History of the Green Party of England and Wales

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The Green Party of England and Wales has its roots in the PEOPLE party started in Coventry in 1972/3 by four professional friends (Michael Benfield, Freda Sanders, Tony & Lesley Whittaker). It then changed its name to the more descriptive Ecology Party in 1975, to the Green Party ten years later. In the 1990s, the Scottish and Northern Ireland wings of the Green Party in the United Kingdom decided to separate amicably from the party in England and Wales, to form the Scottish Green Party and the Green Party in Northern Ireland. The Wales Green Party became an autonomous regional party and remained within the new Green Party of England and Wales.

1990 to 1997[edit]

In 1991 Green Party spokesman and TV sports presenter David Icke created considerable embarrassment for the Party when he revealed his extreme spiritual beliefs, announcing that he believed himself to be "a son of God", that Britain was about to suffer apocalyptic earthquakes and tidal waves and that Armageddon was approaching.[1] Many believe that he suffered from some form of mental illness that led to his espousal of such theories.[citation needed] He would subsequently be forced to leave the Party.[2]

Internal divisions over the direction of the party in the early 1990s also meant that the Green Party fell out of the limelight and failed to maintain its electoral momentum. In 1991, attempts to streamline the Party Constitution were proposed by a group called 'Green 2000', who wanted to 'modernise' the Party and make it into an organised electoral force that could become the ruling party in the UK by the year 2000. After the Green 2000 Constitution was adopted, a new Executive came into force to oversee the day-to-day business of the Party. Many Green 2000 members were elected to the new Executive in 1991 but, by 1992, only two remained, with the others resigning or being recalled and forced to quit. These internal constitutional wranglings, and negative public statements released by supporters of both Green 2000 and decentralists who ran the recall campaigns, seriously hampered preparations for the 1992 General Election, in which 253 Green candidates received 1.3% of the vote.[2] Sara Parkin and Jonathon Porritt left active involvement with the party, depriving it of two of its most charismatic and ambitious figures.

The early and mid-1990s were difficult for the Greens, because of Britain's first-past-the-post electoral system, the recession of 1992-3 and the squeeze caused by the rising popularity of New Labour. Nevertheless, the party gained a handful of local councillors in Stroud and Oxford.

In the 1992 General Election, Cynog Dafis was elected on a Plaid CymruWales Green Party ticket, gaining Ceredigion and Pembroke North from the Liberal Democrats. This made him the first Green representative in the House of Commons. The electoral agreement that enabled this broke down by 1995.

1997 to 2009[edit]

Caroline Lucas giving a keynote speech at the autumn conference of the Green Party of England and Wales, Hove, 2006

The election of a Labour government in 1997 paradoxically created new opportunities and focus for the Green Party. New democratic institutions were created that offered electoral possibilities for the Greens, such as the London Assembly, the National Assembly for Wales and – for the independent Scottish Green Party – the Scottish Parliament, all of which use some form of proportional representation, allowing smaller parties the chance of gaining representation. Labour also changed European Parliamentary elections to a form of proportional representation.

Combined with gradual council gains, the party quietly gained successes.

In the 1999 European elections, two Greens were elected Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): Caroline Lucas (South East England)[3] and Jean Lambert (London).[4] They retained their seats in the 2004 European elections, despite a reduction in number of seats available. Overall, the Party gained 1,033,093 votes in the 2004 European election.[5]

However the Greens did not manage to break through into other European electoral regions or the Welsh Assembly. Three Greens were elected to the first London Assembly.

The Green Party achieved its best ever UK General Election result to date in the 2005 General Election with a total of 281,780 votes, with Keith Taylor receiving 22% of the vote in Brighton Pavilion.

The Party had 116 local councillors after a gain of 5 councillors during the 2008 local elections. The Greens achieved significant representation on Brighton & Hove City Council, Lancaster City Council, Norwich, Lewisham, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Kirklees Council and Stroud District Council. The Green Party were the official opposition on Norwich City Council; they formed part of the ruling coalition that controlled Lancaster City Council alongside the Liberal Democrats and Labour, and shared control of Castle Morpeth Council as part of an all party administration.

In this period, the Green Party of England and Wales had representation in the House of Lords, the (unelected) upper chamber of Parliament: in the person of Lord Beaumont of Whitley,[5] who died in 2008.

According to MORI in 2010, Green issues were rated as importantly as during the Green Party's previous high point in the late 1980s.[6]

The party held its first ever leadership election in September 2008: Caroline Lucas was elected to the position of Leader, and Adrian Ramsay to the position of Deputy Leader.

Since 2010[edit]

The Green Party fielded more than 300 candidates for the 2010 general election.[7] Party leader Caroline Lucas became the first Green candidate to gain a seat in Westminster, after being elected MP for Brighton Pavilion by a margin of 1,252 votes.[8] The following week 600 new members had joined the Green Party bringing total membership to over 11,000. In previous years 600 new members was high for a whole year.

In May 2014, Molly Scott Cato became the party's third MEP.

Psephological data[edit]

date (E = European) England and Wales Scotland N. Ireland (E = 1st pref.) UK total Note
1974-02 4,576 as PEOPLE
1974-10 1,996 as PEOPLE
1979E 17,953 as Ecology Party
1979 39,918 as Ecology Party
1983 54,299 as Ecology Party
1984E 70,853 as Ecology Party
1987 89,753 as The Green Party
1989E 2,292,705 15% of the vote, but no MEPs elected
1992 170,037
1994E 494,561
1997 61,731 1,721 539 63,991
1999E 625,378 First two MEPs elected
2001 166,477
2004E 1,033,093 79,695 4,810 1,117,598
2005 257,695 25,760 283,455
2009E 1,223,303 80,442 15,764 1,319,509
2010 265,817 16,827 3,542 285,616 First MP, Caroline Lucas, elected

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ronson, Jon. "David Icke, the Lizards, and the Jews" (video), Channel 4 Television, retrieved May 22, 2006
  2. ^ a b Wall, Derek, Weaving a Bower Against Endless Night: An Illustrated History of the Green Party, 1994
  3. ^ "Dr. Caroline Lucas MEP's Website". Carolinelucasmep.org.uk. Retrieved 2010-11-28. 
  4. ^ "Jean Lambert MEP's Website". Jeanlambertmep.org.uk. 2010-11-24. Retrieved 2010-11-28. 
  5. ^ a b "Green Party Website". Greenparty.org.uk. Retrieved 2010-11-28. 
  6. ^ MORI Polling Trends data[dead link]
  7. ^ "Election 2010: Green Party are 'hopeful for win'". BBC News. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  8. ^ "Election 2010 - Constituency - Brighton Pavilion". BBC News. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2010.