With the Greens membership soaring, and opinion polls looking increasingly favourably on them, just what is the source of their success?
For a very long time I'd been interested in effecting some sort of social change, in aiding social justice some way or another. The world is very messed up, and I wanted to do something about it. For the longest time, however, I simply didn't see politics as a way of doing this. Like many others the world over, I saw politics as a corrupt system, full of dishonest and selfish individuals, something to be distrusted and avoided.
But the more I read, and lived, it began to dawn on me that so many of the problems that abound in the world are rooted in how we are governed. Throw in the facts that I've always been annoyingly argumentative, and that the economy doesn't quite manage to bore me to tears, and it began to look quite logical for me to enter politics. So quite contrary to the usual response - the corruption and dishonesty, and general failings of politics were what motivated me to join, rather than sending me into a doomed spiral of increasing disillusionment. Politics can be a force for good, it just so often isn't. If we are to fix any of our problems, then we have to first fix politics. It was this revelation that pushed me into the political sphere.
Fast forward a couple of years and I'm studying for my dissertation on political engagement, and the Greens are doing tremendously well in the opinion polls - 8% of the national vote in the most recent ones. Of course, we all know that opinion polls can be infamously bad at actually predicting what's going to happen, but the fact that such large amounts of people are even considering the Greens is very noteworthy. It is also quite clear that there is some level of commitment to the Greens, as membership nationally has risen almost by a quarter since the start of the year, and the youth membership has soared by 70% in the less than 4 months.
Through my dissertation research I am encountering a whole host of reasons why there is a general lack of countrywide, meaningful engagement with politics. One particularly interesting theory within psychology is that of 'Learned Helplessness'. Essentially the theory suggests that if an individual is continually subjected to adverse stimuli (corrupt politicians, broken promises etc.) then there will come a point when they will no longer try to change their situation. This is neatly expressed in the phrase "that's just the way it is"- one of the most common things I hear when discussing political matters.
Now for many this 'Learned Helplessness' translates as either not voting, or continually voting for either Labour or Tories, when both decisions have, for a very long time, led to a distinct lack of meaningful change. And herein lies a hint to the Greens success.
It's not just the infinitely fairer and more logical policies of the Greens (such as renationalising the trains, a living wage, and tackling climate change) that resonate, but their whole way of doing politics.
By giving every single party member a chance to propose and vote on their policies, by championing local democracy, and by demanding MPs be more accountable to the electorate, the Greens have a possible solution to the depressing downward spiral that is Learned Helplessness.
Another area where the Greens offer an alternative, a break from the mould, is their commitment. They are unashamed about offering alternative, progressive policies, having grasped something the main parties seem woefully ignorant of. The point of a party system is that parties offer alternative visions, and people choose the one that appeals to them most. By scrambling for the centre ground, Labour and Lib Dems have not only lost their souls, but the soul of British politics too.
The Greens refuse to scramble for the catch-all policies of New Labour and Finished Lib Dems, but instead sticks to what it thinks is right and fair. They also have officials willing to get arrested for what they believe in, which shows a refreshing level of integrity, bereft in most other quarters of Westminster.
We are entering a profoundly different political age. Issues such as inequality and climate change are reaching the points where real, progressive solutions are needed, and people are becoming unafraid to vote for the fringe parties. These parties are gaining more traction, with votes and memberships for the main parties declining.
But a party that is to flourish in this new age will have to get more than policy right - it will have to structure itself in a far more accessible way than politics has been done in the past. People need to feel as if they have a real influence over the political process, more than the one vote every 4-5 years. This is the only way to break down the Learned Helplessness of a nation - by putting real power and influence into people's hands, and real political variety before them for when they wield that power.
The Greens intimately understand this, and that's ultimately why, when I chose to enter politics, I chose to do so with them. I wanted a party that chose hope not fear, long-term prosperity for all, not short-term gains for a few, and an inclusive, fair, and above all, democratic structure. I have real influence over how the party proceeds, and entering further into the party does not involve the brown-nosing required in the other parties - it simply requires that I stand up and fight for what I believe in. This is why I joined the Green Party, and I believe this is why so many more are too.