #ChangeTheGame.

 

Are You Helping Out On Thursday? Good. Elections Aren’t Won Online.

In 1970, John Bochel and David Denver carried out what may have been the first field experiment in British political science (or so, at least, Denver speculates in his essay “Two tower blocks in Dundee: constituency campaigning“). The point of the experiment was to assess the level of impact of local campaigning on election results. In other words: does canvassing have any effect on the way people vote?

As the site of the experiment, Denver and Bochel selected two tower blocks in a safe Labour ward in Dundee. “With the co-operation of the local Labour Party,” Denver writes, “we canvassed the people in one block thoroughly and ‘knocked up’ supporters on polling day. Residents of the other received only a single leaflet from the candidate.” Studies following the election showed that the impact of canvassing had been signicant. The tower block that had been canvassed had a 10% higher turnout than the other block; Labour’s vote share was also higher in the former than in the latter — 81% compared to 77%.

Since 1970, numerous studies have supported the results found in Bochel and Denver’s experiment. Telephone canvassing, door-to-door canvassing, leafletting — it all makes a difference. And, crucially, it could make all the difference. Denver, in “Two Tower Blocks”, cites a report published in 2010 that suggests that

“an above average Liberal Democrat campaign could boost the party’s vote share by 3.7 percentage points while for Labour the figure [is] 1.7 points and for the Conservatives just 0.8 points. Nonetheless, these are not increases to be sneered at in tight contests. Labour won six seats from the Conservatives by 1.7 points or less in the 2010…”

The Green Party will fight a number of tight contests in the General Election of 2017. On June 8th, armies of Tories and Labour supporters will be out on the streets, knocking on doors and offering to drive voters to the polling stations. The Green Party needs you to be there, too. In Sheffield Central they do, in Brighton Pavilion they do, in Isle of Wight they do, in Holborn and St Pancras they do, in Bristol West they do — and the list is extensive.

So be there on Thursday, and help make sure that the Greens give the Reds and the Blues a real fight in GE2017.

Tactical Voting: Is It Worth the Effort?

There’s been quite a lot of talk amongst left-leaning voters about the possibility of a Progressive Alliance. This Alliance would comprise MPs from Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens and the SNP, and it would come about through a perfectly synchronised operation of tactical voting.

It does seem a rather unlikely coalition – could it possibly work out in practice? Corbyn, Sturgeon, Farron and Lucas all around the same table? – but at least there would be fewer Conservative MPs in the House of Commons, and any effort to reduce the Conservatives’ majority seems like a good idea to me.

More importantly, though: how significant, how effective, could this project – this perfect storm of tactical voting – turn out to be in practice? Is a Progressive Alliance a realistic expectation in terms of actual, concrete results?

According to an essay by Stephen D. Fisher on the topic of tactical voting, the Conservative Party tends to lose most when many people decide to vote tactically. However, Fisher also suggests that coordinated efforts at tactical voting are difficult to realise in practice.

Essentially, there are three main types of tactical voting: 1) you support a party that is likely to come in third in your constituency, and therefore you vote against the party you’d least want to win; 2) you vote for a small party, such as the Greens, because you’d like to help raise their profile; 3) you vote against your own party because you’d like to see its majority limited.

Less than one in four voters in the UK find themselves in constituencies where their favoured party is likely to come in third. Between 1992 and 2010, roughly one in five voters who favoured a ‘third place party’ voted tactically. During the same period, about as many people – regardless of what party they supported – also voted tactically, but in a way that wasn’t effective. The parties these voters actually favoured had unexpectedly finished in the top two; accordingly, their votes, although intended as ‘tactical’, ended up having the opposite effect.

In other words, tactical voting can go wrong when people misread the political situation in their constituency. Voters may incorrectly conclude that their favoured party can’t win, whereas in reality it has much more support than appearances let on.

Statistically, Fisher says, the Conservative Party tends to gain net votes from tactical voting. This is because of two reasons: 1) few of the people who favour the Tories will have any reason to vote tactically, because the Tories are usually in the top two, and 2) they will gain support from Tory leaning Lib Dems who vote tactically. The Labour Party, on the other hand, won’t gain or lose much in terms of net votes from tactical voting, as there tends to be a fairly even spread between Labour votes to the Lib Dems and Lib Dems votes to Labour.

Crucially, however, the Conservative Party is the party that loses out in terms of seats won and seats lost from tactical voting. This is because Lib Dems tend to favour Labour candidates over Conservatives, and because Labour voters tend to favours Lib Dems over Tories. In other words, tactical voting means that the Tories gain more net votes, but that the Labour Party and the Lib Dems win more seats.

Now, this is, of course, all fine and dandy, but what does it actually mean? We know that tactical voting will make a difference if one’s aim is to damage the Conservatives’ majority. We don’t, however, know how significant that damage might be. What would a perfect storm of synchronised voting amount to in practice?

In the General Election of 2015, 11.3 million people voted for the Tories, and 9.3 million voted for Labour. Put together, the Greens, the SNP and the Lib Dems got around 5 million votes. Had these three parties combined with Labour in order to create a so called Progressive Alliance, then they would easily have beat the Tories in terms of net votes. But in terms of seats?

In this article, published by the Guardian earlier this year, Martin Robbins makes the case that tactical voting — even if perfectly executed — won’t be enough to prevent a Conservative majority in 2017. According to this General Election prediction, the Tories are currently set to win 396 seats on June 8th; Labour 180; Lib Dems 5; Greens 1; and SNP 49. If, based on the election results of 2015, the Labour Party, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats combined their tactical voting efforts to maximise Tory damage, then that would, according to Robbins, result in 47 more Labour seats and 10 more Lib Dems seats. But even under those perfect circumstances, the Tories win more than enough seats (given current predictions) to form a majority government, and the Labour Party only win about 250.

Now, given this data, how much sense does it actually make to coordinate tactical voting efforts? The best possible result would amount to pretty good damage control, but it wouldn’t, in all likelihood, prevent the Tories from improving on their current majority. The best possible outcome would also be contingent on almost impossibly well-coordinated tactical voting efforts, and is unlikely to actually happen.

So what to do?

Well, why not forget about tactical voting? Instead, vote for the party you actually think best represents your political beliefs (and let’s hope that party is the Green Party!). If this means that the Tories win by a few more seats, then so be it. Let them have it. Let the Tories have another five years, and then let’s watch them implode in the election of 2022. The way things are currently going, there isn’t, to paraphrase Slavoj Zizek, light at the end of the tunnel; instead, there’s an oncoming, speeding train, and the best way to effect real change might just be to let the Tories run straight into it. And if nothing else, then at least let your vote be a testament to the need for proportional representation, and make sure that you campaign for electoral change.

Ideally, though: #VoteGreen2017 to #ChangeTheGame. The best anti-Tory recipe for change is to elect Caroline Lucas, Molly Scott Cato, Natalie Bennett, Siân Berry, Amelia Womack, Vix Lowthion, Eleanor Field and many more Green MPs to represent your political beliefs in the House of Commons.