Why people are turning to the Green Party

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Since the BBC rejected a demand for the Green party to be included in the proposed televised election debates, a petition demanding their inclusion has been signed by over 260,000 people. Amid the narrative of disillusionment with mainstream politics, most commonly expressed in the media by the rise of Ukip, the Green party’s role in seducing support away from the main political parties has been reflected in the polls and in the press.

We asked people who have recently turned to the Green party to tell us their reasoning. We received hundreds of responses, which told of a frustration with the status quo but also a post-referendum surge in optimism for future political plurality. Based on these responses, here are seven of the most popular reasons why people are turning Green.

1) They’re disillusioned with Labour

The most common theme to emerge from our assignment was a frustration with Labour’s drift to the right: a drift that the Green leadership hope to capitalise on in 2015. “It’s only in the last year that I’ve begun to look more closely at the Greens, having previously written them off as a single agenda party,” says Duncan Parsons. “I was pleasantly surprised to find them saying all the things that I’ve wanted Labour to stand for over the last 20 years.”

“I will always prefer Labour over the Tories, but it is getting harder to distinguish between some of their ideals and policies, says Ian Davidson. “I was sick of feeling like I was voting Labour just to keep the Tories out.” I don’t want to live in a country where I have to feel as though I should vote for the lesser of two evils.”

“Labour had signally failed to distance themselves from the other parties, says Rob Mellor. I think the last straw for me was the free Sun issue, where all three party leaders sidled up to their real boss, Rupert Murdoch.”

2) … or furious with the Lib Dems

Polling by YouGov suggests many Green voters have previously voted Liberal Democrat, but have been repelled by the party’s record in government alongside the Conservatives. This is particularly the case of younger voters who feel betrayed by Nick Clegg’s infamous tuition fees pledge. But this also is the reasoning by more longstanding members.

“I have finally joined The Green Party after over thirty years of supoorting the Liberal Democrats,” says Dacron. “I am ashamed that my vote has been used to enable a despicable Tory party to take power and the wholesale attack that has taken place on the weak, the poor and defenceless”

3) They hope the Greens will ‘do a Ukip’

Key to the frustrations over the Green’s exclusion from the proposed television debates was the inclusion of Ukip, a party who have repeatedly set the media agenda in recent months.

“There is a huge gap in British politics where the powerful, left wing parties should be,” says Hannah Leach, who has voted Labour in the past before becoming disillusioned by the party under Blair and Brown. “In the last election, I supported the RESPECT party (Salma Yaqoob was my local MP candidate), and I’ve also watched with interest to see if/how Ken Loach’s Left Unity party would develop.

“But until recently, no one party has galvanised enough support to ‘do a UKIP’ – coming seemingly out of nowhere to pull UK politics back towards the left, as UKIP have pulled towards the right.”

4) The Greens are anti-neoliberalism

The Green party have been working hard to paint themselves as the only mainstream left alternative. “Voters are desperate for alternatives to the three business-as-usual parties,” said Natalie Bennett at the party’s 2014 conference, and this is a message that has been resonating with new recruits, according to our readers.

“There’s hardly a hair’s breadth between the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP these days when it comes to the economy,” saysseemsRidiculous. “The Greens are the closest thing we have to a mainstream party offering an alternative to endless neoliberal decline, with intelligent policies on taxation, housing, public services, and regulation of the finance industry.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas arrives at Brighton Magistrates’ Court following her arrest at the height of the anti-fracking protests. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

5) They’re re-engaged in politics after the Scottish referendum

The growth of political engagement in Scotland in the lead up to the independence question also seems to be a factor driving people to commit to the Greens. Of the many unintended consequences of the close vote, a potential surge in SNP votes in next year’s general election has been the most reported on, but our readers responses suggest a more widespread increase in political re-engagement, paying dividends for the Greens north of the border.

“I joined the Scottish Greens on 19 September, after the referendum results, says Robert Groves. “I am still affected by the opening of the Greens’ paper on Independence, that this was “a chance to ask ourselves what kind of society we want to live in, what kind of democracy we have”.

“I swithered over joining either the Green party or the SNP, says Gerard Carey. “I opted for the Green party because I feel they represent exactly where my politics are at present.” Cathy Homes said being involved in the Yes campaign inspired both her and her husband to get more involved in politics, albeit for different political parties: “The Yes campaign showed us what an informed and well-mannered grass-roots movement can achieve.”

6) It’s not just about environmentalism…

Environmental issues were deliberately played down in Caroline Lucas’keynote speech to conference, in an attempt to make the Greens known as more than a single issue party. “

“I’m a Kidney Transplant patient, [and] the Greens are clear about what they want to happen in the NHS, says Christopher Flossman on a key battleground issue. “There should be no profit motive, and no competition between hospitals or in healthcare provision.” “They’re pushing on issues which I feel strongly about like minimum wage and tax, adds Jesse Laffan, a Green voter from Brighton.

Paul Farrant puts it more bluntly: “They’ve shown commitment toward being more than a party for yoghurt weavers and polar bear worriers.”

7) … but naturally this is still a major factor

While all – well, most – UK political parties now accept climate change is happening, the Greens’ environmental policies are still a large part of their appeal. Readers particularly drew attention to their frustrations over continued reliance on fossil fuels, and the government’s encouragement of fracking.

“I joined because I think climate change is the biggest challenge facing our generation and none of the other parties are taking it seriously,” says Elizabeth Carter. Richard Gray, a 60 year old politics graduate, had never joined a party before, but saw something different in the Greens. And he sees voting for them as playing the long game.

“They will not have a significant short-term influence on national government but can exert influence at local level and the large number of people joining the party may do something to make the big three realise that there are a lot of people out there who do not favour business as usual.”

Source – Laura Bannister of the Green Party talking to Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green party, at a demonstration in Manchester/The Guardian.

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