Battle for fourth place: Greens and Lib Dems neck and neck

Natalie Bennett

It’s been a tough few years for the Liberal Democrats, but recent polls could make the situation a whole lot worse for Nick Clegg’s party.

With UKIP performing consistently at about 15% and above in recent polls, it is more than likely that Nigel Farage’s party are set to become the third largest party - in terms of vote share - at Westminster next May. Turning such an outcome into seats will be a far more challenging task for the anti-EU party.

However, whilst the party has overtaken the Lib Dems, Nick Clegg’s party are likely to struggle further. Polls show that the battle for fourth place next May will be between the Liberal Democrats and the rising Green party.

Friday’s YouGov poll gave both the Greens and Liberal Democrats 7% each. The day before, YouGov had the Greens one point ahead of the Liberals (7%-6%). Beating the Greens into fifth place would be a remarkable achievement for Green party leader Natalie Bennett and could result in a couple more Westminster seats for the party, if they target well.

The party is evidently building on its support earlier this year in May, where they returned three MEPs to the European parliament, two more than the Liberal Democrats who saw a massive collapse in support.

The rise in support for the Green party is often called the ‘Green surge’, which shows that voters are moving away from the ‘big three’ and towards smaller parties. They have also seen a massive increase in party membership, both in Scotland and in England and Wales.

However, as ever caution needs to be taken when examining poll results. Polls are better analysed over time, which will make it more interesting to examine if the Green vote increases further in the run up to the 2015 election.

About the result, Patrick Wintour, political editor of the Guardian, tweeted: ‘On day BBC tell Greens they cannot join TV debates due to lack of increase in support, YouGov put Greens ahead of Lib Dems for first time.’

This highlights the annoyance held by the Greens that, despite their growing support and the rise of true multi-party politics in Britain, that they have been excluded from the TV debates.

It appears that the Greens are gaining ground and will perform well in 2015. Even an increase in vote share alone will be enough for them to highlight the unfairness of the current first-past-the-post system.

However, it is possible the Liberal Democrats could beat them, taking fourth place, as many voters in marginal seats could return to the party to see of threats from the Tories or Labour.

But one thing remains clear: with results like this in the polls, it is more than evident that the Greens are going nowhere but up.

Thursday’s YouGov poll, showing the Green’s ahead, can be accessed here: http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/xzvh9rrpyj/YG-Archive-Pol-Sun-results-291014.pdf