Green party membership rockets after TV debates row


The decision by broadcasters to exclude the Green party from plans for TV debates has led to 1,000 new members joining the party in the past ten days.

The spike in sign-ups is part of a longer-term swell in party membership that has seen the Greens grow by two-thirds this year, leading party leader Natalie Bennett to claim next year’s election will be “a genuine five-party fight”.

Bennett told Red Box: “The coverage of our exclusion from the leader debates under current plans has certainly given more voters a chance to hear a little about the Green Party and learn about our policies.”

Even before the row over the TV debates, the party had seen a rise in membership, driven partly by its strong performance in May’s European elections, where it came fourth nationally. After hovering between 12,000 and 14,000 since the 2010 election, the Greens now have over 23,000 members.


They are not the only ones to see a rise in sign-ups: a Ukip spokesman toldRed Box that this week its membership topped 40,000 for the first time – double the membership of January 2013. Both parties remain dwarfed by Tories and Labour, but they are snapping at the heels of the Lib Dems, whichreported 44,000 members in April.

In the polls, too, the Green party has seen a quiet but consistent rise this year. Last week the Greens were placed above the Liberal Democrats for the first time in Lord Ashcroft’s polling, with 8 per cent, although by this week their result had fallen back to 5 per cent.

This momentary blip and the excitement it caused obscures another story. Six months ago, the Greens were polling around 2 per cent. This has now more than doubled, to the point where they consistently poll above 5 per cent, and in Lord Ashcroft’s four-week averages, they have edged above 6 per cent. It is this gradual rise that has led YouGov’s Peter Kellner to describe them in theGuardian as “the fourth wild card”.

Kellner points out that the Greens are the “mirror image” of Ukip, gaining from younger, left-leaning disaffected former Lib Dem voters in the same way as Nigel Farage’s party has gathered up older, right-leaning disaffected former Tory voters. Together, he added, Ukip and the Greens had the scope to create a “two-headed protest vote”.

There are plenty of young, disaffected former Lib Dem voters to go round: ananalysis of polling data by the Times Data Team last month found that around 80 per cent of first-time voters who supported the Lib Dems at the last election would no longer do so. Support for other parties – including the Greens – doubled among this group. YouGov’s polling finds that 50 per cent of new Green voters are former Lib Dem supporters.

“Our recent membership surge – we’re gaining a new member every five minutes – indicates that people are clearly liking what little they have had the chance to hear about Green values and policies… increasingly there’s recognition that while Ukip might have been getting lots of attention as apparent political ‘outsiders’ in fact it is the Green Party that represents the voice of genuine democratic change,” said Bennett.

The party has upped its electoral ambitions, announcing plans to target 12 seats in next year’s election. Bennett said: “The surge shows little sign of slowing head of the May 2015 general election, which will be a genuine five-party fight.”

The Green party’s successes have spooked the Labour party. Earlier this month Red Box reported that it had given shadow cabinet member Sadiq Khan the task of taking them on. Yesterday, the influential left-wing blogLabourList warned: “We must not make the same mistake with the Greens that we did with the Lib Dems”.


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