You’ve probably heard about the ‘Green Surge’ currently taking place in British politics. A recent report in The Metro shows that if people voted with only policy in mind, the Green Party would become a party of government in 2015. You think that I would be delighted by this as a Green member and supporter. But I maintain certain reservations about the ‘Green Surge,’ and am sceptical about its history and what that means for its future trajectory.
#1 It’s happened before
1989 represented a year in British politics for the Green Party that has striking similarities with the political landscape with which we are faced today. Although it was a European election, the Green Party took 14.5% of the vote. 1989 saw a Tory PM with declining approval ratings (similar to Cameron today), right wing opposition to the EU (as with UKIP), ineffective Labour and Lib Dem campaigns and a strong Green Party campaign offering an alternative view. The environment was a growing issue back then, just like it is now. In 1989, the Green Party was of interest to the public just as much as it is today; maybe even more so. Following this surge however, the other parties adopted ‘Green policies’ just like they are starting to now, and the Green Party was criticised for policies that were seen as unattainable. It’s awfully similar, but maybe today’s youth vote will make it stick.
#2 UKIP did it and are on the way back down
UKIP made their (arguably) heroic surge to save politics last year, becoming the big winners in the EU elections, and gaining their first ever seats in the House of Commons. At their height, they peaked at over 20% in many opinion polls. However, they have started to drop in popularity, now sitting at 15% from the last Lord Ashcroft poll, only 4% ahead of the Greens. These are totally different circumstances, totally different parties and totally different voters, but in the worst case scenario it could end the same. Bad publicity is what eventually cost UKIP, with members of the party frequently in the headlights of scandal and political faux pas. It is only natural to assume that a similar decline may befall the Green Party too. Although they are not in the midst of any scandals publicly (yet), the propensity of bigger parties to use popular policy of minor parties, and the increasing left-wing nature of more home-grown Green Party policy, may see them suffering a decline in their own right.
#3 People get disinterested
In an age where British politics is becoming increasingly Presidential, the popularity of a political party (particularly a minor one) is predicated on continued presence in the public eye. Good election results this year doesn’t automatically mean huge growth for the next election. The Green Party need to work harder than most to keep those voters interested year on year and crucially recruit new voters and members into the numbers too. While keeping these newer voters interested and loyal is possible, it requires a lot of time and money that the party just doesn’t receive from corporate sponsors like other parties do. To go back to 1989, the party failed to keep the voters they had gained going into the General Election in 1992, meaning they ended up falling from 15% of the European election vote, to only 0.51% in the General Election.
This article is pessimistic in its content, however this Green Party member is staying optimistic. While there are signs pointing to a possible decline for the Greens after 2015, many more signs point towards a strong future for them, and the youth of tomorrow are more and more supportive of the Green movement. Although it is looking like 1989, UKIP are falling behind, and the Greens might just find their way through the battlefield onto the other side.