In a recent York Student Think Tank poll, 30% of respondents said that they would vote Green; more than for any other party (Labour came second, at 28%). A message of saving the planet, providing for everyone and leaving a happier, cleaner world behind apparently resonates with people; what a shock. Since the Greens are on the left of the spectrum, they’re also picking up disaffected Lib Dem and Labour voters. Targeting the middle-class vote has also gained them support. Here’s the thing though; The Green Party of the UK is barely a political party. And that’s why we like it.
Hear me out. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has decided to stand for Parliament in the seat of Holborn and St Pancras. She has given interviews talking of expecting to be elected. The seat was last carried by Labour with roughly 25,000 votes, 10,000 more than the next candidate. The last Green Party candidate gained 1000 votes. The Labour candidate is Sir Keir Starmer, former Director of Public Prosecutions. The man’s named after Labour founder Keir Hardie. Bennett is either faintly mad, or doesn’t expect to win. Or she just wants to make an impression.
Students have throughout history hurled themselves into (often futile) utopian causes, buoyed by the notion that someone might notice their attempts, and be at least a touch inspired. We’ve all seen Les Mis. The admirable bravery of such moments is generally marred by one of two things- either a total lack of attention is given to their joyous failure, or the results are a little more…discomforting (see the Iranian hostage crisis, or the Underpants bomber).
There’s a certain degree of kinship to be felt with an organisation that has nobly banged its head against endless walls since the 1980s, and is at last having its day. It makes us feel better to imagine that someone is really trying to save the world that we all kill, inch by inch and day by day, using electricity and plastic and petrol when we want to. It feels good to support a party that doesn’t have to have a fight on every issue- that just wants a clean planet and a better world.
Here’s the problematic other reason though; we like them because they’re still so small. They don’t have to be responsible. If the Green Party were to actually run our country, they’d be terrible. A promise of 500,000 new homes seemed to have absolutely no financing behind it. Cancellation of road building programmes would come hand in hand with mammoth tax increases. We’d lose coal-fired power stations by 2023 and certain “dangerous” nuclear ones by 2025, replaced by solar panels anywhere they’d fit. Railway renationalisation would occur and HS2 would be scrapped. The manifesto has been said by a co-author to contain a certain amount of “estimation and judgement”. It has not been externally audited. In other words, it’s not a manifesto, it’s a wish list.
We’ve all been there. It’s late, we’re tired, so we fudge the details or make sweeping statements. Why do we love the Greens so? Not just because they’re like us, but because they are us. And maybe, like us, they ought to start taking their work a little more seriously.