Going Green II (or not, on this occasion)

by Elias Blum

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I was playing around on Vote Match.eu and this is what came up.

It is not really a surprise, given the fact that the Green party are the only constructive left-wing alternative.

The really interesting thing, though, is what this result shows about the limited utility of vote matching websites. These websites typically compare one’s policy preferences across a range of issues with the manifesto positions of the various parties. Most of them now allow issues to be weighted according to their salience. Some even allow positions other than just agreeing or disagreeing with given statements, but this one does not (although you can click ‘neither’, or skip a question).

Yet all vote matching websites that I have seen focus solely on policy positions. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but policy positions are not the only criteria by which we cast our votes. We also consider things like the record of a party in office, its credibility, and the quality of its candidates, as well as the ‘signally effect’ that our votes may have, and tactical voting.

According to my results, as you see above, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP get roughly the same score. In fact, Labour seems to come out slightly head. But none of this reflects the fact that the Liberal Democrats have proven themselves to be spineless unprincipled opportunists, or that the Labour party, in most of Scotland, is a byword for corruption, jack-in-office entitlement, intellectual deficiency, and ineptitude.

Nor does it change the fact that Labour and the Liberal Democrats are opposed to Scottish independence, which is really the defining issue that divides the Scottish electoral landscape. I know this is a European Parliament election, and that the EU’s impact on trade, environmental and social policies will continue with or without independence, but I still wouldn’t vote for a ‘nay-saying’ party. In part, this is because I want to make sure that Scotland has a vote in the EU that will stand up for its interests in the independence transition process if we vote YES. It is also because of the ‘signalling effect’: I do not wish my vote  to lend support or credibility to a party that opposes independence.

So it really comes down to a choice of two: SNP or Green. On policy issues, especially at the European level, Green would be my first choice. I’m also, on the whole, impressed with the quality of Green candidates (greasy-pole climbers and power-hungry media-savy politicians tend not to be attracted to small parties of principle).  On the other hand, I’d be happy enough with the SNP getting another MEP seat. The SNP’s mix of centre-left populism and pragmatic policy-making has provided Scotland with its first reasonably good government in three centuries – for which they deserve credit. They would stand up for Scotland and Scotland’s interests in Europe.

Besides, these two parties are part of the same group in the European Parliament – whichever way I vote, between these two parties, my vote is still going to the same group. A vote for the SNP indirectly helps Greens  across Europe, and a vote for the Greens helps civic-nationalist autonomous parties across Europe, too.

So the choice between SNP and Green ultimately comes down to tactical voting. This is where things get tricky. I have to think not only about my own preferences, but about the likely preferences and intentions of others.

European elections take place by party-list proportional representation, and there are six seats up for grabs in Scotland. Based on current polling, there are just two likely outcomes: (a) SNP 3, Labour 2, Conservative 1; or (b) SNP 2, Labour 2, Conservative 1, and one other – either Green or UKIP.

If I (and lots of other people in my position) vote Green rather than SNP, then the SNP might take two seats, and the Greens could win the sixth seat – which would make me happy. However, if UKIP voters exceed Green voters, this could result in UKIP taking the sixth seat. That’s a risk I don’t want to take. By voting SNP, I’m helping to ensure that the SNP win three seats, thus tactically keeping UKIP out.