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Thu, 18 July 2024

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By Ben Guerin
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Green Shoots: How the Green Party made gains in 2024

The four new Green Party MPs outside Westminster (Credit: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

5 min read

The Green Party now has four MPs in Parliament – its highest number ever. Sophie Church explores the party’s grassroots campaign and the problems it may experience in Westminster

At the start of this election campaign, the Green Party poured resources into winning four target seats: Bristol Central, Brighton Pavilion, Waveney Valley, and North Herefordshire. When the polls closed, it had won all four, beating its record number of votes by more than 700,000.

Quadrupling seats in Westminster was the product of a meticulously planned campaign kicking off in 2021, when constituencies with a high number of Green councillors and a strong activist presence were pinpointed as targets. 

These seats were also areas where voters were looking for an alternative to the major parties. In Waveney Valley, for instance, the Greens gained the support of traditional Conservative voters turned sour by the former government’s record on sewage pollution. In Bristol Central, co-leader Carla Denyer swept up the votes of those dismayed at Keir Starmer’s stance on Gaza.

Opponents and “armchair pundits” scorned the Greens for thinking they could scale their local election wins nationally, says a former campaign manager in one of these seats. But from door-knocking, they said they knew “there was just as much enthusiasm to vote for a Green MP as there has been to vote for Green councillors”.  

“It’s taken a long time for people who think that MRPs are going to tell them everything they need to know about what’s going to happen politically. We’ve been under the radar in many ways,” says a new Green MP, who had seen winning seats “blanketed in bright green signs” in the run-up to the election. 

While the major parties benefitted from donations by business leaders, the Greens’ campaign was largely financed by members’ crowdfunding efforts. 

This enabled them to deliver up to five pieces of literature through each door in target constituencies. So great a focus was put on leafletting that one Green Party member told The House they feared the party would break spending limits.  

Unlike other parties, the Greens had a highly regionalised approach to campaign management where, apart from each seat’s campaign manager having weekly check-ins with head of elections, Chris Williams, they were otherwise left to their own devices. 

“The Green Party is very decentralised. The way it tends to work, a lot of the actual detailed on-the-ground logistics, working out what to do and how to do it, was done by us locally,” says the former campaign manager. “Parties like Labour – everything’s controlled by head office.”

This left Williams, a Green Party councillor for 12 years, free to “see how much he could learn from looking at other campaigns”, says an HQ source. “He’s always open to ideas.”

“We’ve been planning for this general election more than we ever have for any general election,” says a source central to the Greens’ campaign. A year ago, this saw the Greens coming together to run a simulation of the campaign, “trying to anticipate difficult scenarios or things that might come up, short notice, just so that we have that muscle memory”.

However, the Green Party was thrown some “difficult scenarios” early into the campaign – when the party was forced to block four candidates from standing over reports of antisemitism. 

“Checks on some candidates were done very last-minute,” says the same source. “So some candidates were withdrawn at the last minute – that’s not ideal. We’d like to not have to have those last-minute situations next time.”

Green Party leaders (Credit: Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo)
Green Party leaders (Credit: Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo)

 

The Green Party also faced scrutiny over its expulsion of members expressing gender critical views. 

Green members tell The House their co-leaders are particularly divided on issues of gender, claiming Denyer is more supportive of trans activists while Adrian Ramsay is said to be more supportive of the Cass Review, which criticised the lack of evidence to support the use of puberty blockers and other medical interventions for children.

With the Green Party having no whipping system, this could lead to problems in Westminster. 

“We’ve got two [MPs] in Tory-facing constituencies, then two in Brighton and Bristol who are in woke-facing constituencies,” one Green member says. 

“We will start to have to be a grown-up political party, where we have to say: ‘If there’s a difference of opinion on the Cass Review, how do we come out with what we think is policy for a grown-up party in the 21st century?’”

Green MPs will be “working their socks off” to push Starmer to be “bolder, better and braver” as they take up their positions in Westminster. This starts with three priorities: renewing the economy, repairing the NHS, and restoring rivers. 

In the Lords, a Green peer says the party will be bringing the climate crisis into debates, while following through on the Clean Air Bill. They will also be setting out measures to reduce the inequality gap.

With four seats in Westminster, and 40 second-place results, the source, who is central to the Greens’ campaign, says the party is “set up really well for next time around”. 

The Greens are now concentrating on scaling up.  “When you’re targeting four constituencies, it’s quite a manageable number,” the source says. “But if you’re targeting a much bigger number – a double figure number – then a little bit more centralised co-ordination may well come in useful.” 

Within the next year, the party is aiming to “run a weekend” where they “invite local parties that are interested in partnering with a central party and becoming a target seat”. 

For the time being, the Green Party are revelling in their across-the-board victory. “I’ve just been overwhelmed with messages saying how much people really feel a sense of hope from the fact that we’ve managed to win this,” says a new Green MP. “I’m just delighted, absolutely delighted, by that sense of possibility.” 

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