"As soon as I saw the exit poll predict a Labour landslide, I felt that I had done the wrong thing"Evelyn Simak / Wikimedia Commons / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0

As a child, I loved hearing the story of the first time my mum voted. The Valley, the stadium of the south London club that she, and later I, grew up supporting, was threatened with demolition, and Charlton Athletic had been forced to move elsewhere. Fans set up the ‘Valley Party’ for the 1990 Greenwich local elections, and though their almost 11% vote share did not translate into any seats, the party’s popularity sent a clear message to the local authority. Today, the Valley is still Charlton’s home, thanks to the votes of people like my mum. For as long as I have known what an election was, I have been excited to vote in one, and, given the local success story that was my mum’s first vote, I hoped mine would be the same.

“Starmer slashed his green funding in half, and I almost left the party”

By the time I was 17, I had joined the Labour Party. I did some campaigning for my local councillors, and then in the first few weeks of my first year at Cambridge, I joined Cambridge University Labour Club (CULC), although I must admit I only ever went to one Pints and Policy. Though I have always been a passionate environmentalist, actually voting for the Green Party seemed like a wasted vote under the First Past the Post system. The earliest incarnations of Starmer’s green policies even seemed attractive to me, in particular his £28 billion “green prosperity plan” and commitment to reversing the ban on onshore wind as one of his first acts in government.

But then, in a U-turn perhaps more characteristic of Boris Johnson, Starmer slashed his green funding in half, and I almost left the party. Not that I was under any illusions that cancelling my £3 a year student membership would make much of a difference; once my membership card had been posted I was probably already a financial net loss to the party. All the same, I felt betrayed by a party I had hoped was going to be the antidote to Sunak’s borderline climate-denialism, and felt that I should send a signal of my discontent.

But I didn’t leave. Spurred on by my deep desire to see the Tories electorally eradicated, I thought that Labour needed all the support they could get.

“Voting for the Green Party seemed like a wasted vote under the First Past the Post system”

As the election neared, I became increasingly conflicted. On the one hand, I recognised the risks that voting for a party like the Greens entailed under our electoral system, especially given the threat that Reform turned out to be with its 14% vote share. Both my home constituency and Cambridge were safe Labour seats, however, and so I couldn’t help but think that my vote would have little overall impact anyway. I became attracted to the idea of using the Greens to show that I felt Labour was not ambitious enough with its environmental policies.

To make matters worse, my local labour MP was suspended from Parliament for a year for drunken behaviour and racist comments in the House of Commons bar, and later claimed his anti-racism course on expenses. I was uncomfortable with re-electing a man whose “controversial statements” section of his Wikipedia page boasts six subheadings.

In the end, despite my opposition to Labour’s weakened green policies and my (now re-elected) MP’s behaviour, I voted Labour. And though I, like many people across the country, was incredibly relieved to see the Conservative’s worst ever election defeat, as soon as I saw the exit poll predict a Labour landslide, I felt that I had done the wrong thing. Coyle, my local MP, ended up with a clear majority: the Reform, Lib Dem, and Green candidates presented only a mild threat, and independent candidates Piers Corbyn and Niko Omilana got less than 2% vote share between them. Now, I feel that I supported a candidate who I disagree with, and a party who has not committed to doing enough to tackle the issue I care about most.

“Starmer’s first actions in government signal a shift towards a more grown-up politics”

Obviously, my one more vote for the Greens would not have changed Labour’s environmental policies. But I do think the fact that votes for the Greens did split the Left vote in some places and allowed the Tories to retain their seats is both unfortunate and important. Would I have liked to see the Tories wiped off the map? Absolutely. But the fact that there are constituencies where Labour’s climate policies cost them seats gives me hope that if nothing else, Labour will be put under at least some pressure to be more ambitious in their climate policies.

Though we are right to be concerned that, after his eighth attempt, Nigel Farage is now an elected MP, the Greens did also get four seats to Reform’s five. Labour cannot only be worried about Farage’s governmental ambitions, and not the votes it may continue to lose to its left.


Mountain View

Can things only get better?

Ultimately, Starmer’s first actions in government have somewhat reassured me; his newly appointed cabinet is more female and state-educated than any that has come before it, and the decision to appoint experts like Sir Patrick Vallance and James Timpson as science and prisons ministers respectively signals a shift towards a more grown-up politics than this country has seen for a long time. His decision to reverse the ban on onshore wind farms has already led to six renewable energy companies to begin to draw up new proposals - an early signal that the UK government is turning a new page on climate policy.

Listening to that story of my mum’s first vote, however, I never imagined that one day I would be seeing a Labour landslide but feeling so conflicted about my part in it. A Labour win is not by any means a loss for Britain, I just hope it does not become a loss for the planet.