Where to Next for the Green Party?
For the sake of clarity I write this post as a member of the Green Party and someone who voted Green in GE2017.
It’s been a difficult month since the General Election for the Green Party. In fact, it’s not a General Election that will be remembered too fondly by many voters, but particularly those of a left leaning persuasion. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20 (or there abouts) but the Green Party will want to do a lot of reflection on where it goes from here.
Let’s address the elephant in the room, the Conservatives won. On a number of scales they won. All the press around the Tories winning but also losing whilst Labour and the left lost but also kind of won is ultimately irrelevant. The Conservatives increased their share of the vote, had the most number of votes and the most number of seats and therefore were in pole position when it came to trying to put together a government. That is not to say Corbyn and Labour made a fool of themselves. Of course they didn’t, their approach to the General Election was brilliant and engaging in a way that mainstream politics has failed to be for as long as I can recall being interested in politics. But at the end of the day, Corbyn is still the Leader of the Opposition, and not the top dog calling the shots.
So what now? Where do we go from here? Well first I think the Green Party need to get reflective for a bit. There is nothing wrong with having ideals, no matter how far away they may feel, but you will never reach them if you don’t appreciate where you are in the here and now. Only then can you look at the challenges ahead of you and work out a strategy to beat them.
As it stands, the Green Party continue to have one seat, Brighton Pavilion, and one representative in the House of Commons in Caroline Lucas. It obtained 1.6% vote share, down from 3.8% in GE2015. It received 525,435 votes nationwide, compared to 1,157,630 in GE2015. Lots of people commented about how well Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley spoke on debates and in interviews, but there remains this acceptance that leaders of fringe parties are able to present well as there is not as much riding on it. And, I believe that, for the vast majority of the public the Green Party has a reputation as being hippies who let their ideals regarding saving the planet get in the way of constructive policies that help the average person and family.
So if that is where, in my mind, the Green Party is, in terms of actually figures and perception, what do they (we) do to change this? To move forward? The biggest change, or step, to my mind has to be the perception of the Party.
Right now, the Party has to decide if it wants to appeal to wider, more mainstream audience. I think we can lay off the environment stuff a touch. Caroline Lucas can certainly do her best to ensure the current Government are reminded of their duty to the environment, but I certainly do not think that a future campaign should ramp up on this. People know the Green Party care about the environment and will do for as long as we are called the Green Party, What we need to do is show that the ideas and policies we have are good for the average person/family as well. NHS and Public Services was number 4 in the short form manifesto. Housing was number 7 followed by safety at number 8 and voting reform at number 9. These should be front and centre. These were the topics that the public wanted to know where the major Parties stood and what drove conversation.
With all due respect, the average person doesn’t care about grey, brown or green economies. They’re not really interested in how we get to a good economy, just that we have one. They care about people having that pay a fair wage. They care about a bank telling them their house is worth less than their mortgage. They worry about being able to have access to medical treatment if they need it. They worry about international terrorism on our shores. Families already have a blue bin (or otherwise) for their recycling. It’s not their fault half their shopping comes in plastic containers. And why should they worry about going out of their way to save the planet when the government is committed to fossil fuels and fracking? Those are things for the government to control first, before the public have to do it.
Rupert Read has written a piece for the Huffington Post looking at how the Green Party should approach alliances in future elections, and it’s worth a read. It’s really what inspired my post. But I think there is more to it. The Green Party wont win the next election, nor should they expect to. And it’s important to have morals and core values. But people expect those values already. We don’t need to repeat them as often as we do. They are ultimately a part of every policy the Green Party has, but we need to do a better job of speaking to the wider public.