A greener Britain: Politics would benefit from a stronger Green presence


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Britain’s only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, believes that her party is in spitting distance of replacing the Liberal Democrats as the main rival to Labour for the centre-left vote after the next election. At first sight this seems like a tall order. The Lib Dems have 56 seats, while Ms Lucas has bohemian Brighton. Besides that, unlike the Greens the Lib Dems are heirs to a deeply rooted political tradition  as the party of Gladstone, Lloyd George, Keynes, Beveridge and a host of other greats. Still, Ms Lucas may be on to something. The Lib Dem vote is collapsing, as demonstrated by the by-election in Rochester, where the Lib Dem candidate polled less than 1 per cent. The Greens are on a roll and their membership is growing.

For the Lib Dems, much depends on the success in the election of their “fortress” strategy, which centres on concentrating resources on the defence of the party’s strongholds. It worked in Eastleigh last March, where voters stayed loyal to the party in spite of the damage inflicted by the Chris Huhne’s messy departure. Some weaker Lib Dem fortresses are bound to crumble in 2015. In 26 of their 56 seats, Lib Dem MPs sit on majorities below 5,000 votes and in some of these weak points, like Norwich South, where the Lib Dems won by just over 300 votes, the Greens have a chance.

Many of the other seats are more likely to be carved up by Labour or the Tories. A Lib Dem rout – if it happens – won’t just benefit the Greens. Others will feast on the corpse.

It would be good if the Greens did pick up more seats in 2015, however. At the moment, Ukip is benefiting most from the collapse of old political allegiances and from an excitable sense that, in politics, suddenly anything is possible. But why should political insurgents on the right make all the running? The time is right for a principled, insurgent party of the left, too – and the Greens fit that bill admirably.