YOUNG VOICES

Why Is The Green Party So Successful Among British Youths?

09/02/2015 08:29 GMT | Updated 27/03/2015 13:59 GMT

At the end of 2013, the Green Party had a meagre 1,300 youth members; the number has since surpassed the 14,000 figure - a monumental increase in such a short period of time.

The party has been so successful amongst the younger generation a YouGov poll at the end of January showed it was polling at 29% and tied for first place with Labour for the youth vote - ahead of the Conservatives, Lib Dems and UKIP. As of 15 January, the party has more members than UKIP.

So what is drawing British youths to a group failing to even make it onto Ofcom's major party list?

"Ultimately, they're attracted to the Greens because we're different", says Bradley Allsop, who founded the Northampton University Green Party Society.

One of Allsop's biggest motivations for establishing the group was to "bridge the gulf between young people and politics".

"Through the society we've tried to show that politics doesn't have to be the same old boring PMQ's and Budget announcements. We've started to set up our own micro-brewery at the university, completely led by students for students, to promote ideas around sustainablity and self-sufficency - core Green ideas."

Allsop says the new methods have paid off; the society's membership has nearly tripled this term.

As for why he was drawn to the party, the 22-year-old says it was the Green's honesty which secured his vote.

"They've seen what needs to change and aren't afraid to commit to it. They don't play the PR game, or try to appease the public with populist rhetoric."

"They change the way we do politics. Every policy in our 2015 manifesto will have been democratically decided by party members - everyone has a say. This gives us a feeling of real involvement and empowerment, something young people desperately need."

"For too long we've been told there are no alternatives," Allsop continues. "We've been placated with half-measures and tinkering with the system, for too long politics has been a distant and empty concept for the majority of the public - especially youths. A lot of people have now had enough."

Allsop: The Greens actively encourage and empower young people

It's a view echoed by many - even politicians themselves. Tom Brake MP wrote an open letter to his fellow parliamentarians urging them to reach out to youths. As he so rightly put: "Britain's young people are the leaders of today and tomorrow."

With that in mind, it proves even more worrying only one third of young people say they will vote in the upcoming general election, compared to two-thirds of the general population and 75% of those over 65. If all students voted, they could have the power to swing the result in up to 10 constituencies, despite only making up 3% of the population.

It's a sobering thought, and one which the Green Party has evidently taken note of.

"When the younger generation see our policies, they like them", Archie Thomas, press and communications manager for the team, tells HuffPost UK. "Young people want a future of hope and opportunity, not a society of distrust and blame that we have now.

"Our members are hard at work talking to thousands of young people to get our message out.

"Currently the system makes it extremely difficult for young people to register. The establishment parties practise and preach different shades of the same old business-as-usual politics that everyone is so tired of. The Green surge clearly shows that the old way of doing things is crumbling, that politics can be done in a different way.

"The 18 to 24 vote is massively pushing up the vote share of the Green Party, and it will be young people who have the power to elect Green MPs in 2015."

"Labour have abandoned young people in this country", says Green youths co-chair Clifford Fleming


The fact that the Greens recognise the importance of their young voters is a stark contrast to parties such as Labour - which has openly admitted to chase the "silver vote" - because they are more likely to vote than youths.

Such an attitude is one which only serves to alienate young people - and has not gone unnoticed.

"Labour have abandoned young people in this country," according to Clifford Fleming, co-chair of the Young Greens. "[We] will be doing everything we can to encourage young people to register and vote Green."

Fleming recognises the system is not set up for youths, meaning they are continually under-represented in elections.

"Our electoral registration system based on where you live is unfair to young people who often do not have a permanent address as they look for jobs, go to university and continue in education."

The new supporters who aren't fazed by the archaic system are coming from "all over", according to Thomas, "from other political parties and people totally new to politics. The latter more so."

Fleming, however, sits in the former category, and is one of the numerous youths who defected to Green after the Lib Dem betrayal.

"In 2010 I was appalled at the utter betrayal the Lib Dems had dealt to students. I marched in London with many thousands and I got involved in activism on campus in my first year.

"In my second, I realised more and more politics is really important to the way society is. Those who have the power have the means to make decisions to help or hinder people."

For Fleming, the party's policies were a perfect fit for his beliefs. "Now, after being involved since 2012, I realised the wealth of ideas, policy, but also the community feel in the Greens was far beyond what I expected. It is truly a party like no other and I've definitely found a political home.

"Young people are joining our ranks because we offer an alternative vision of the way we think things should be - that the huge levels of inequality in society needs to be addressed, and that this country needs reform that will benefit everybody, not just the 1% at the top."

So why are these youths "going Green?".

"I hope a Green surge could lead to a left-wing alliance with Labour", says Samuels


Katy Samuels, a 19-year-old economics with politics student, feels she has no other choice but to vote Green.

"I hear many other young people vote Green as a 'protest' vote due to apathy and I completely understand this. The three main parties currently offer very vague and similar promises disguised in mud-slinging.

"Labour want to 'un-do' the work of the Tories, who are 'un-do'ing the work of Labour. Many young people seek real progress, not petty opposition politics that achieves little result.

"If I want noticeable change or still wish to vote, I'm left with the minority parties. I am not inclined to vote UKIP and I see the Green Party as the only real left wing choice. It is also one of the only parties to establish a clear and comprehensive policy programme with an obvious direction and end-goal.

"I find myself trying to justify my vote for Green with positive reasons and to identity their strengths. But really, I can quickly discount the other parties and find it to be my only option left."

"I voted Green at the EU elections, but this will be my first vote in a general election", Bradley says


Manchester University student Jack Bradley, 20, has developed an indifference for traditional parties, but describes himself as an "active Green supporter".

Despite growing up with Labour sympathisers in my family, I was drawn to the Lib Dems in the last election. But seeing them go into coalition with the Conservatives and fall back on promises has contributed to my disdain.

"Other parties don't seem to have many policies aimed at young people. This is where the Greens are different in my opinion.

"Their policies appeal to me, such as the re-nationalisation of the railways and other formerly public-owned institutions, their pledge to allow the UK people to vote on our membership of the EU and their promise to tailor it to our needs, their policies to increase spending on renewable energy sources.

"I also feel that it's important to vote for what you believe in, people with similar politics to mine have been voting for Labour tactically as more of an anti-Conservative vote and I don't believe this has produced positive results.

"I believe the real significance is not necessarily in this election for the youth vote, but in the years to come. I feel if the Greens can grasp a generation and gain the loyalty that Labour has from its voter base in the last 50 years then in the Greens we could have a very electable party in the coming decades."

"Young people are so often left out of the political conversation"


Kate Delaney, a 20-year-old Cardiff University student is another active member of the party, and is voting Green "because I believe there's so much more we can do to help people worse off in society".

"The reason I looked into The Green Party was because I wanted to find a party that wasn't headed up by a middle-aged white male who claimed to believe in the need to boost the amount of women in Parliament.

"The Green Party actually lives equality. Furthermore, I'm young and conscious that if environmental problems are not being addressed with the up most importance, it's going to drastically affect my future and generations to come.

"I used to naturally support the Labour Party due to my background and parental influence. However before finding the Green Party I never really felt aligned with Labour but more against the Tories.

"There's a lack of parties appealing to youths. Young people are at a massive disadvantage because politicians know, from past election results, that they don't vote as much.

"Youths should feel like they are protected by politics and they can take part, which I just don't think is the case at the moment with the larger parties. I also think that young people feel they need more educating on the subject of politics but because they're never the people that politicians are talking to, they feel disconnected.

"The youth vote could be extremely important if people turned out to vote. If that happens, which I hope it does, then politicians will be forced to stand up and listen to us, which will then hopefully continue to encourage more young people to take an interest in decisions which affect their lives."

'If youths vote, politics could break wide open', says Greens leader Natalie Bennett


Like any party worth its salt, the Greens are not without their critics. The manifesto for 'Meat-free Mondays' in Brighton was short-lived, while a proposal to increase council tax in the constituency was swiftly defeated. The party's ban on the traditional Christmas Day swim next to the pier was staunchly ignored by the city's swimmers.

One Tory councillor in Brighton was reported as saying: "Our town is getting scruffier. They are basically hippies who don't give a damn about such things."

Bennett announcing belonging to al-Qaeda, Isis or other terrorist groups should not be a crime certainly raised some eyebrows, as has the party's plans to replace the British army with a "home defence force", and its vow to kick the Queen out of Buckingham Palace.

Contrary to UKIP's plans to abolish inheritance tax, the Greens want it to cover gifts from those who are still alive, including presents from parents to children. The party also wants to decriminalise possession of Class A drugs for personal use, and ban alcohol advertising completely, while border controls would be "progressively reduced".

But it's the energy, community and unbreakable spirit of the Green Party which really shines out - and is difficult not to admire. Passionate youths who joined the Greens to give them a political voice, yet refuse to be dishearted, even though they are still struggling to be heard thanks to Ofcom's insistence it is not a major party.

"There are young green groups all over the country now, more than ever before," Fleming concludes jubilantly. "The increased media coverage has shown people that we do exist, and we are here and waiting for you to join us!"