2014 has proven to be a particularly good year for the Greens: adding a third MEP to their tally in the European Elections, outpolling the Liberal Democrats consistently over the last few months and seeing an astronomical increase in membership – most notably in their youth wing. The rise of the most left wing of the mainstream parties has largely gone unnoticed by the media bubble, swamped as it has been by UKIP’s insurgency.
Success for the Greens won’t plateau with the year gone by though, and 2015 will see developments of greater significance. Below are six things that are likely to happen to the Green Party in the coming 12 months.
by Chris Jarvis
1. Caroline Lucas will keep her seat
Brighton Pavilion, the sole parliamentary constituency that the Green Party currently holds, will stay Green despite a strong challenge from Labour. Caroline Lucas has consistently demonstrated her commitment to radical politics, her constituents and standing up to the political establishment. This has won her many admirers, both inside and outside of Brighton, and in combination with the fact that since 2010 it has been confirmed that voting Green is not a wasted vote, this means that Brighton will return a Green MP in 2015, probably with an increased majority.
2. In spite of this, the Greens will lose control of Brighton and Hove City Council
Despite the popularity of Caroline Lucas, and the growing strength of the Green Party both in membership and opinion polls, it is highly likely that the minority Green administration in Brighton and Hove will fall next year. This will partially be a result of a handful of seat losses on the Council, but also as a result of a Labour gains at the hands of the Tories. To outsiders this might seem surprising, but the combination of the disastrous handling of a bin strike, the execution of austerity measures and internal party disputes mean that holding control of the Council will be almost impossible.
3. The Greens will come second in Norwich South and Bristol West
On a really good day, the Greens could be sending three MPs to Westminster come May 2015. Darren Hall and Lesley Grahame, standing in Bristol West and Norwich South respectively would be those who would join Caroline Lucas in that scenario. What’s more probable, however, is that the Greens will fall just short in both constituencies – gaining between 20 and 25% of the vote in the process and setting them up for victory in 2020 or on the off chance of an early by-election. Of particular note is that in Bristol West in 2010, Green candidate Ricky Knight, took less than 4% of the vote and the party failed to save their deposit. Things are moving quickly for the Greens across the country, and this is particularly apparent in Bristol.
4. The Greens will take between 3-5% of the vote and save over 40 deposits in the General Election
This would be the best result the Green Party has ever achieved in a General Election, (that oft referenced 15% of the vote took place in the 1989 European elections, and let’s not forget, the Greens won a grand total of zero seats then.). They will reach their highest share of the vote as well as saving more deposits than ever before. In around 10-15 seats, they will also see support in double figures, (Brighton Pavilion, Bristol West, Norwich South, Manchester Withington, Stroud, Hove, Holborn & St Pancras, York Central, Brighton Kemptown, Cambridge, Norwich North, Bath and Liverpool Riverside are the obvious bets). In these seats, the Greens will see concurrent strong results in those areas where there are local elections taking place on the same day.
5. Substantial gains in the local elections will pass quietly under the noise of the General Election
For years, the Greens have been making steady progress in local elections – 2015 will be no different. The numbers will be masked by losses in Brighton & Hove, but gains will certainly be in double figures and likely between 20 and 50.
6. The Green surge will continue in 2015, averaging 10% in the polls by December and consistently outpolling the Liberal Democrats
Throughout the year, the Green Party will continue to see a rapid increase in membership which will spike just before, then just after the General Election before petering off around August. The spike in poll support will occur in inverse, the closer we get to the election, the more the Green vote will be squeezed – the further we get the other side of May, the higher the Green vote share will appear in the polls. This will consistently be in double figures by the end of 2015.
What does this all mean?
The predictions above suggest a good year for the Green Party, at least electorally. In the wider political arena, this will have two obvious ramifications. Firstly, the rise of the Green Party, if maintained, will push England into a pluralistic political system, where five political parties wrangle for a chunk of an ever diminishing voting population. Secondly, it brings left wing ideas and policies back into the mainstream political arena, putting pressure on the Labour Party to tack to the left to stop the haemorrhaging of votes it has taken for granted for too long.
It is no surprise that this writer welcomes these developments. Although far from perfect, a pluralistic political scene is a vast improvement on a two-party state and will shimmy Britain towards a fairer electoral system. And as always, pressure on the Labour Party to move away from its ongoing love affair with neoliberalism and towards some form of progressivism is to be greeted with open arms.