THE GREEN SURGE IS EXCITING – BUT NOT SURPRISING

by Georgia Elander

Things are looking good for the Green Party. This week the Green candidate in the Rochester and Strood by-election won nearly five times as many votes as the Liberal Democrat candidate; a YouGov poll revealed that the percentage of people who would vote for a Green candidate with a chance of winning is greater than the percentage of people who would vote for a UKIP candidate who could win; and this week too, the Greens polled at 8% nationally – a record high. In recent weeks, the party have outpolled the Lib Dems on several occasions, and membership as well as vote share is rising – the party has grown 80% this year alone.

When you look at the current political landscape of the UK, this success is not really surprising.

Party politics in the UK is fragmenting. With the rise of UKIP and declining support for the three ‘main’ parties, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that any party will be able to form a majority in May 2015. In response to UKIP’s growing popularity, both Labour and the Conservatives are making a clear move to the right on immigration and the EU, and Labour is seeking to boost its credibility on economic issues simply by mimicking the Tories’ commitment to austerity. The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, have suffered a massive decline since the last election, losing support to both UKIP and the Green Party.

When you look at the current political landscape of the UK, this success is not really surprising.

With Labour growing increasingly right-wing, the Liberal Democrats losing all credibility, and a growing lack of faith in mainstream politics, the Green Party is becoming the only viable option for many voters. While the mainstream parties all embrace austerity not only as a policy but as a dogma, the Greens offer a totally different narrative: one that prioritises fairness, compassion, and provision for all. While in mainstream politics it becomes increasingly acceptable to demonise the working class and strip away their welfare, the Greens recognise that it is not minimum wage workers and the unemployed who are a burden on society, but the tax-dodging businesses and individuals in the top 1%. While the Conservatives continue to dismantle the NHS and Labour fail to oppose privatisation, the Greens are fully committed to bringing public services back into public hands. Green policies are ones which no other party offers, and as the other parties become increasingly indistinguishable from one another, it’s no surprise that the Green Party’s popularity is growing.

The fastest-growing area of the Green Party is its youth wing. Membership of the Young Greens has nearly tripled this year, and the party is consistently polling in third place among 18-24 year-olds. In a climate of political apathy and youth disengagement from politics, gaining such fast-growing support among young people is a remarkable achievement. Again, however, it is hardly surprising.

Young Greens Logo - Vertical sans Tagline-01

The Green Party is the only party in UK politics which shows not only a willingness but an active desire to listen to, engage with, and support young people. Students and young people in this country are criticised by the media and political elite for their lack of interest in politics, but a great deal of the blame lies with the political establishment. Who can blame young people for becoming disaffected with politics after the Liberal Democrats got into government on a wave of student support, only to renege on their promise to abolish tuition fees? Who can blame students for their mistrust of a government which has taken away EMA and made huge cuts to youth and education services? And who can blame young workers for becoming disillusioned with a Labour party which has pledged to abolish Job-Seekers’ Allowance for under-25s? Young people have tried to make their voices heard in politics again and again – at the last election, in the student protests of 2010, and again at this week’s Free Education demonstration – and time and time again have been ignored by politicians. It’s no wonder this generation is cynical and disillusioned.

Amongst all of this, the Green Party has listened to young people. Leader Natalie Bennett and MP Caroline Lucas both spoke at the Free Education rally, and both of the party’s deputy leaders marched alongside students. The party’s policies on education prioritise access for all and equality of opportunity, and policies to introduce a £10 minimum wage and provide affordable housing for all would make a huge difference to the young workers across the country struggling to afford rent on low wages.

The Young Greens as a group is incredibly exciting to be involved with, and this too is attracting young people to the party. Next week, for example, is the Young Greens’ Get Organised Week of Action – the start of a campaign to get young workers to join trade unions and defend their rights. The Young Greens worked alongside NCAFC and the Student Assembly Against Austerity to organise this week’s Free Education protest, and had a huge presence there. This month, regional Young Green groups will be holding AGMs to elect representatives for a new Young Greens regional senate. The Young Greens are becoming increasingly active and organised, their strength as a youth wing is adding to the growing sense that the Green Party is now a force to be reckoned with in UK politics.

(Young Greens)

(Young Greens)

Along with this surge in popular support for the party, the Greens are becoming much more ambitious in terms of election gains in 2015, aiming to field candidates in 75% of seats and targeting 12 seats nationwide. Among these seats is Norwich South, where the party performed strongly in 2010 and is doing well in current polling. In the past, the Greens have struggled to translate support into seats given the dispersed nature of its voters and the tendency on the left to vote tactically for Labour. Now, however, with the collapse of the Liberal Democrats and the move to the right by Labour, these barriers are falling away. If the Green Surge continues at its current pace, the Green Party are likely to be in a very strong position in May 2015.

Georgia Elander is the Press Officer for the Young Greens. For more information look at the Young Greens’ website or Facebook.

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