In the last week, I’ve met three people who did not vote Green in the last election, but will this time. They have a variety of reasons, but all hinge on the same thing. The Greens are actually doing things. One quoted forestry. Another mentioned the planning act. A third mentioned the civil partnership act, and it got me thinking. Are the Greens that bad a choice?
There’s no question the Green vote is down, and many Green voters feel betrayed because they Greens did not form a majority government and implement all their policies without dilution. The bastards. Well, let’s be honest: The Greens did u-turn on stuff like Shannon and Tara and the Lisbon treaty, but here’s the thing: They u-turned on all the things I thought were dumb anyway. I was livid with their stance on the blasphemy thing, but I’ve since chalked that up to inexperience on their part, and a belief that they had to be loyal to FF. But since then they’ve been moderate on the economy, good on environmental stuff and planning, and reforming on elected mayors and gay rights. They’ve become good on Europe, and it’s fair to say that they’re probably less likely to take a bribe than almost anyone else, ‘cept maybe Brussels Joe. They subtly showed Willie O’Dea the door. True, they still cling to the neutrality and anti-nuclear crap, but so does everyone else.
Here’s the scary thing: They’re actually becoming the party I hoped the PDs would become, a kind of Irish version of the Lib Dems, except, unlike the PDs, they are actually getting liberal stuff through. Jaysus.
The big challenge for them, as it was for the Labour party and PDs before them as small parties with a relatively small first preference vote, is the problem of transfers. Between half and a third of the votes needed to elect a Green TD have been from non-Green first preference voters, which the party received when it was seen as novel and transfer friendly. Yet, like the PDs and Labour in government before them, they now face a lower first preference vote coupled with a much more hostile transfer environment.
Perhaps now the Greens will recognise that having small numbers of seats in individual constituencies doesn’t help small parties that much as it leads to relatively high quotas ranging from 15%-25%. Ironically, FF might be more willing to listen to arguments for larger constituencies now, given their current poll ratings. Could the Greens keep a seat in a new Dublin South County nine-seater made up of Dublin South and Dun Laoghaire, for example? It’s possible, or at least, there’d be a count worth getting the popcorn in for.