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would you spend 30p a week to save public services? If so, you should be voting green. Right: Elise Benjamin. Photo: Oxfordshire Green Party.
would you spend 30p a week to save public services? If so, you should be voting green. Right: Elise Benjamin. Photo: Oxfordshire Green Party.
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Green policies top UK polls

Elise Benjamin

20th May 2014

The Greens are now running at 12% in the polls - 2% more than the LibDems, and up 3% in as many days - in the run up to Thursday's elections, reports Elise Benjamin. And their policies are the most popular of all the UK's parties. The Greens are breaking through!

The Greens have pushed the Liberal Democrats into fifth place in the polls and could treble their number of MEPs if that is replicated in voting this week ...

Watching the national media, you would be forgiven for thinking that the Green Party are an irrelevance.

Despite having an MP, two MEPs and numerous local Councillors, the Greens are given scant coverage. Yet a recent European Election poll put them at 10% - ahead of the LibDems - and growing.

The upwards trend was confirmed today with a YouGov poll that put the Greens at 12%, up from 9% just a few days ago - compared to the LibDems at 10%.

A survey by Vote for Policies shows that Green policies are far more popular than those of any other political party. Returns from over 400,000 voters show the following preferences (rounded to nearest 1%):

  1. Greens - 25%
  2. Labour - 20%
  3. LibDems - 17%
  4. Tories - 15%
  5. UKIP - 12%
  6. BNP - 10%

In short, Green policies are winners with voters. Nationalising the railways. for example, is a vote-winner across the entire political spectrum. The only problem? Few voters actually know what Green policies are, because the media aren't telling them.

But still - whilst Labour and the Tories are pandering to prospective UKIP voters on the right, could the Greens quietly reclaiming the left?

Remember 1989, when the Greens were at 15%?

I am old enough to remember the second 'summer of love', as it became known, in 1989. The long hot summer led to a rise in massive outdoor parties, music with a repetitive beat (the words later immortalised in the Criminal Justice Act) and a vibrant youth culture.

1989 is also memorable for the sparkling performance of the Green Party at the European elections who came from nowhere to capture 15% of the popular vote.

Had those elections been run under a system of proportional representation (the current D'Hondt system was only introduced in 1999) the Greens would have established a substantial presence in the European Parliament - with more than 20 seats - and set the tone for the decades since.

Instead, in a historic electoral injustice, the Greens were left with no political representation.

Then, and now

Then, as now, the Greens were largely ignored by the mainstream media. The Liberal Democrats (or the Liberal / SDP Alliance as they were then) were in meltdown, and the elections marked a turning point for the Government.

For the first time in 15 years Mrs Thatcher and her Conservative Party faced a viable political threat from the left: the Greens and Labour together secured 55% of the vote. Remember - this was well before Labour's pronounced lurch to the right.

There are parallels with the current European elections. The Greens have overtaken the beleaguered LibDems in the polls, and the Government is under threat, but this time from the right.

Young people are also expressing their desire for change: a recent survey indicated that the Greens are the second most popular party amongst 18-24 year olds. And Green poll ratings are the highest since 1989.

But unlike 1989, the proportional representation system we now have for European elections means that the Green votes will translate into Green MEPs.

But where is the media coverage?

Whereas the mainstream media have been fawning over UKIP, they seem to be acknowledging the Greens only tentatively and somewhat reluctantly - though with some welcome exceptions.

I almost fell off my breakfast stool when I saw that the Independent on Sunday had interleaved a picture of Green leader Natalie Bennett into their standard four-party leader photomontage. The story also noted:

"The Greens have pushed the Liberal Democrats into fifth place in the polls and could treble their number of MEPs if that is replicated in voting this week ...

"Only a 1.6 per cent swing to the Greens would mean they would increase their tally from two MEPs to six. The party is particularly popular among the young - although turnout is low among this age group.

"Ms Bennett claimed that Labour voters in the North-west were switching to Greens, while in the South-west her party was picking up support from Lib Dem voters. In traditional Conservative heartlands, some people were voting Green because of fears about fracking."

And from the Evening Standard ...

And for the London Evening Standard to proclaim last week that the real winners to emerge from the recent Ipsos MORI poll were the Greens, is astonishing:

"Today's big winners are the Greens, whose support has shot up from three to eight points on the back of higher exposure in the campaign period. Green leader Natalie Bennett claimed voters were disenchanted with the big parties and that the polls 'chime with what I am hearing around the country'."

But examples of this kind of reporting come as 'flashes in the pan'. The BBC is perhaps the worst offender. For example, its election polling page simply leaves the Green Party out altogether. 

Only the naïve, and the head of BBC's editoral policy, Ric Bailey (responsible for party election broadcasts), seem to believe that giving a party more coverage doesn't increase its standing in the polls.

Social and decentralised media are changing the game

Unlike 1989, however, we are seeing decentralised, social media play a greater role, as they famously did in Obama's Presidential campaign.

As the stranglehold of Fleet Street and the major broadcasters wanes, online sites  such as Vote for Policies and Another Angry Voice are becoming a more relevant, less biased, barometer of public support.

The results from my own Oxford East Constituency show the Greens at 31%; a few percentage points above the 26% they actually secured in the 2009 Euro elections when they quietly topped the polls in Oxford. Meanwhile, the local Green Party's Facebook page has almost 2,500 'Likes' edging ahead of its main rival, Labour.

A political force that can no longer be ignored ...

Nationally, the response of the other parties has been to ignore the Greens - at least in public - while mounting a whispering campaign in places like Brighton & Hove to try and undermine their many successes.

As the Greens look set to triple their number of MEPs, their distinctive voice can no longer be ignored.

There are only days to go until the election - but in the war to win over the UK's floating voters, the battle has only just begun.



Elise Benjamin is a Green Party Oxford City Councillor, and a former Lord Mayor of Oxford.



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