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VoteOK, Vote4Peace: two campaigns with an aim

19 April 2005

A new ingredient is being stirred into the election. Determined campaigners are using of Britain’s first-past-the-post constituency system, to try and swing seats their way. Two are VoteOK and Vote4Peace.

VoteOK started as an attempt to overthrow the ban on hunting. Vote4Peace wants to support MPs who opposed the Iraq war. One from the right and one from the left (although radicals hunt and conservatives have opposed the war).

I talked with Chips Mann of VoteOK, wife of its founder Charles Mann (see one of the few pieces about it in The Times).

Last week she felt “down”. Now she is excited. They have 139 ‘directors’ working in their target constituencies - where the sitting MP voted to ban hunting. They won’t list them which is hardly open of them. But in each one the director coordinates their volunteers. “Candidates we are helping are amazed at the amount of support they are getting”, Chips told me. “Some are even saying it is more than they can handle”.

Although the anti-war demonstration of 15 February 2003 was two to three times larger than the largest one against the hunting ban, the sectarian leadership of the Stop the War Coalition ensured that it has not spun off an equivalently strong tactical voting campaign.

Instead it has been left to independents to seize the need and identify nearly 40 anti-war MPs with small majorities who they want to help, such as Labour’s Bob Marshall-Andrews.

The campaign director of Vote4Peace, Paul Hilder, was out in Marshall-Andrews Medway constituency at the weekend. He told me about “A soft-labour Muslim guy who said “I like Bob but I can’t bear voting for Blair”, then he agreed that we need “the right kind of MPs”. Paul thought he swung him round.

Vote4Peace have found it harder to mobilise than they initially hoped. “People are not intuitively for an independent campaign to support the good guys. It takes time to get their heads around this idea”, Paul told me. “They rail against the dying of the light instead of switching on the light bulb”.

Could it be that while the anti-war voters are locked in grip of whinge and protest, voters across the countryside are turning on their brains - and turning out?

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