Our wonderful lead candidate did not win but The Green Party of England and Wales has beaten the Liberal Democrats into fourth place in the European elections for the first time. In pre-election polls, as we past them in popularity, you would have thought this would be massively news-worthy. Mainstream media, including the BBC implicitly undermined The Green Party through omission. Greens have been referred to anonymously as one of the “other” parties (where they have not been completely ignored) in the lead up to elections and in much reporting of results. This is undemocratic and offensively undermining, not only of the party, but of many of the voices of Britain and the democratic system itself. (The Guardian is the main exception to this criticism). The Greens were polling higher than we have for 25yrs. That shift was reported by most, not as a Green Party achievement, but as a failure of everyone else. These polls were reflected in results. We are now the official opposition in Liverpool, Norwich and Solihull. Brighton and Hove Council remain Green. We have Green voices in Labour councils of Islington and Lewisham. In the South West, where I grew up, there is celebration over another Green MEP being added to the indomitable two we already have.
The story in the news is the success of UKIP, but just as the success of The Greens has been underplayed, the success of UKIP is overplayed. A deeply worrying movement in public thinking but 90% of the electorate did not vote for them. Many did not vote at all and that, more than anything, helped them win the seats they did. The Greens didn’t win as many new seats as UKIP, but we did not field as many candidates. Nor have any of our candidates been suspended for extreme raciest, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and ablest comments as a growing number of UKIP candidates recently have. We are not funded by large corporations as UKIP is. 99% of the party is run by volunteers and we have less funds than other parties to paper the world with flyers so we focus on target wards. The more members and support we gain the more we are able to build on this; to field more candidates so that everyone who wants to can vote Green. If recent polls and social media trends are read correctly, a growing wave of people are voting Green and even more want to. In the north of the UK UKIP support thins out. In Manchester Greens came second in terms of the popular vote, with 21%. Yet parties with less of the popular vote gained seats and they did not. This is a strange aspect of our system meaning we have to fight even harder than mainstream, better funded parties to succeed. Yet we are truly in the game now, a rising voice of hope working against the rising voice of hate. It has never been more important to stand together.
Much damage may have been done by Russell Brand’s call to not vote. Many with preference to Green policies and disillusioned by mainsteam parties have not voted. However, on social media and in person I have heard many others say they voted Green for the first time. Many say it is the first time they ever voted. Others say it is the first time they voted for what they truly wanted. With the general elections only a year away this can only be the beginning of the surge. Hope has tenacity and strength and we have much to strive for and protect for the common good. We must strive against voter apathy, scapegoating and hopelessness and tell the world about our policies.
So what can we do now? Complaining to the BBC for its biased reporting of the elections is one thing we would very much suggest. Please see the petition against BBC news media blackout of The Green Party. What we can all also do is tell another story. There are parts of the country where Greens got a large percentage of the popular vote. There are parts of the country where we became official opposition. We held seats and gained seats, both in councils and the European Parliament. We did this in spite of media bias lumping us together in the category of ‘other parties’. We saw surges in the polls and on social media in spite of a mainstream media determined not to report positive stories. A party run by volunteers with policies so many want but fear they cannot have became a rising voice in this election.
My story, as social media bod for the East Midlands, is the over 24hrs in which #VoteGreen2014 was showing as one of four most popular hashtags on Twitter. At one point it appeared the second most popular hashtag. The other party people were talking about voting for was, unfortunately, UKIP. Occasionally Labour was also one of the popular discussion points. This means everyone seemed to be talking about voting either UKIP or Green. On Facebook, I saw people who once would have dismissed us sharing Green Party flyers and talking about our policies. I remember saying to my husband as he waved tea in front of my face while I continued my role in the growing team keeping Green seen, that this was democracy awakening. More people were not just voting for the usual suspects. Those voting in fear included those fearful of economic and job uncertainty. It is our combined job now to continue to convince people that Green Party is the party fighting austerity and for job creation and bank reform; measures that will protect them. We have to fight the wave of hatred and the excuses for bigotry. Humanity has been here before. The ugly fact is that hatred has won seats and the map has new shadows across it. The good news is that Greens are in a stronger position to strive for the common good. We need all hands on deck to build on this.
Find the Petition against BBC Blackout of Green Party in the Elections at:
Antonia Zenkevitch, MA Human Security