What the success of the Green Party in recent local elections means for the future of British politics and why young people hold the key to continuing the trend.
After taking seats from Labour and the Conservatives across England in the recent local elections, you might have been left wondering what exactly is driving this rise in popularity of what was once considered a pretty minor political party.
In fact, the Green Party made a net gain of 200 councillors in this year’s local elections, representing its highest ever growth in the party’s 50-year history. It’s important to note that the party’s councillors had already grown by 175 in the previous elections four years ago, making this an impressive upwards trend for the party.
With a total of 737 councillors dotted throughout England, it’s safe to say that the party is starting to have an influence.
So, who exactly is voting for the Green Party and why?
Green Party co-leader, Carla Denyer, puts it down to their “practical solutions to meet concerns on issues such as the cost of living crisis, housing, underfunded and rundown public services and the state of our rivers,” which probably isn’t a bad call.
According to a survey by the Mental Health Foundation, one in four of us are worried about their finances due to the cost of living crisis, there’s no doubt that this had an impact.
So, are more people supporting the Green Party due to their actions against climate change?
As a party whose first priority is combating climate change and pollution (as per their manifesto), it’s no surprise that those who are more likely to vote for the Green Party also put climate change at the top of their list of priorities.
In fact, a survey by YouGov in 2021 found that 65% of those who prioritised climate change rated themselves a five or more to consider voting Green, including 29% who rated themselves an eight or more out of a total of ten.
Meanwhile, only 30% of those who do not list the environment as a top issue facing the country rate their willingness to consider voting for the Greens at five or more, with just 10% rating it an eight or higher.
What is perhaps most interesting is the popularity of the Green Party amongst a new generation of voters. It is common knowledge that Gen Z as a generation is the first to truly prioritise climate change in their political policy must-haves.
A study last year by Bupa highlighted that two-thirds of Generation Z feel anxious due to the high mental health burden of climate change, so it makes sense that taking actionable steps to see the right people in power to change this would be high up on their agenda.
This swing away from the two traditional parties to one that better supports their priorities was also obvious in a recent poll by The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) of current full-time university undergraduates, who found that 11% of students would consider voting for the Greens in the next election compared to just 7% voting for the Conservatives.
While we expect a more left-wing agenda from younger generations — and with 46% still planning to vote for the Labour Party — what we may not be expecting is for younger generations to actually turn up to vote.
However, according to the poll by HEPI, 85% of students intend to vote in the next general election, with 89% of those saying they are already registered to vote too.
This left-leaning trend isn’t just among students, either, as data from the Financial Times in February revealed that unlike previous generations, both Millennials and Generation Z are not swinging further right as they age.
So, if young people vote in the next general election as intended, we could see a huge shift in the ruling parties.
“If young people show up to vote as they intend, we could be in for an immense shift in our power structure”
What we can be less sure of is whether this win for the Greens in the locals will correlate to a win in the general election.
According to the 2021 YouGov poll, only 7% want to see the Greens govern alone and there are also concerns that their focus on the environment is too narrow.
The revival of public services such as the National Health Service (NHS) and the cost of living crisis remain big issues for voters across the board and these same voters remain to be convinced of the Green Party’s ability to tackle these issues.
That’s not to say that the party doesn’t have plans to tackle these issues, though — their manifesto clearly plots out a new deal for taxes and spending as well as plans to unleash a “revolution” on public services.
Not to mention, they’re one of few parties still committed to rejoining the EU to support both climate and social justice. This may be a big tick in the box for those still sore about the Brexit vote.
The answer is, there’s currently no way of knowing what will transpire when we next head to the ballot box to vote for how the UK should be governed nationally. We know from recent years how quickly things can change, but there is one thing we can be sure of — if young people show up to vote as they intend, we could be in for an immense shift in our power structure, hopefully one that’s good for the planet.