Natalie Bennett: As the dust settles, what’s next for the Green Party?

"The Unite to Remain alliance failed to deliver the seats the Greens hoped for, but it demonstrated that we’re prepared to take grown-up decisions."

Parties that had disastrous election — you know who they are – are beginning the postmortems, the leadership elections, or simply looking to drown their sorrows.

For the Green Party, our perspective is different. There’s the 850,000 votes, a big leap from 2017.

We had stronger media coverage that reflected more closely our results in recent elections (2 million votes in the European election and a doubling of our total seats in the council elections) – though still not proportionately.

And the fact that this was the first climate election, with a level of coverage of the issue that was off the scale of any previous campaign.

But of course, we didn’t see an increase in our parliamentary team. Great candidates like Carla Denyer in Bristol West, Vix Lowthion on the Isle of Wight and Alison Teal in Sheffield missed out on joining Caroline Lucas, Jenny Jones and I in parliament.

While the majority of voters supported parties that had a serious plan of action for dealing with the climate emergency, our voting system delivered a huge majority for a Conservative Party that still doesn’t ‘get it’.

For the climate, nature and the poorest in our communities, this election was a disaster.

In the Queen’s Speech, Boris Johnson again repeated the palpably false claim that their 2050 zero-carbon target is “world-leading”, when in fact it is the equivalent of doing almost nothing. There was nothing on the horrors of Universal Credit, to address the suffering of disabled people, or the fears of those trapped in the horrors of the Home Office’s hostile environment. Highlighting those crises will be at the heart of our work in Parliament in the new year.

And we will be in a stronger position. Every one of those 850,000 votes – and thank you if you were one of them – increases the ‘Short money’ for staff to support our Parliamentary team and it guarantees more broadcast coverage at the next election.

As comedian Jimmy Carr said on election night, it is the one vote that you know you won’t regret in 50 years’ time.

Greens got an average of 4.3% of the vote where they stood. In a democratic electoral system – one where the number of seats matched the number of votes – we’d be celebrating the presence of 18 MPs in Westminster. And of course so many people wanted to vote Green, but felt pushed towards voting for a second or lower choice party, in the hopes of stopping the worst option in their constituency. Knowing all of that adds to our voice in parliament.

The Unite to Remain alliance

But we have to think about the next election – and learn the lessons from this one. (It could come sooner than we think: while lots of people are saying it will definitely be 2024 – I’m less pessimistic than that).

In 2017, the Greens stood down for Labour in over 30 seats, as part of a big push to get rid of the Tories. It was a strategic, costly sacrifice that Labour gave us no credit for, and that it has firmly said it has no intention of reciprocating.

One of our strengths as Greens is the wiliness to work with others to get things done. This time, with the focus on Brexit, we made a practical decision to work with Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats in a small number of seats, to attempt to increase the number of MPs, to increase the chances of the views of Green voters actually being represented.

That didn’t deliver the seats that we hoped, but it demonstrated that we’re prepared to take grown-up decisions to help the people get the representation the current system denies them.

However, tactical voting and electoral arrangements are no replacement for a system of fair votes. It is clear that for the people of Britain, who have indicated they want to take back control, electoral reform and genuine devolution of power and resources from Westminster is crucial. But it is likely that the next election will again be conducted under the current undemocratic system.

What now?

We know that a majority of the public supports our 2030 net-zero carbon target, As the one stable, advancing progressive force across the nations, our job is to grow, to build and advance, first in the local government elections next May.

Locally and nationally, we’ll be highlighting the contrast between the business as usual Westminster government, the local councils who all too often continue to chase the mirage of “growth” through new roads and multinational chains stores, and the Green vision of transformation through strong local economies operating within the limits of this fragile planet.

As the climate emergency grows, the choice will become ever starker between a Boris Johnson government and the Green vision that offers a decent life for all on a stable planet.

The Tory Party has already effectively disappeared – it is now the UKIP and Unionist Party. There’s no way of knowing where the other larger parties will be at the next election – they lack the political philosophy, the foundation, for the age of climate and social emergency.

Every election now will be a climate election. That means – whatever happens – the Greens will be at the forefront.  

Natalie Bennett is a Contributing Editor of Left Foot Forward, and is the former leader of the Green Party of England and Wales. She is a Green Party peer in the House of Lords.

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13 Responses to “Natalie Bennett: As the dust settles, what’s next for the Green Party?”

  1. Michael McManus

    Well, you could start by talking to some physicists (not weather forecaster, not the bureaucrats and business on the alarmist make) and answer these questions. Please.
    What happened to 4c rise predicted for 1980?
    Why is the southern ocean colder and Antarctica bigger than 100 years ago?
    Why have polar bear numbers doubled?
    What happened to the sea-level rises (various, several feet) predicted for dates from 1990 onwards?
    What happened to the universal droughts due to warming and consequent crop failures and mass starvation?
    Why was there an attempt to cover up the halt in warming (itself a trivial fraction of a degree) last century?
    Why was a there a similar attempt to block the publication of the astronomical data showing an impending cooling of the sun?
    Why has there been no publication of the dispute over the diff equations for cloud-cover and temperature?
    What is being done about the dodgy data from Stevenson boxes?

    Thank you.

  2. Xenophanes

    Following expert advice 30 years ago we planted drought resisting plants and trees. they’ve all been washed away in the rain over the last decades. Do we apply to you for our money back?

  3. Peter Barnett

    Unbelievable how even now climate deniers remain in existence continuing to pump out their lies and distortions.

  4. Michael McManus

    Peter Barnett – so what’s the answer to my questions?

  5. matt follett

    you know me ( for readers I was, among other things, Chair of the successful Brighton Pavilion campaign of 2010 to get the UK its first Green MP and part of the strategic leadership that took greens from mucking about to having a proper leader, to getting an MP, and to being taken seriously by mainstream media) and you know what im interested in is results. The greens have consistently blown it since 2010 in terms of increasing national electoral influence. Give’s me no pleasure to say that, but its pretty undeniable. What the party ( and you are one of the few who does this) need to do is get serious. Paul Mason has suggested to labour that they treat the greens like they treat the co-op party – allow joint tickets in constituency elections, allow a lot of policy influence , and allow co-op motions at their conference. One might think Paul Mason is generally a rather irrational figure of late and that this idea is the death of the greens ( partly due to size differential) with no real benefit in return. However, a good concept is a good concept regardless of who says it. This is exactly the sort of relationship that the lib dems and the greens ( a much more compatible fit in lots of ways) ought to have and would automatically increase the platform and profile for green ideas ( which if its not about careers, is the real prize, right?) . It’s win win as it would help libs and greens ( or lib green coalition or whatever one wants to name it) have more parliamentary representation and that is really valuable in getting change to actually occur.
    Time for the green party to get serious about that change – to coin a phrase, if not now, when? Talking of which , if the green party is being genuine when it says we don’t have much time then it is even more imperative that this happens isn’t it? .

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