Can the Green Party follow where Caroline Lucas is leading? I have my doubts.

What next for the Green Party? Having made its historic breakthrough by electing Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion as its first Westminster MP, it needs to decide where it is now heading.

In Caroline Lucas the Greens have a photogenic, telegenic superstar, highly, highly competent with a single-minded determination to succeed. She has taken the first steps to make her party electable.  Gone are their Principle Speakers, in is a single Leader (her). Environmental issues are treated as equally important and intrinsically linked with the economy and social justice.

But is the Green Party a one woman show?  At the moment, yes, and Caroline and her immediate team must enjoy every moment of this amazing victory.  But the Green Party needs to ensure that it has more, many more, equally impressive individuals. Sadly, some of the Green candidates left a bit to be desired, and the Party did not make the hoped for breakthrough in Lewisham or Norwich.  And there are some policies that some activists hold on to as if they were in possession of the Holy Grail.  For example, the issue of drugs, and decriminalisation in particular,  threatened to upset Caroline’s campaign over the last weekend.  The Greens great strength, of not whipping its councillors, could prove to be its undoing.

Locally, the Greens have an immediate opportunity to build on this success.  Just as the election of Alex Phillips last year provided momentum for the campaign in Brighton Pavilion, so too could Caroline’s election be the springboard for the Greens targeting Brighton and Hove City Council in next year’s elections.

What do they have to do? Recruit, recruit, recruit.  Do so on the back of Caroline’s election. Don’t be passive, get out there.  Get 200 activists out in each of the next four weeks.  Visit every home in Brighton Pavilion and in target wards in Brighton Kemptown and Hove.  I would expect a ‘thank you’ leaflet or letter from Caroline through my door within the week.  Get a street contact in every street in each target ward.  Make sure that the Party’s 13 councillors are seen from now until May 5th 2011 out and about.  Some are incredibly hard working, but some don’t inspire too much confidence.  The campaign for the City Council starts now.

With Caroline Lucas in Parliament, and a Green-controlled Brighton and Hove City Council, that would make very interesting politics.

I write this as a non-Green Party member, historically a Labour supporter, but one who didn’t like New Labour, mistrusts Mandelson, opposes Trident, wishes to see an alternative to cuts, cuts, cuts.  I am someone who is looking to be inspired.  Caroline Lucas did it.  But can her party follow where she has led?

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16 Responses

  1. Personally i feel that we have to delevop our links with students. Not just in Brighton, but nationally.

    One of the biggest differences between this time and 2005 is that the student turnout increased from 20% to around 50% and the huge majority of that was Green.

    By developing that we can not only win here in Brighton, but in other places too, and its a great long term strategy too. Students converted to the Greens here may stick with them for the rest of their lives.

  2. Yes you are right about organisation, street level stuff and the thank you leaflet,
    I am guessing there will be an October election as well.

    Winning more Green MPs is going to demand electoral reform, though….

  3. ‘Environmental issues are treated as equally important and intrinsically linked with the economy and social justice.’ has been the case since the 1980s.

  4. One trick pony.

    • Alexander, bitterness just exudes from you. Chill.

      • Not bitter, not envious.

        A little embarrassed to live in Brighton Pavilion. I hope house prices aren’t affected…

  5. The evidence of the doorsteps is that next time a good number of LibDem voters will turn to the Greens.

    Meanwhile, the great unanswered question of the Brighton Pavilion campaign is: will Charlotte Vere be driving back to her real home in those heels or does she keep a pair of flat shoes beside the throtle?

    Throttle is perhaps what anybody risks if mentioning Pavilion to her for some while to come.

    • I am confused by the Lib Dems in Pavilion – as again their vote held up very well, (only down 2.2%). We now know that the Clegg factor came to nothing – so why did they stick with the Lib Dems now, and yet you think they will change to Green next time? Surely if they are considering Green as an option they would have done it this time – the Libs were never going win – so why not vote for change?

      • Canvassing, I did see a bounce for Lib Dems after the first leaders’ debate. More so among female voters, quite a few who said they hadn’t bothered voting for anyone in 2005. So I think there may have been a more complex shift in the Lib Dem vote, and the Nick Clegg effect is probably responsible for keeping them at 14%.

  6. I would expect that the Greens will continue with their ‘entryism’ approach, rather than going for national success – which they simply can’t resource. In 1989 they took 15% of the national vote in the Euro elections – at this general election they took 1%, slightly down overall since 2005. Nationally it is not really moving forward. By focussing almost exclusively on one seat they managed to show this as a triumph, compared to the BNP, who polled more votes, (1.9%) but are seen, quite rightly, as complete failures.

    Entryism worked in B+H, starting with Pete West, and the campaign to have just one Councillor – remember how he even managed to make sure his name was the first of the Green candidates in alphabetical order, despite starting with ‘W’. From then on it was a question of building a critical mass – and has been very successful.

    Unless the present discussions end with a committment to a PR referendum – I would see the Greens as trying to capture the other Brighton seats, and other targetted ones, rather than trying to build on their vote nationally. Taking the Council in 2011 may be doubled edged, as they will have the success, but also the responsibility for actually implementing policy. A general election in 2015 – four years into a Green administration, may not work well for them – but I expect we will be back at the polls well before then.

  7. Faust, like all parties, including Labour and the Lib Dems, the Greens target their resources where there is a potential for Green support. It is how politics is fought.

    “Entryism” is something else entirely. The Green strategy is target-to-win. Local candidates and local parties targetting one, two or three wards, building the vote there, establishing a presence on a council, then fight elsewhere based upon results from previous elections. I thought this was how most parties campaign at the local level.

    The Greens are not yet a “national” party because of the way the electoral system penalises voters. It attaches a specific value to someones vote and, for alot of people, their vote is not worth all that much given that the majority of seats are “safe” ones, hence why only 55% of people bothered to vote in Sunderland South, the first seat called on the night.

    More people can now be emboldened to vote Green. They know that even under FPTP they can vote Green and elect a Green. Brighton Pavilion voters have proven that. Ultimately, they are the real winners of electing Caroline Lucas.

  8. Luke:

    “the Greens target their resources where there is a potential for Green support”

    Fair enough. But when you lost deposits i.e. failed to get even 5% in anywhere but 6 out of the 300+ constituencies you stood in, it means there is very little potential for support. Yes, well done for Pavilion, but it took 37 years for your party to get its first MP. Will it take another 37 to get the next one?

    You got just over 5% in the other two Brighton constituencies (which returned Tory MPs, well done Greens!! Progressive politics FTW!!). But your two “target” seats, Norwich S and Lewisham D – you came 4th!!! 4th!!!!! Sorry Luke, that is pathetic. You can spin any excuses you like, but you cannot even begin to convince the voters in those constituencies that you are serious contenders in the next general election.

    “They know that even under FPTP they can vote Green and elect a Green.”

    Only if your entire national party is focused on that one constituency. Where is your next MP going to come from? Not either of those two places. Anywhere else? Nope, sorry, you failed to return deposits.

    Let’s face it, you bet the house on winning Pavilion; you won Pavilion, but you lost the house.

    Greens: a coalition of the losers

    • As you know, FPTP punishes all parties and voters. It skews the picture in many ways. We cannot take FPTP elections as any basis for a party’s real level of support.

      Take the Euro elections last year, the Greens polled 8.6% nationally, the Greens poll about 8.6% in London Assembly elections. That is roughly the level of the Greens “cote support”, the problem is, however, alot of Green voters are very intelligent and they often vote tactically because they know that the current system attaches a value to their vote.

      No one can use the results from Thursday night to translate into what would happen under PR. It can’t be done because people’s voting behaviour is different. Labour were telling people across the nation that theirs is the vote to keep out the Tories. The Greens did well to overcome that message in Norwich, Cambridge and, most importantly, in Brighton Pavilion.

      For everything else you said I have just one word…LOLZ.

      • You try to say you can’t make comparisons between elections, then you assume the next general election will be fought under a PR system.

        Bit of a silly, childish assumption, isn’t it, Luke Walter? It depends on the Tories agreeing to PR to form a Tory-LD coalition. It might happen but I highly doubt it.

        Even if it does happen, it will take years to redraw the boundaries, form the referendum. and put it to the people. In that time, there is likely to be another FPTP general election.

        And if it doesn’t happen, there will be another FPTP election very soon. Caroline will lose her seat. Your entire party’s success depends on negotiations between the Lib Dems and the Tories… LOLZ.

  9. Blanco, if you keep on like this then the council elections next year are going to be pretty sweet for the Greens.

    I suggest you go back to your local party, discuss what went wrong (over the past 13 years) and look to do something constructive rather than wasting your time doing this.

    Labour hasn’t gone long to sort themselves out. Either way, the Greens are going to come at you with everything we’ve got over the next year. I suggest you start thinking about how you’re going to defend your last remaining council seats in Brighton and Hove.

  10. Was that the “everything you’ve got” that saw your councillors in London almost wiped out, BNP-style? I am quaking in my boots.

    Look at my posts. I don’t support Labour or the Greens. Not really the Lib Dems for that matter. I just think the Greens are the false messiahs. They’ve got nowhere to go, nowhere to grow. You cannot answer the fact that if there is another FPTP election after the fall of a Tory minority/coalition government, Caroline Lucas will join the dole queue.

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