The U.K.’s Green Party May Have a Political Opening

The U.K.’s Green Party May Have a Political Opening
Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay, co-leaders of the Green Party of England and Wales, at their local election campaign launch in Bristol, April 4, 2024 (Press Association via AP Images).

As Rishi Sunak stood in the pouring rain last week to announce that the U.K.’s general elections would be held on July 4, journalists were already interviewing voters in key electoral battlegrounds that will determine his fate. Over the following days, news reports focused on voters in so-called “Red Wall” seats across England’s industrial regions whose shift from a century of allegiance to the Labour Party to backing the governing Conservative—or Tory—Party after the 2016 Brexit referendum briefly transformed U.K. politics. Alongside street interviews with bemused Northern English voters, centrist middle-class frustration with the Tory Party in so-called “Blue Wall” seats in Southern England also emerged as a central theme once media outlets went into election campaign mode.

Yet this fixation on voter groups that helped secure Tory dominance in the 2010s has meant less attention towards other trends in England and Wales that might shape the politics of the 2030s. Even as Labour’s average opinion poll leads of around 20 percent over the Tories indicate that it is now on track to victory, the campaign agendas of the main parties still reflect the impact of the Euroskeptic populism of Nigel Farage, Jeremy Corbyn’s failed attempt to shift Labour to the far left and the Scottish National Party’s effort to achieve Scotland’s independence. By shaping its campaign tactics in response to the political traumas of the 2010s, a resurgent Labour leadership under Keir Starmer is doubling down on political gambles and policy projects that risk fueling new forms of social discontent.

Signs that longstanding social trends could pull the U.K. towards a different kind of politics from the current obsessions of Labour and the Tories were already visible after recent local elections in England. While Labour and the more centrist Liberal Democrats celebrated massive gains at the Tories’ expense when results were announced on May 3, a surge of support for the Green Party among communities that have attracted less attention from national media provided a hint of new crosscurrents that could become central to U.K. politics long after Rishi Sunak has left office. At a time when Labour’s leadership believes industrial strategies, a massive increase in house-building and acceptance of Brexit provides a path to victory, space is opening up for Green parties in England and Scotland that have put environmental sustainability and closer integration with the EU at the heart of their agenda.

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