Thursday, 18 December 2014

Where are all the New Green Party Members and Voters Coming From?

As Green Party membership nudges up to 30,000 in England and Wales (with another almost 8,000 in Scotland and I know not what in Northern Ireland), I mustn’t be the only Green wondering which party these people were members or supporters of before? Also, with the Greens at around 7% in national opinion polls, who did these people vote for before?

The Green party does conduct surveys of new members asking this very same question, but I haven’t seen any figures for a while, so I’m left to speculate on their origins through anecdotal evidence and gut feelings on the matter.

I think it is worth saying at the outset, that the Scottish independence referendum in September has had a significant effect on the Green party spike in membership, not only in Scotland which is clear enough to see, but also in England and Wales too. It is quite straightforward to correlate the rise in members in Scotland with the timing of the surge and the observation of a high turn-out in the referendum and a massive increase in civic engagement. It is obvious to me that a lot of Scots want a different kind of politics to what they have been fed for the last 35 years.

But somehow this feeling has erupted in England and Wales as well, so although there has been a modest trend in England in this direction going back as far as the ill-judged, ill-fated war in Iraq ten years ago, and the subsequent MPs expenses scandals, the Scottish referendum has acted as some kind of catalyst in accelerating this process. There all of a sudden seems to be determination throughout the UK to force some political change, unfortunately UKIP has reaped a lot of this, but not all of this zeitgeist in England.

Anyway, returning to the question at hand, whilst Labour was in government, we had a steady trickle of members joining the Green party from Labour, former members and supporters. In 2010 when Labour were removed from office, in my local party we had a few members who were ex Labour people return to Labour, seeing getting the Tories out of power as the most important political imperative and with a hope that Ed Miliband would return Labour to its more traditional left politics, after the unpalatable new Labour years under Blair and Brown’s leadership. I think after giving Miliband a fair crack of the whip, a lot of these type of people are in despair and some are returning or coming for the first time to the Green party.  

There is another group of members (voters) who were once Labour and, because of the Iraq war, civil liberties or just plain disgust with Labour’s sell out, went from Labour to Lib Dem. I think it is these voters in the main that are providing the bulk of new Green members. Once the Lib Dems decided to prop up a minority Tory government, some of these people went straight back to Labour, probably reluctantly, but they have now seen enough of Labour under its ‘new’ leadership to look for a truly progressive party to support, which of course the Lib Dems have disqualified themselves from.

But I think this is not whole picture, our ranks (in London anyway) are also being swelled by young members and voters, maybe some first time voters, who have not supported any party before. Also, some older people who stopped voting altogether when new Labour emerged and also former members of far left parties, particularly the Socialist Workers Party which imploded over rape cover up allegations involving senior comrades in the party.

So, something of a mixed bag really, but all from somewhere on the broad left politically. Some Greens on the left of the party worry that these new members will turn us into a Lib Dem Mk2 party, but I think this avoids the fact that even if these people have been Lib Dem members, they deserted new Labour for the Lib Dems when Charlie Kennedy was leader because the Lib Dems were judged as more to the left than Labour. Then they were equally as appalled by what the Orange Bookers have turned the Lib Dems into, Tories basically, and see the Greens as a proper democratic lefty party, without the electoral irrelevance of the small left parties.

We had a meeting of London Green Left last month, and a few good new lefty members attended. We talked about recruiting new Green party members to Green Left and decided to try and approach these new people at local party level and sound them out for joining Green Left. I would recommend that other regions of Green Left do the same, because there have got be lots of potential recruits to GL amongst the intake, but they have probably never heard of us.

This is an opportunity for Green Left to grow, let’s make sure we take it comrades.


  1. You are pretty 'spot on' on your assessment.
    First: The Euro elections, where we beat the Lib Dems.
    Quite a few new members came in also because of the disproportionate media reporting on UKIP.
    Then we had the referendum. This had a strong effect on voter thinking in England & Wales. For the first time there was a political debate outside the Westminster bubble of Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
    Then as that was nearly finished we got banned from the Leaders Debates. This was demonstrably unfair and brought us in a host of new supporters.
    Other events also helped. 400 people joined during and shortly after the Caroline Lucas appearance on QT.
    At each new members meeting I ask 'Why did you join?' Apart from the reasons above the following are common reasons:
    "I got tired of shouting at the TV"
    "I got tired of voting tactically"
    "I checked the policies of all the parties and only the Greens spoke for me"
    "VOTE FOR POLICIES told me that I supported the Greens"
    "Only the Greens stood for left-wing policies"

    As to who they previously voted for, my estimation is that 30% were Green or new voters; 30% Labour; 30% Lib Dem and about 10% from TUSK, LU and other small groups.
    There is a noticeable number of young couples joining. One pair at the latest meeting gave each other a membership as a Christmas present.
    Another noticeable section of new members is older ex-labour activists who stayed with Labour through Tony Blair, Iraq etc. The last straw was Ed Miliband who gave them hope and then dashed it.

    The UK membership of the GP is now 30,000 in England & Wales + 8,000 in Scotland and NI - we now expect to pass both UKIP and the Lib Dems in the next few months.

    Two polls out today showing us consistently pulling ahead of the Lib Dems.

    London membership is really booming - 5,400 - an increase of 130%, so far this year.
    Today's poll puts us at 10%
    Noel Lynch
    Membership Officer,
    London Federation of Green Parties.

  2. Dont forget those from the majority of the population that have never signed up or aligned to a political party before.