THE BLOG

Here Come the Greens...

23/01/2015 11:27 GMT | Updated 24/03/2015 09:59 GMT

General election year is always an exciting year in politics as party campaigns holds a certain level of captivity. Who could forget 1997's campaign of 'New Labour, New Danger', where Tony Blair was given 'demon eyes' proliferated by the Conservative party in response to Labour putting up taxes. 2005 had its notoriety through Labour being over shadowed by the Iraq war, where Gordon Brown stepped in to give high prominence to Labour's focus on the economy. Or in 2010, where we saw the rise (and later fall) of the Liberal Democrats; particularly for their popular but quickly diminished tuition fee policy.

The rise of the Liberal Democrats in 2010, shows a reoccurrence in this year's coming election, the rhetoric of a political party which simply gives the message of the people. In the build up to this year's election, we have seen the rise of UKIP, where despite their 'mix-n-match' manifesto, analysts and commentators are still deciphering the reason for their rise to British politics. Their success includes a win at last year's European elections and saw the deflection of two MPs to their party, where one chose the impeccable timing of the party conference season to make his move. As UKIP has been inundated with yet another racist scandal, the inappropriate (and factually incorrect) comment on multiculturalism in France (hint: laïcité) and Jon Trickett's letter demanding clarity on their position for NHS funding has seen UKIP voices temporarily silenced.

On Monday, the Green Party unveiled their new campaign poster in Westminster, boasting a rich, emerald green where the MP of Brighton Pavillion Caroline Lucas and party leader Natalie Bennett stand, both with beaming smiles and the tagline: What are you afraid of boys? - I like it. With its abstract level of feminism and challenging the notation that parliament is full of 'middle-class white men', its deeper message conveys the far-left's alternative to the party of the people. Despite Brighton having the lowest rates of recycling, their message of looking after people and the planet seems an honest alternative to the precarious choice voters would have to make with mainstream parties. This is reflected in the sudden rise of Green membership and although David Cameron is potentially eating his words for them to take part in a TV debate, the party still has work to do to transform those members into party activists, but for the Greens it is a step in the right direction.

But why the sudden surge in membership from the Greens, and surely when one succeeds another declines? The billionaire Lord Ashcroft had the Greens on 8% and now on 11%. According to a sceptic May 2015, 1% of the support for the Greens come from 18-24 year olds; showing that previous Liberal Democrat supporters are now going green. Further, a recent publication undertaken by Ipsos MORI indicates that over a quarter of Labour voters believe that the party will be cutting spending by too much if they gain office after the general election. Despite Sadiq Khan's 'anti-green' campaign backfiring and Labour dismissing it as an 'upper-middle class lifestyle choice'; is this enough for members to opt for a party who once declared a meat-free day? Not likely. What is more likely is the previous rhetoric of voters looking to political parties to stop with political language and to identify and implement policies supporting them and protecting the public interest, much to Labour's detriment. This includes, the Green Party holding a clear stance on the EU referendum, rather than Labour setting face against it. They have also set out clear detriments of the prospective TTIP, which they promise to resist, compared to Labour who give unsolicited economic benefits.

In other words, in 2010 it was the Liberal Democrats who gained popularity for being the party who were different and synonymizing policies with people. They gained the youth's vote and managed to change a-political people into voting citizens. As it was short-lived through the notable policy of tuition fees, it reiterates a reoccurring theme found amongst citizens voting for alternative parties; a lack of trust. Even with Labour claiming their public spending has been refined with a fine comb and Conservatives matching Labour's mansion tax through a reformed stamp duty tax; Britain's economic optimism has fallen since the Autumn statement. Even with the current government refusing to admit that they will compromise the NHS through privatisation, Labour were the perpetrators of introducing PFI contracts; reflecting the public's justifiable scepticism to mainstream parties and flirting with the prospect of voting for an alternative party.

With reality trumping over promises, what makes this year's election different to others is the appearance of the alternative and rather than choosing from three larger parties, there are now 7 parties to be watching over. For mainstream parties, the alternative certainly creates a hindrance to their campaign being so close to the election, however, for Labour, it should force them to be firm and committed to their policies, rather than allowing the Greens outbid them. Although for now a temporary vote for the Greens isn't returned with a Labour comment, but it does give the opportunity for voters to ask for more commitment from their party and it is through trust and honest discussion that success after the election is achieved.