Polls have the Green party on track to increase their representation in the House of Commons. Even small gains could increase their impact on Parliament.

The Green Party of England and Wales are optimistic about the upcoming general election. In local elections earlier this year, they gained 74 councillors, taking their total to 812. This built on their success in the 2023 local elections when they took control of Mid Suffolk council.

Whilst they are standing candidates in all English and Welsh seats, they are targeting four specifically – Brighton Pavilion, Bristol Central, Waveney Valley and North Herefordshire. Their only previous MP, Caroline Lucas, has been the MP for Brighton Pavilion since 2010 but is standing down after this election.

There is good reason for their optimism. The latest YouGov MRP poll has them on track to win two seats. In addition to holding their current seat, the poll has them winning Bristol Central. 

The party is clearly growing in popularity. However, despite polling at around 8%, the British first-past-the-post electoral system is likely to limit their parliamentary representation. Despite this, even with limited seats, they can still affect the next government, and two seats can also provide a springboard for future successes.

Where are the Greens getting their votes from?

Brighton Pavilion and Bristol Central are different kinds of constituencies to Waveney Valley and North Herefordshire. The first two are urban with younger populations that traditionally lean towards the left and Labour. The latter two are rural seats with older populations that are traditionally Conservative strongholds. Therefore, the party’s strategy differs between them.

In Bristol and Brighton, the Greens are trying to attract those who feel Labour’s manifesto is not far enough to the left. It has been accused of lacking ambition and being insufficient to drive the change that the party is promoting. The Greens are attempting to outflank them by promising greater action on climate change, introducing a wealth tax and ending no-fault evictions. For a more in-depth look at the party’s manifestos, check out The Climate’s run down.

The Greens are also gaining support for their stance on Gaza. They have called for a full ceasefire and to suspend arms exports to Israel. Labour are only pushing for a ceasefire. This is adding to the Green’s popularity in Bristol and Brighton but also in constituencies with a greater proportion of Muslims according to the YouGov poll. However, according to the YouGov poll, not enough to win any additional seats.

In Waveney Valley and North Herefordshire, the Greens are hoping to gain seats from the Conservatives. Their confidence is buoyed by recent local elections results. Waveney Valley contains many of the Mid Suffolk council and some of the East Suffolk council wards. The Greens won a six-seat majority in Mid Suffolk and 16 out of 55 seats in East Suffolk. Many lifelong Conservative voters switched over to the Greens because of their dissatisfaction with the current Conservative government. Whilst voting Labour was unpalatable to many of these voters, their concern about the environment led them to the Greens.

The situation is similar in North Herefordshire. The Greens won two extra seats in 2023, taking their total to nine. This makes them the third largest party after the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. From 2019 to 2023 though, the seven Green councillors formed a coalition with Independents.

We asked the Conservative candidates for Waveney Valley and North Herefordshire, Richard Rout and Bill Wiggin respectively, about the threat the Greens posed to them:

“It’s clear both the Labour Party and the Greens are working hard across Waveney Valley. Recent MRP polls, like that which accurately predicted the 2019 election outcome, have Labour close behind me and, in one instance, ahead. These have the Greens a consistent third, some way behind Labour, but I’m aware they’re flooding volunteers in from elsewhere in the country. All I can do is focus on my own positive campaigning to make Waveney Valley an even better place for us all to live – a big part of that is protecting and enhancing our natural environment, something I’ve led on locally since 2018, improving flood resilience, and addressing water quality in our local rivers, like the Waveney and Blyth.” Richard Rout told The Climate.

Bill Wiggin said “I am indeed aware that the Green Party are targeting the North Herefordshire seat – some constituents have told me they have received more than eight leaflets from them! They did point out that all this printing wasn’t very green…

I take all political views seriously, but I would hope that North Herefordshire constituents would look at the track record of the previous Green-Independent County Council (which the Green Party’s candidate was a cabinet member of), and weigh that up against mine when choosing who to vote for.

Under the last council, over £20m was wasted by the cancellation of the Hereford bypass, and £750,000 on planters and moss filters. The trees that were planted at taxpayer expense in Hereford were left to die, and the next council were left facing an annual deficit of nearly £19m. The number of children in social care was more than double the national average – all under the Green-Independent Council’s watch.

I called in Ofsted, asked the Government to appoint a Children’s Commissioner, and called on the help of the PM. I have helped to secure £207m for our transport infrastructure and roads, which were left neglected and filled with potholes by the previous council. Furthermore, the previous Council failed to make any significant progress cleaning up the River Wye. On the other hand, I, working with Jesse Norman, have managed to get real results. I met with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to discuss an action plan. We were hoping to get at least £5m, but I’m delighted that the Government has found over £35m to help save the river. The Action Plan for the River Wye will provide funding to clean up the river and help farmers to deal with livestock waste through new anaerobic digestors, muck-burning incinerators, woodland buffer strips, and various grants.

So, I hope that people will weigh up whether they want an MP who achieves real results for them, or one who neglects the real issues, wastes their money, and, while serving as an elected politician, spends their time being arrested rather than representing their citizens.”

Whilst the Conservatives do not appear too worried about the Greens, their previous success could encourage more voters to take them seriously. It was following success in local elections that the Scottish Greens first won seats in Holyrood. The Liberal Democrats also built upon positive local election results to start winning Westminster seats. 

What could stop them?

The major barrier to the Green party’s success is the UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system. This has long hindered smaller parties whose support is often geographically spread. Subsequently, smaller parties often fail to translate vote share into Westminster seats. In the 2019 general election, the Green party gained 2.7% of the national vote share, but this only won them one seat. In a proportional system, this would return 17 or 18 MPs. Additionally, if the voting system were proportional, more voters may have voted for the Greens in the first place, so the number of MPs would likely be even more than that. 

According to the YouGov poll, the first-past-the-post system is likely to hinder the Greens again. as they are polling in second place in 39 constituencies. If this turns out to be the case, they will not win any of these seats.

Another potential obstacle to their success is recent reports of antisemitism. Four of the 574 candidates the Green party are standing have had to be replaced following antisemitic comments. This is a blight on the party’s record and could cost them crucial votes in marginal constituencies. 

Can the Greens party have any impact?

Even with just two seats, the Greens can raise environmental issues. This would double their chances of asking questions in the House of Commons and joining committees. It provides a greater platform for them to raise their concerns.

Additionally, if Labour’s (assuming they win the election) political fortunes turn during the Parliament, the Greens could be in a good position to win by-elections. This could potentially lead to them increasing their representation in the Commons mid-Parliament. 

If the Greens fail to win any seats, they are still well represented on local councils. From here, they can still affect local public services and policies. However, they would lose their national coverage and best opportunity to raise issues to a wider audience.