Category Archives: Politics

What is a ‘major political party’? Greens to overtake UKIP in membership size

leaders
It is expected that in the coming weeks the Green Party will become the fifth largest political party in the UK by overtaking UKIP in terms of membership.

According to new figures collected by Adam Ramsay at Open Democracy, the Green Party are now just a few hundred members short of UKIP and a few thousand short of the Liberal Democrats.

Labour  190,000
Tory  149,800
SNP 92,000
Lib Dems 44,576
UKIP 41,514
Greens 40,879
Plaid  8000
BNP  500

This latest twist in membership size will only add weight to those who are calling for the Green Party to be included in the TV leaders debates. What would constitute a ‘major party’ (what Ofcom deems them not to be) if it is not more members than UKIP, beating Lib Dems in some polls and getting more votes and MEPs than the Lib Dems in May’s European Elections?

Of course, the political elephant in this very Westminster room is the SNP that currently have roughly double the membership of the Lib Dems and are being tipped by some to wipe out Labour in Scotland.

Are the SNP not a ‘major party’ in UK politics?

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The time is now for young people to revolutionize British politics

The Green Party of England and Wales have huge support among young voters. The problem for the Greens is that it is traditionally these young voters who do not make it to the ballot box.

YouGov

22% of 18-24 year old voters recently told YouGov that they plan to vote for the Greens. That is the same figure as those who intend to vote Tory, 50% more than those who intend to vote UKIP and more than four times those who plan to vote Lib Dem.

The obvious problem for the Green Party is that these voters, who they are so popular among, are also traditionally the ones who fail to make it to the ballot box on polling day.

Indeed in the 2010 General Election less than half of young voters eligible to vote took up the opportunity. One poll suggested that 60% of the UK’s 3.3 million first time voters in 2105 will not vote.

In contrast, about 70% of over 65s will vote.

If young people voted in similar proportions to the older generations our political landscape would look very different to the tired two-party-politics we see today.

The fact that young people don’t vote in large numbers is depressing not just for Green Party activists but also for our democracy in general.

From this I take a simple message. If you are looking for a pragmatic, realistic and effective way of revolutionizing how we do politics in the UK, you could find worse ideas than supporting initiatives that encourage youth engagement.

There are various movements and campaigns around but the one that seems to making the difference this time around is ‘Bite the Ballot‘. They have done an online Q and A with each of the party leaders (you can watch them here), placed young people in the heart of our local government, and pushed for wide-spread voter registration.

In short, I think they are doing important work at an important time.

If you want, you can follow ‘Bite the Ballot’ on twitter by clicking here. You can also donate to their work by clicking here.

Supporting initiatives like these should draw cross-party support. Greens and Labour might have the most to gain tactically from better democratic engagement with young people, but ultimately we will all benefit from a healthier democracy.

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Tell Cameron and Obama to let Shaker Aamer home to his family

Shaker AI
If you, the wonderful reader of Hynd’s Blog, have a spare 30 seconds I would urge you to support an issue close to my heart. Click here to sign the Amnesty International petition calling for the release or trial of Shaker Aamer, the one remaining British resident in Guantanamo Bay.

The petition simply calls for Obama and Cameron to:

  • Secure the release of Shaker Aamer and return him to the UK without delay, if he is not to be charged and brought to fair trial
  • Give Shaker Aamer immediate and regular access to independent medical assessments and care
  • Immediately investigate all allegations that Shaker Aamer has been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment and ensure that anyone found responsible is brought to justice

I, alongside 12,860 people have already signed this petition. Please join us. Then please do also encourage friends and family to do the same.

Together we can raise a voice loud enough that will force the authorities to listen.

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Awesome cartoon column from Cheltenham MP, Martin Horwood

A hat tip to Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood and the local rag The Echo for publishing this cartoon column in light of the attacks in Paris last week.

Jan2015_MartinHorwood_JesuisCharlie 1
Jan2015_MartinHorwood_JesuisCharlie2

 

Nice to see a MP thinking creatively about how to communicate important messages around freedom of speech and thought

 

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Green Party Deputy Leader to take on Labour Party Deputy Leader at General Election

Amelia Womack

In a small quirky twist of British politics the Green Party today announced that their Deputy Leader, Amelia Womack, will be standing at the General Election in Camberwell and Peckham against Labour’s Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman.

Womack, who previously unsuccessfully stood to become a MEP and local cllr, was elected Deputy Leader last September. She holds a BSc in Environmental Biology and an MSc in Environmental Technology.

Harman was elected MP for Camberwell and Peckham in 2010 with a huge 59.2% of the vote. The Greens stood the high profile London AM Jenny Jones in 2010 and received just 2.9% of the vote.

Although unlikely to win, or even stop Harriet Harman from being returned to parliament, Womack might well preside over a significant increase in the Green vote in the constituency as large amounts of the 22.4% of Lib Dem votes will be up for grabs.

The challenge for Labour will be to pick up enough of the former Lib Dem votes to stop a significant rise in the Green support that might place them as an awkward and credible threat for future elections.

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Labour lead but support dropping as Greens continue to grow

The Labour Party Hold Their Annual Party Conference - Day 5

Ed Miliband has every reason to be looking glum as despite seeing Labour leading in the polls he has hit an all time low in personal ratings and his party has dropped support throughout 2014. 

To support their latest polling, YouGov have produced this neat little chart that tracks voting intention over the last three months.

3 month voting intention
Some in the Labour Party have got all excited that, despite those embarrassing glitches in December, this poll shows them ahead of Conservatives. The Green Party are also delighted that, once again, this poll shows them ahead of the Lib Dems.

The problem for the Labour Party though is illustrated in this other YouGov chart which looks further back at voting intentions across 2014.

voting intention 2014

Here we can see the long-term trend of Labour support dropping throughout 2014.

What is equally interesting is how this drop in support for Labour correlates with Miliband hitting an all time low with his popularity ratings. Is Labour’s drop in the polls a reflection of Miliband’s all time unpopularity, or vice-versa? A chicken and egg question.

Miliband

And so the question remains – where are these Labour supporters from the early coalition years going? And thus we move onto the relative growth of the Greens.

YouGov paints a nice picture of Green Party support consistently growing through 2014 which resulted in YouGov proclaiming ‘Greens ahead of Lib Dems in longer trend‘ in an article in December 2014.

While Greens are only picking up about about 4% of the 2010 Labour vote two additional points have to be made:

1) Labour dropping another 4% from their 2010 low point to the Greens is significant.
2) Labour, in the last year, have continued to drop in popularity when, while in opposition, they should be riding high on anti-government sentiment – they are not.

Before Green readers get too excited though it is worth pointing out that this growth in support is unlikely to result in any additional seats. In Norwich South (feasibly the Green’s second target) a Lord Ashcroft poll showed them doing well but considerably behind Labour.

As with many seats, the battle to pick up former Lib Dem voters between the Greens and Labour may well prove crucial.

The General Election in 2015 will bring more of the same in terms of overall outcome but it might, just might, also go down in history as the start of the breakdown of two party politics.

 

 

 

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David Drew still on odds on favourite to win back Stroud seat

ladbrokesDavid Drew, the former MP for Stroud and Labour Party candidate for 2015, is still odds on favourite to win back the Stroud marginal seat according to new odds tweeted by Ladbrokes.

This shows no real significant change since February last year when Hynd’s Blog reported that Ladbrooks had Drew at 4/9 to win back his old seat.

If you were interested in an outside bet though, Ladbrokes are now giving odds for the Green Party at 50/1.

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Take rosettes out of politics to help resuscitate democracy

rosette_1628747c

This is not a radical cry for the removal of political parties from our decision making mechanism. Far from it. This is merely a cry to those tiny number of people on the insides of national and local parties. Please, for the love of Hynd’s Blog, take off those ridiculous rosettes.

They are a symbol of one of the strongest held perceptions in politics and that is that politicians cannot be trusted. If you want to be listened to – start by taking off your rosettes.

For a long-time now I have encouraged any candidate of any political party to take off their rosette. This normally occurs when they are about to go infringing on people’s personal space and time by ‘door knocking’.

I do this not because their particular flavour of political party might be unpopular than but because politics per se is.

Or, to be more accurate, politicians are.

By wearing a rosette politicians shoot themselves in the foot on the first step they hope to take on their journey of democratic representation.

At the crux of my argument is the assertion that if you want a constituent to talk to you, let alone trust or vote for you, then you need to give yourself a fighting chance in the first few seconds on the doorstep. This is unlikely to happen if you were a badge that basically says, ‘Watch out, I’m a politician.’

As much as you might honestly believe that you are different to all the others, or your party is not like those overs, most people don’t share these subtleties. They see you – a politician – as untrustworthy.

New polling from IPSOS-Mori out today highlights how deeply rooted this mistrust of politicians is. Just 16% of respondents said they would trust a politician to tell the truth. This is an opinion as old as IPSOS-Mori’s polling.

IPSOS Mori
In other words, even if you got a constituent to listen to you, about 84% of constituents wouldn’t trust what you have to say. This is more than bankers…a profession not known at the moment for their commitment to honesty.

This might seem like a trivial point but it is one of the pebbles on the starting line of democracy that is tripping up genuine interaction and engagement.

It’s axiomatic that the removal of the rosette is only the first step to rebuilding trust. The long road ahead in our efforts to resuscitate democracy involves strange concepts like keeping promises and working hard to represent constituents needs.

But that is for tomorrow. Today, still with 4 months left until the election, I beg and implore candidates and sitting MPs, MEPs and Cllrs alike – get rid of those ridiculous rosette.

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Green Party to hold Brighton Pavilion in 2015 General Election

Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas

Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas

According to the latest Lord Ashcroft polling of marginal constituencies across the UK, the Green Party are set to hold onto their only current seat, Brighton Pavilion.

The polling puts the Green Party ten points ahead of Labour (38 to Labour’s 28%).

Both parties see the Brighton Pavilion seat as their number one target for the South East of England.

Significantly the polling finds the Green Party picking up a huge 44% of 2010 Lib Dem voters. Labour in contrast picks up just 21% (with the Lib Dems picking up just 13%). This is opposite of the national picture which sees Labour picking up roughly double the Green Party of former Lib Dem voters.

Equally, the polling suggests Labour have been unable to plug the hole that saw so many former Labour voters turn to the Green Party in Brighton. The polling found that 27% of 2010 Labour voters were planning on backing the Greens. This is compared to about 4% nationally suggesting that either the Greens/Labour are doing something locally that is swaying voters and/or that Labour voters do switch to the Greens when they think the Greens have a chance of winning.

Labour however, to their credit, do appear to be matching the Greens in their campaigning efforts with about 1 in 4 of those polled saying that had heard from Greens and/or Labour in recent weeks.

It will be a bitterly battled fight but at the moment it looks like the Greens are on course to return their only MP, Caroline Lucas.

Read more on the marginal polling here.

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Greens ahead of Lib Dems in 3 YouGov polls in a row

YouGov

 

The Green Party are, for the first time, consistently ahead of the Liberal Democrats in YouGov polling.

The Green Party have in the past been level pegging or just beating the Liberal Democrats. But as I wrote before, it would be disingenuous to suggest that ‘Greens are ahead of the Lib Dems’ in the polls in general.

In the most recent three pollings for YouGov however the Greens have finished ahead of the Lib Dems on each occasion (see data set 1, 2, and 3).

It is interesting to note that in these last three polls, the Green Party are picking up an average of 18% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010. In other words, just under one in five former Lib Dem voters are now planning on voting Green.

This will have a huge impact on Labour (who themselves are losing 4% of their 2010 vote to the Greens) who are relying on the exodus from the Lib Dems to bolster their stuttering performance in the polls.

It is important to note however that this is just one polling company – when we look at the average across different companies we can see the Lib Dems maintaining a lead of 2% over the Greens (see UK polling report).

That said, this is yet another milestone on a ‘Green surge’ that is increasingly becoming hard for the political establishment to ignore.

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One graph that shows young people’s support for the Green Party

YouGov have released this fascinating graph showing the marked increase in support for the Green Party among 18-24 year old voters.

Greensurge

Currently on an average of 19% with young voters the Green Party have seen their support grow from an average of 7% in January 2014 – a 12% increase in less than a year.

This rise is mirrored in the ‘Young Greens’ (the youth wing of the main party) rise in membership which doubled between January and October 2014.

In university cities that double up as key marginal seats this will be crucial come May 2015.

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The true size of political party membership

The Independent has published three charts that they claimed showed why British politics is so interesting at the moment (how very Buzzfeed).

One of the charts was this one showing the political party memberships:

party memberships 1
It is noteworthy that the SNP, a party attracting most of its support from Scotland – with a population of less than 6 million are towering above the Lib Dems and UKIP combined! Impressive.

Equally it is worth noting that the figure quoted here for the Green Party is that of just the Green Party of England and Wales. If you added the membership of the Scottish Green Party and the Green Party of Northern Ireland the chart would look something close to this:

party membershipsThis makes the Green Party membership comparable to that of UKIP. The Green’s membership however is growing about three times as fast in 2014 than UKIP suggesting that these positions will soon be reversed.

Read more on party political membership here.

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Green Party membership doubles in less than a year

Green.
The Green Party of England and Wales has today announced that it’s membership is up 100% since January 1st 2014.

The membership of the Green Party now stands at 27,618 with over 500 new members joining last weekend alone.

This combined with consistently high recent polling makes Hynd’s Blog wonders what Sadiq Khan has to say about this….

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Boris u-turns on car free Sundays

Boris
The papers are today splashing the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson’s, new found support for the idea of a car free Sunday in London.

The Independent reports:

“speaking on a visit to Indonesia the Mayor of London said he was in favour of copying a scheme in Jakarta where areas of the capital have been closed to traffic from 6am every Sunday. “I was blown away by the popularity of the car-free Sunday here,” he said. “I will certainly be asking Transport for London to dust down [their] old ideas and have a look.”

Curious that Johnson was so blown away by the scheme in Jakarta in 2014 and so unimpressed with a comparable Colombian scheme that Green Assembly Member Jenny Jones asked him about in 2010.

In 2010 Jenny Jones asked the mayor:

“Will you consider replicating in London the hugely popular Colombian scheme whereby many city roads are closed to motor vehicles on Sundays and public holidays from 7am – 2pm?”

The Mayor, just 4 years ago, responded:

“Widespread restrictions may not be as viable in London compared to Bogotá. However, TfL is investigating options for single or localised street closures that may potentially help achieve a cycling revolution and increase walking, whilst maintaining the movement of people and goods.”

In short, he said, probably not.

What made him change his mind?

Hynd’s Blog hopes it is not something as simple as crass populism in light of his parliamentary ambitions…

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Stroud MP tables question on British resident still held in Guantanamo Bay

Stroud MP, Neil Carmichael, has tabled a written question to the FCO about British resident, Shaker Aamer, who is still being held in Guantanamo Bay without charge or trial. In light of this (and previous interactions with him which you can read here), this is a copy of my latest letter to him on the subject. 

Dear Neil,

Thank you for taking action on Shaker Aamer’s case. It is important that those within the FCO are regularly made aware that voters, including your constituents, have not forgotten about Shaker Aamer and that also we are not prepared to witness inaction from our own government and elected representatives on this issue.

I note however 2 things from the question you submitted and Mr Ellwood’s eloquent response:

  • Mr Ellwood did not really answer your question. You, very clearly, asked ‘what assurances he has had from the US administration about the (a) treatment of remaining prisoners at Guantánamo Bay (b) efforts to seek the release of Shaker Aamer‘ to which the Minister replied that the UK government ‘continue[s] to seek assurances regarding Mr Aamer’s health and welfare…‘I note that ‘continue[s] to seek’ dodges your direct question around what existing assurances the UK government has on Mr Aamer’s health and chances of release or trial. As such, I request, that you write in person back to Mr Ellwood asking him to clarify what current assurances the UK government has regarding Mr Aamer’s health and his potential release or trial as well as highlighting your concern about reports of his ill treatment and deteriorating health.
  • Secondly I note that although your question was important it was not specifically what I asked you to ask. I originally asked you to:’…write to the Foreign Secretary outlining that your constituents will not settle for anything short of an agreed and fixed timeline for either the trial or release of Shaker Aamer.’

    As such, in addition to the existing point in the letter you will be hopefully writing to Mr Ellwood, I ask you to reiterate that your constituent, upon whose behalf you are writing, will not settle for anything short of an agreed and fixed timeline for either the trial or release of Shaker Aamer. 

Lastly, I note that I have not heard back from you regarding my original request that you:

‘…make urgent representations for a full debate in the House of Commons for the release and return of British resident Shaker Aamer to the UK in accordance with the e-petition process.’

As such, I humbly request you use your position in the HoC to make representations for a full debate. If this is not possible I ask simply for an explanation as to why it is not possible or desirable in the current circumstances.

I hope you do not feel pestered by these on-going chains of communications and requests for actions – that is not my intention. I hope instead that you feel the enormity of the challenge that we face in securing the trial or release of British resident Shaker Aamer and the evident importance of ruffling some feathers to secure this.

In addition I am still awaiting an explanation or apology to the apparent plagiarism that you undertook in your initial response to me about Shaker’s case. How is it that Sajid Javid’s constituent received an identical letter to the one I received purportedly from you? The good people of Stroud elected you Neil, not the Tory Whip’s Office. When we write to you, we want to hear your thoughts on the subject not those of the Whip’s Office – is that too much to ask for?

As always, I look forward to your response by email.

Best,

Steve Hynd

This is a copy of the tabled question and the answer provided by the FCO:

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assurances he has had from the US administration about the (a) treatment of remaining prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and (b) efforts to seek the release of Shaker Aamer. (215169)

Tabled on: 19 November 2014

Answer:
Mr Tobias Ellwood:

With the exception of those relating to Shaker Aamer, the British Government receives no specific assurances from the US administration about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, as no British nationals remain among them. However, whilst Shaker Aamer is not a British national, his connections to the UK mean that he remains a high priority for the British Government. We continue to seek assurances regarding Mr Aamer’s health and welfare through our engagement with the US authorities, and we continue to make clear to the US that we want him released and returned to the UK as a matter of urgency.

The answer was submitted on 25 Nov 2014 at 14:43.

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Read Stroud MP’s copy and pasted response to constituents concerns

As British resident Shaker Aamer remains being held, without charge or trial, in Guantanamo Bay I decided to do what I could to increase the pressure on the US authorities to ensure his release.

In a personal plea to my local Conservative MP Neil Carmichael I wrote:

“At this point I ask for your empathy to spur action – imagine that this was your own father or brother being held without reason in such barbaric conditions and then remember that you have the power to bring about change on this issue!

The status quo will remain so only for as long as we collectively remain silent. I am asking you to speak out, loudly and with passion.”

Just under two weeks later I received a response from his office saying:

“I share your concern about Mr Aamer’s continued detention in Guantanamo”

It went on to assure me that:

“Securing Mr Aamer’s release is a high priority for the Government and I understand that it has been using all diplomatic channels available to communicate this.”  

I wrote back naively thinking that these words were at best his own genuine heartfelt views but that at worst, they might be those of his caseworker who would be employed to write such responses on his behalf.

Sadly not, they appear to not even be his caseworker’s words.

Today someone on twitter shared with me this response to their letter to their own local Conservative MP, Sajid Javid.

Javid Aamer letter
A word for word match to the response Neil Carmichael sent to me.

Now I personally find this insulting and misleading. I would have been disappointed to receive a cut and paste response if it had been made clear it was such, but to try and pretend it represents some original thoughts on the subject is, in my mind, reprehensible.

If I had wanted the views of the whips office I would have asked my MP to relay to me the views of the whips office. I didn’t. I waned his own views on the continued barbaric incarceration of a British resident in Guantanamo Bay.

To respond to a matter of, quite literally life and death, in such a glib institutional way is a damning reflection on the seriousness in which he takes his job. Following up and acting on the concerns of constituents is one of the cornerstones of being a MP.

On this occasion my local MP Neil Carmichael has utterly failed.

I hope he makes an effort to amend for this but I suspect stony silence is more likely. It has been a month now since I wrote back to him and I am still awaiting a response.

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UKIP, not the Greens, are attracting the most former Labour voters

Farage
Today’s polling from YouGov shows the Conservatives beating Labour and the Greens beating the Lib Dems each by one point. Some within the Labour party (and media) are panicking that this is a symptom of Ed Miliband’s failure to inspire more left-wing voters who are in turn moving to the Green Party.

The problem is, the polling does not support this.

Of those surveyed who voted Labour in 2010, a significant 76% of them are still planning on voting Labour in 2015. This is more than the Conservative equivalent (75%) and significantly more than the Lib Dem equivalent (28%).

This does however suggest a 24% voter leakage. It is UKIP however, not the Greens, who are picking up most of these disillusioned former Labour voters. 10% of those who voted Labour in 2010 said that they are now planning on voting UKIP.

In comparison the Conservatives are picking up 7%, Greens 4%, SNP/Plaid 2% and Lib Dems 1% of former Labour voters.

Labour have a problem here but the problem is UKIP shaped, not Green! Labour’s response though has been to appoint Sadiq Khan to lead a unit responding to the Green threat whilst essentially ignoring the much larger and significant threat of UKIP.

This might well be one of a list of mistakes that may just cost them the majority they are seeking in 2015.

If the Green Party though are not picking disillusioned Labour voters, where are these new found supporters coming from?

The Green Party are making their gains primarily through disillusioned former Lib Dem voters. 16% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 are now planning on voting Green in 2015. Specifically the Greens are making huge ground among young voters (especially 18-24 year olds) which used to be a Lib Dem strong area.

16% of 18-24 year olds said they would vote Green compared to just 8% of who said they would vote Lib Dem.

Both the Green Party and Labour’s relative position in the polls are dependent on the sinking Lib Dem ship continuing to sink (more 2010 Lib Dem voters are planning to vote Labour than they are Lib Dem!).

If after 2015 the Lib Dems end up back on the backbenches and start to regain some of the trust they lost in government and Labour attempt to run a government, it will be interesting to watch where these floating voters settle.

There is a big chunk of the electorate who are no longer attached to one political party which is going to make the coming decades hard to predict and interesting to watch.

In the words of Master Yoda – “Difficult to see, always in motion are the future”

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BNP tweets ‘remembrance’ tweet day late

The BNP were left embarrassed after tweeting a remembrance day message 24 hours late.

Opps.

BNP

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Poll finds Labour at record low and Greens on record high

The Ipsos MORI poll due to be published in today’s Evening Standard has caused ripples today as it shows support for Labour at a record low since 2010.

However behind the headlines there is another interesting figure to pull out of this latest polling – the Green Party are on a dramatic high securing 9% of the voting intention of all adults over the age of 18:

Mori poll

Despite this quite momentous rise in the polls the Ipsos MORI write up of the results does not mention the Green Party once.

UKIP by contrast (down 2% at 14) get four mentions in the write up. The Liberal Democrats (just one percentage point above the Green Party at 10%) equally also get four mentions.

Frustratingly, it is from this text that lazy journalists will copy and paste their articles not bothering to look at the data tables behind the polls (something which I have to do if I want to find out how the Greens are doing).

If they did, I am sure that they would use the headline finding of this poll (Labour being on a long-term low) but equally is it not noteworthy that the Greens are reaching such competitive heights?

Let’s see if any journalists pick up on this…

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Green Party membership surges past 25,000

On June 9th Hynd’s Blog reported how Green Party Membership was growing in a way that the other ‘bigger’ parties were not. At that time they had just over 17,000 members.

On September 17th Hynd’s Blog reported that Green Party membership had tripled between 2002 and 2014. At that time Green Party membership stood at about 18,500.

On the 3rd October Hynd’s Blog reported that Green Party membership was, for the first time in the party’s history, over 20,000.

Today, 11th November, Hynd’s Blog notes a tweet sent from Derek Wall (former Principle Speaker and now International spokesperson of the Greens):

This is, by anyone’s standards, quite an extraordinary growth in party membership. In their words:

In the last 2 weeks someone has joined the Green Party every 10 minutes”

ten-minutes-450x314
Hynd’s Blog is excited to see this growth in progressive political participation!

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