The Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) (Plaid Werdd Cymru a Lloegr) is the principal Green political party in England and Wales. The party is unrepresented in the House of Commons, but did have a life peer within the House of Lords until his death in April 2008. Members have been elected to the European Parliament, the London Assembly and in local government. The party leader is Caroline Lucas.
An interview with overpopulation expert Paul R. Ehrlich in Playboy Magazine inspired Tony Whittaker, an ex-Conservative Party activist from Coventry, to convene the 'Club of Thirteen' with his wife Lesley and others. Though many in the 'Club' were wary of forming a political party, one of the world's earliest Green parties was formed in Coventry during 1973 as PEOPLE, with the first edition of the Manifesto for a Sustainable Society as its statement of policies, inspired by Blueprint for Survival (published by The Ecologist magazine). The editor of The Ecologist, Edward 'Teddy' Goldsmith, merged his 'Movement for Survival' with PEOPLE. Goldsmith became the leading member of the new party in the 1970s.
Derek Wall, in his history of the Green Party, maintains that the new political movement focused initially on the theme of survival, which shaped the "bleak evolution" of the nascent ecological party during the 1970s. Furthermore, the effect of the "revolution of values" during the 1960s would come later. In Wall's eyes, the Party suffered from a lack of media attention and "opposition from many environmentalists", which contrasted the experience of other emerging Green Parties, like Germany's Die Grünen. Nonetheless, PEOPLE invested much of its resources in engaging with the indifferent environmental movement, which Wall calls a "tactical mistake"..
Nonetheless, membership rose and the Party contested both 1974 General Elections. In the February 1974 General Election, PEOPLE won 4,576 votes in 7 seats. Following the election, an influx of left-wing activists took PEOPLE in a more left-wing direction, causing something of a split. This affected preparations for the October 1974 General Election, where PEOPLE's average vote fell to just 0.7%. The Whittakers and many of the founding members left the Party after further internal debates, although, before becoming inactive, Lesley Whittaker suggested changing the name to 'The Ecology Party' in order to gain more recognition as the Party of environmental concern.
The Party officially changed its name to the Ecology Party in 1975. However, the Party was in danger of collapse. The 1976 and 1977 Local Elections would, nevertheless, improve the fortunes of the re-named Party, which gained three councillors.
At the 1977 Party Conference in Birmingham, the Party's first constitution was ratified and Jonathon Porritt was elected to the Ecology Party National Executive Committee (NEC). Porritt would become the Party's most significant public figure, working, with David Fleming, "to provide the Party with an attractive image and effective organisation".
With Porritt gaining increasing prominence and an election manifesto called The Real Alternative, the Ecology Party fielded 53 candidates in the 1979 General Election, entitling them to radio and television election broadcasts. Though many considered this a gamble, the plan, encouraged by Porritt, worked, as the Party received 39,918 votes (an average of 1.5%) and membership multiplied from around 500 to 5,000 or more. This, Derek Wall notes, meant that the Ecology Party "became the fourth Party in UK politics, ahead of the National Front and Socialist Unity".
Following this electoral success, the Party introduced Annual Spring Conferences to accompany Autumn Conferences, and a process of building up a large compendium of policies began, culminated in today's Manifesto for a Sustainable Society (which encompasses around 124,520 words). At the same time, according to Wall, "the Post-1968 generation" began to join the Party, advocating non-violent direct action as an important element of the Ecology Party vision outside of electoral politics. This manifested itself in an apparent "decentralist faction" who gained ground within the Party, leading to Party Conference stripping the Executive of powers and rejecting the election of a single leader. The new generation was in evidence in the first 'Summer Green Gathering' in July 1980, the action of Ecology Party CND (later Green CND), and the Greenham Common camp. The Party also became increasingly feminist.
Due to the recession causing the marginalisation of Green issues, Roy Jenkins leaving the Labour Party to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and the inability of the Party to absorb the rapid increase in membership, the early 1980s were extremely tough for the Ecology Party. Nonetheless, the Party were well prepared for the 1983 General Election, spurred on by the success of Die Grünen in Germany. In the 1983 election, the Ecology Party stood over 100 candidates and gained 54,299 votes.
The party formally became the Green Party at the Party Conference in Dover during 1985 after John Abineri, formerly an actor in the BBC series Survivors suggested adding the colour 'Green' to the name to fall in line with other environmental parties in Europe.
In 1986, a new internal dispute arose within the Party. A faction calling itself the 'Party Organisation Working Group' (POWG) proposed constitutional amendments designed to create a streamlined, two-tier structure to govern the internal workings of the Party. Decentralists voted these proposals down. Paul Ekins and Jonathan Tyler, prominent Party activists and leading members of POWG, then formed a semi-covert group called 'Maingreen', whose private comments, on becoming public knowledge, suggested to many that they wished to take control of the Party. Tyler and Ekins resigned and left the Party but Derek Wall describes how the "wounds" left by the 'Maingreen Affair' lingered on in the heated internal debates of the late 1980s.
Meanwhile, the Party gained ground electorally. The 1987 General Election saw the 133 Greens standing for office take 89,753 votes (1.3% on average), an improvement on 1983. The next two years would see growing membership and increasing media attention. This coincided with greater concern over the environment following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and concern over CFCs.
The Party enjoyed evermore success. The 'Campaign for Real Democracy' launched by the Party allowed it to play a part in the Anti-Poll Tax Campaign. The Party's greatest ever success came at 1989 European Elections, where the Green Party won 2,292,695 votes and received 15% of the overall vote. European Elections in Great Britain were then run on a first-past-the-post basis, whilst the three seats in Northern Ireland were elected by single transferable vote, and the party failed to gain any seats. According to Derek Wall, the Party would have gained 12 seats if they had been running in other European countries who employed Proportional Representation. Wall explains this "breakthrough" as a combination of the declining popularity of Margaret Thatcher, the reaction to the Poll Tax, Conservative opposition to the European Union, ineffective Labour Party and Liberal Democrat campaigns and a well-prepared Green Party campaign. That environmental issues were very prominent in UK politics at the time should also be added to this list. At no time before or since have Green issues been so high on the minds of UK voters as a voting issue.
As a result of this success, Sara Parkin and David Icke rose to prominence in the UK media. Parkin especially was in demand as a Green spokeswoman. However, the new media attention was not always handled well by the party as a whole. In the run up to the 1989 party conference, the party attracted criticism for advocating policies aiming to reduce the total population, proposals which were subsequently rejected. Further controversies included Derek Wall's intervention as a maverick 'Green fundamentalist' and rejection of possible alliances to establish PR..
Mainstream political parties were however alarmed by the Green's electoral performance and adopted some 'Green policies' in an attempt to counter the threat.
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.
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 apopolyptic earthquakes and tidal waves and that Armageddon was approaching. Many believe that he suffered from some form of mental illness that led to his espousal of such theories. He would subsequently be forced to leave the Party.
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. Parkin and Porritt left active involvement with the party, depriving it of two of its most charismatic and ambitious figures.
Since 1992, the Greens have been relatively free of any factionalism. Nonetheless, 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
Combined with gradual council gains, the party has quietly gained successes.
In the 1999 European elections, two Greens were elected Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Dr Caroline Lucas (South East England) and Jean Lambert (London). 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.
However the Greens have not yet managed to breakthrough into other European electoral regions or the Welsh Assembly. Three Greens were elected to the first London Assembly. It currently has two Green Party members out of 25. These are Cllr. Darren Johnson AM, and Cllr. Jenny Jones AM.
The Green Party achieved its highest ever UK General Election result in the 2005 General Election with a total of 281,780 votes. During the 2005 General Election, Cllr. Keith Taylor received 22% in Brighton Pavilion.
The Party has 116 local councillors after a gain of 5 councillors during the 2008 local elections. The Greens have 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 are the official opposition on Norwich City Council, form part of the ruling coalition that controls Lancaster City Council alongside the Liberal Democrats and Labour, and Castle Morpeth Council as part of an all party administration.
According to MORI, Green issues are currently rated as importantly as during the Green Party's last high point in the late 1980s. The party currently has record local candidate numbers and high electoral support.
The party has 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.
|date (E = European)||votes||note|
|1979E||17953||as Ecology Party|
|1979||39918||as Ecology Party|
|1983||54299||as Ecology Party|
|1984E||70853||as Ecology Party|
|1987||89753||as The Green Party for the first time|
|1989E||2292705||15 % of the vote, but no MEPs elected|
|1999E||625378||first two MEPs elected (Lambert and Lucas)|
They support the subsidisation of organic farming in small free-range units and want to phase out all forms of intensive farming, including fish farms. The Party are against the production and importation of genetically-modified (GM) foods. They support Fair Trade over free trade. The Party encourages a reduction in the consumption of meat and promotes "more healthy and humane" foods.
The party have set a goal of 90% carbon dioxide emissions reductions by 2050. They believe in scrapping the national roadbuilding programme and investing the estimated £30bn from the programme in green transport. They wish to end the £9bn annual tax break to the aviation industry by 2010 and pass the Air Traffic Emissions Reduction Bill, aiming for 50% CO2 reductions in aviation by 2050. The Party are strictly against the use of nuclear energy because they believe it is too expensive, too much of security risk and that it uses huge amounts of carbon dioxide in the extraction and production process, and is therefore an unsuitable response to climate change.
The Party supports economic localisation on grounds of environmental concern, social justice and democracy, as detailed in Green Alternatives to Globalisation: A Manifesto, the book by Dr. Caroline Lucas, MEP, and the late Dr. Mike Woodin, two former Principal Speakers of the party. This includes helping local businesses through subsidies and import tariffs, "democratisation" of the banking system with the creation of a "network of publicly owned community banks", and encouragement of informal economies in local areas.
The Green Party seek to address the 'Poverty Trap' by introducing a "Citizen’s Income" (also known as a Citizen's Dividend and similar to the Basic Income), an unconditional, non means-tested, weekly payment made to every citizen whether they are working or not. This would replace benefits such as Job Seeker’s Allowance, as well as replacing personal tax-free allowances. The Party hope that this would ensure that people can take a job and come off benefits without falling into the Poverty Trap, and make working part-time or becoming self-employed easier by eliminating the Poverty Trap. Clive Lord, a member of the Green Party of England and Wales, published A Citizen's Income, a book that sets out how to fund the Citizen's Income with an increase to the top bracket of Income Tax. Lord suggests that the Citizen's Income is a means by which to achieve prosperity within a zero-growth economy.
On taxation, the Green Party believe in increasing the top rate of Income Tax to make the system more redistributive. It is in favour of a more progressive system of corporation tax to encourage small businesses over large corporations. They support eco-taxes, such as those on packaging and carbon emissions, along the lines of the 'polluter pays' principle. Also, the Party wants an increase in trade union rights and the renationalisation of the railways and other public utilities.
It is usually to be found on the civil liberties side of the liberties versus security debate and opposes the national ID cards and New Labour's anti-terror legislation. It is strongly opposed to measures like the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act.
The party opposed the Iraq War, both prior to, during, and after the invasion. It has claimed that it did so "on principle", criticising the Liberal Democrats for "only opposing the war because no second UN Resolution was obtained". It has in turn been criticised for either attempting to manufacture a spurious distinction in policy for electoral purposes, or for adopting a position which is essentially pacifist in nature. Previously, the party had opposed the Kosovo War a rare stance in Britain. Although they supported "self-determination" for the Kosovo Albanians, they did not support independence for Kosovo, and stated that the media had ignored the crimes of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
The Green Party supports the right to asylum and "seeks to change negative attitudes and stereotypes associated with refugees". The party concentrates on the causes of immigration, aiming "to alleviate problems caused by war, the arms trade, environmental devastation, past colonial actions and human rights abuses".
The final Principal Speakers were Dr Caroline Lucas MEP (who succeeded Siân Berry in October 2007), and Dr Derek Wall, who succeeded Keith Taylor, a councillor in Brighton & Hove, in November 2006 (Taylor had been elected in 2004 after the death of Dr. Mike Woodin). The roles of Principal Speaker no longer exist.
|Green Party of England and Wales Executive (GPEx)|
|Leader||Caroline Lucas MEP|
|Deputy Leader||Cllr. Adrian Ramsay|
|Campaigns Co-ordinator||Sarah Mitchell|
|Elections Co-ordinator||Chris Haine|
|Equality and Diversity Co-ordinator||Maya de Souza|
|External Communications Co-ordinator||Tracy Dighton-Brown|
|Finance Co-ordinator||Khalid Hussenbux and Joe Hulm (as a job share)|
|Internal Communications Co-ordinator||Natalie Bennett|
|International Co-ordinator||Michael Coffey|
|Local Party Support Co-ordinator||Jon Lucas|
|Management Co-ordinator||Tony Cooper|
|Policy Development Co-ordinator||Brian Heatley and Matt Follett (as a job share)|
|Publications Co-ordinator||Polly Lane|
For the purposes of its registration with the Electoral Commission, the party used to designate the Chair of the Executive as the Leader of the party. This is currently James Humphreys, former head of Corporate Communications at Number 10 Downing Street. A previous Chair, Hugo Charlton (2003 to 2005), was removed from the post after nominating himself for a House of Lords peerage on behalf of the party without following the party's agreed selection procedure. Subsequently Cllr. Jenny Jones, AM, was elected to be the party's nominee in the event of the party again being asked, but this was too late for the current round.
The Party's Leader and Deputy Leader are elected every two years by a postal ballot of all party members. All other GPEx positions are elected annually by postal ballot or by a vote at Conference (depending on the number of candidates). To become a member of the Executive, the candidate must have been a member of the party for at least two years (or if the candidate has been a member for one complete year preceding the date of close of nominations, their nomination will be allowed if it is supported by a majority of Green Party Regional Council (GPRC) members in attendance at a quorate official GPRC meeting).
Members of GPEx are individually responsible for every action taken within their area of responsibility (except decisions taken collectively within GPEx itself). GPEx meets at least once every six weeks, and whenever a meeting is necessary.
The Executive has the power to create committees and posts "it considers necessary for the efficient conduct of its business". It appoints a Panel of Speakers as spokespeople for policy areas, a Treasurer and the National Election Agent. GPEx is responsible for implementing the decisions made at Conferences, and controlling expenditure and fundraising.
In the Party's Autumn Conference of 2008, members elected the first Equality and Diversity Co-ordinator.
Each Regional Green Party elects two members by postal ballot to be sent to the GPRC. These delegates' terms last two years before re-election. GPRC meets at least four times a year. The Council elects Male and Female Co-Chairs and a Secretary. GPEx members are often required to give reports on their area of responsibility to the GPRC; the GPRC also has the power to recall any member of GPEx (by a two-thirds majority vote), who is then suspended until a re-election for the post is held; similarly, if GPEx suspends one of its own members, GPRC has the authority to decide whether that member should be reinstated or not (again, by a two-thirds majority vote).
The Green Party Conference features fringes, talks and plenary sessions. The agenda for plenary sessions is usually:
Policy making within the GPEW is a long process that involves consultation with various bodies and individuals. The party has released leaflets and books on how to properly amend policy.
Also differently from the full party, the Wales Green Party (and the North West region of England) elects a Principal Speaker who may refer to themselves as the 'Leader' of the Wales Green Party, although, like the Green Party's Principal Speakers, they have no powers of leadership. The current leader of the Wales Green Party is Leila Kiersch.