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UK Green vote quadruples, Tories win with 37% in “broken” two-party system

p caroline lucasIn the United Kingdom’s May 7 2015 parliamentary election, the UK Greens quadrupled their national vote from 265,000 in 2010 to 1,140,000 (4%) in 2015.

Despite this huge increase in votes, the Greens held steady at one seat in parliament, coming in second in four other races. Former party leader Caroline Lucas not only retained her seat in Brighton Pavilion, but saw her margin of victory over Labour quadruple to 15% (42% to 27%).

Party leader Natalie Bennett told the Independent, “The fact that we have achieved over one million votes yet not been rewarded with more MPs draws into sharp focus just how unfair and outdated our winner-takes-all voting system is. The fight for a fairer, more democratic voting system – one which recognises the will of the people rather than entrenches the established order – begins today.”

From The Guardian: ‘”Lucas was swift to point to what she said were the failings of a “broken” electoral system, one that handed her party just one seat for its million votes. She said: “It is only proportional representation that will deliver a parliament that is truly legitimate, and that better reflects the people we represent.”’

The Conservative (Tory) party won 51% of seats in parliament, despite winning a weak plurality of 37% of the national vote. The election was a disaster for the UK’s other main parties, with the leaders of Labour and the Liberal Democrats resigning, and the UK Independence Party leader losing his seat.

Conversely, the Green Party grew from about 12,000 members to about 63,000 in the months leading up to the election, surpassing the Liberal Democrats and UKIP and signaling the party’s rise as a national force.

Highlighting the national frustration with the UK’s obsolete two-party system, dozens of world-reknowned Britons signed a letter supporting Caroline Lucas’ reelection campaign, including “Planet Earth” narrator David Attenborough, folk singer Billy Bragg, UN peace messenger Jane Goodall, actor Jeremy Irons, human rights advocate Bianca Jagger, former Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper, Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May, and Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke.

The letter reads, in part: “Over the last five years Caroline has eloquently addressed many of today’s most pressing issues – from accelerating climate change to sustainable farming, from human rights to a just and sustainable economy. This leadership matters all the more at a time when the mainstream parties are finding it so hard to address these challenges properly.”

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UK Greens win historic first seat in parliament

Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, won a hotly-contested race in Brighton Pavilion to become the Greens’ first-ever member of parliament. Lucas thanked supporters for “putting the politics of hope above the politics of fear.” In the election at large, Labour and the Liberal Democrats lost seats while the Conservatives gained; however, the Conservatives failed to win a majority, making it possible that Labour and the Liberal Democrats will form a governing coalition.

In the second constituency targeted by the Greens, Norwich South, Adrian Ramsay came in fourth despite doubling the Green vote from 2005 to 14.9%. Despite the loss, Greens pointed to recent local victories as evidence that they’re on track to take power in Norwich by 2011, which would mark another first for the party. In the third targeted seat, Lewisham Deptford, Darren Johnson took 11.1%, and Tony Juniper managed 7.6% in Cambridge.

At The Guardian, George Monbiot commented on Lucas’ election to parliament:

It’s a massive breakthrough, not only because she’s a brilliant, charismatic, humane politican who will enrich parliamentary life, but also because it proves it can be done, even under our antiquated political system.

Unlike many European countries that elect their parliaments using proportional representation, UK elections use first-past-the-post voting, contributing to electoral chaos. From The Guardian’s live election coverage:

A hung parliament is virtually inevitable. With more than 500 seats counted, the BBC is predicting that the Conservatives will end up with 306 seats, Labour 262 seats and the Lib Dems 55 seats [325 seats are needed for a majority]. The Conservatives are currently on 37% of the vote, Labour on 28% and the Lib Dems on 23%.

The Guardian reports that the Liberal Democrats may demand a switch to proportional representation as a condition for supporting one of the larger parties in coalition. The Greens, who won 8.7% of the vote in last year’s European elections, also support proportional representation.

After learning of her historic victory, Caroline Lucas gave the following statement:

“The emphatic support of voters in Brighton Pavilion show that they do want to support a party whose values represent fairness, social justice and environmental well-being. They have shown that they are prepared to put their trust in the Greens, despite the overwhelming national media focus on the three largest parties and a voting system that is fundamentally undemocratic. I feel humbled by their trust in me, and I am excited by this vote of confidence and I’m looking forward to the challenging task of fully representing the voters of Brighton.

“This victory is no accident: it is the result of the hard work and commitment of thousands of Green Party members and supporters not only in Brighton but from right across the country over the past months and years. It is their work and support that has helped deliver this win, and the victory is as much theirs as it is mine.

“Thanks to the confidence that the voters of Brighton Pavilion have shown, Green principles and policies will now have a voice in Parliament. Policies such as responding to climate change with a million new ‘green’ jobs in low-carbon industries, fair pensions and care for older people, and stronger regulation of the banks will be heard in the House of Commons. I will also use my influence as an MP in the city of Brighton & Hove to push for affordable housing for the city, a new secondary school for the city, and greater backing for the city’s creative industries.

“Finally, as this election shows, the first-past-the post voting system used for general elections is utterly discredited. I will be strongly backing calls for a referendum to replace it with a form of proportional representation that properly reflects the needs and views of 21st century voters. If a form of proportional representation is introduced, the Green Party is confident that its true level of support nationally can be represented properly.”

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Green Party policies most popular in massive UK online poll

With the United Kingdom set to elect a new parliament on May 6th, the UK Green Party has something to be encouraged about: Green Party policies are the most popular of the six largest British parties in an online survey that matches respondents’ views to party platforms. Currently, Green policies have 25% support from over 224,000 respondents at Vote For Policies.

The UK Green Party is aiming to win its first seat in parliament this year. Caroline Lucas, the party’s leader and member of European parliament, is favored to win in Brighton Pavilion. Adrian Ramsay in Norwich South and Darren Johnson in Lewisham Deptford are also considered to be in the running for parliamentary seats. Tony Juniper in Cambridge has also climbed in recent polls.

Unlike many other European countries, the United Kingdom doesn’t have proportional representation. Rather, members of parliament are elected using first-past-the-post, the same system used for the US Congress (although the UK doesn’t suffer from anti-competitive ballot access laws of the kind that plague the US). There are hopes that this may change if neither of the traditional two big parties, the Conservatives and Labour, wins a majority in parliament. The Liberal Democrats, Britain’s third largest party, have a chance to make up the balance of power, and they may demand a switch to proportional representation as a condition of their support for a coalition government.

Best of luck to the UK Greens from your mates across the pond!

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Radiohead’s Thom Yorke debuts new tracks at Green Party benefit gig

Thom Yorke, lead singer of Radiohead, recently performed at a benefit concert for Tony Juniper, a UK Green Party candidate for parliament. Yorke, who traveled with Juniper to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, said he was “sick of politicians not talking about the environment” and wanted a voice in parliament for environmental issues. You can read more about the gig at NME news, and watch videos of three new tracks Yorke debuted at the show at Stereogum.

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Radiohead’s Thom Yorke to play Green Party benefit in UK

From Pitchfork:

On Radiohead‘s Dead Air Space site, frontman Thom Yorke announced today that he’ll play a “low key solo thing” at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in Cambridge, England on February 25. The show will serve as a benefit for the Green Party, and Yorke is playing it because he’s supporting environmentalist friend Tony Juniper in his campaign for a seat in the British Parliament. Juniper recently accompanied Yorke to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. Continue Reading