The Greens: more than a party on the fringe

Natalie Bennett

With party conferences approaching, and manifestos just around the corner, I have a look at one of Britain’s growing political forces: the Green party.

Whilst the main political focus at the moment is the Scottish independence referendum, as well as the ‘rise of UKIP’, the Greens are a party to watch.

According to the latest ComRes poll, the Green Party, standing at 7%, is almost level with the Liberal Democrats, the current junior coalition partners. Building on the success of a 50% increase of MEPs this May, by adding Molly Scott-Cato to their team in Brussels, the Green Party of England and Wales is clearly on a surge.

The Green Party of England and Wales is led by Natalie Bennett, whilst the Scottish Greens’ co-conveners are Patrick Harvie and Maggie Chapman.

Additionally, a recent letter to the Guardian argued that the Greens have become the real third force in youth politics, with the Young Green branch having grown 70% since March this year with over three thousand members, more than UKIP’s equivalent. As for the Green Party of England and Wales they have had a 22% increase in members in last three months, resulting in 18,000 members in total.

Furthermore, the Scottish Greens had a chance of gaining their first MEP this May but were beaten by UKIP for the sixth and final seat. They did however get their best result so far. As well as this, a survation poll in June showed that the party could become the third largest at Holyrood, with one MSP ahead of the Conservatives. With support for the main three parties falling, the Greens are definitely a party to watch.

Far from being a narrow minded machine, sprouting environmental rhetoric, something they are often portrayed as by the mainstream, the party has branched out and spread its roots. And while it still supports tough action on climate change, and rightly so, it supports some other eye-catching measures.

The Green party supports a living wage to help low wage workers. According to the ‘Living Wage Foundation’ the living wage is £8.80 for London and £7.65 for the rest of the UK. Far from being at the fringe of politics this idea has mainstream support in Boris Johnson, who could soon be returning to parliament, and is being discussed by the Labour party.

The party also supports publicly owned rail. In 2013 a YouGov poll showed that 66% of the British public would like to see rail nationalisation, showing once again the party’s arguments are far from on the fringe of the current political debate as so many people support the idea. To add to this, according to the TUC, a report in April this year by the Office of Rail Regulation found that East Coast, the public owned company, had a net surplus of £16m to the government, demonstrating a case for renationalisation, something the Green party will push for.

They also support the EU, but acknowledge its faults by supporting reform of its key institutions. Interestingly, they also support a referendum on EU membership, believing that the people of the United Kingdom deserve to have a say, once again with the flow of public opinion as recent political events show the desire for such a question to be put to the people.

The party also has a strong commitment to protecting the NHS and keeping it in public hands.

But most recently the party also cemented its support for a wealth tax for the richest Brits. Additionally, the party has also called for a wage ratio in businesses, meaning that the highest paid employees could only be paid a certain amount times more than those at the bottom, as well as advocating a bankers bonus cap.  A ratio of 1:10 has been proposed, which would not only see the highest paid employees have a wage cut, but also act as an incentive to increase the pay to those at the bottom, by those at the top. They also have voiced support for a universal 'Citizen's Income' to replace the basic benefits system.

For the 2015 general election the Green party of England and Wales plans a fully-costed manifesto, which will make them a legitimate force in British politics. Whilst UKIP struggles to gain its first MP, the Greens could well gain one or two more MPs to join Caroline Lucas, on the momentum of the European election and recent council elections. With many policies and proposals chiming with public opinion it is no wonder that the Greens are on the up.

The Green Party of England and Wales are having their party conference between 5th and 8th September in Birmingham, whilst the Scottish Greens are having theirs the 11th and 12th of October in Edinburgh.