Need to Know | 21st January 2015

The Green Party continue to surge in popularity, three polls suggest

Time for the Greens to whack the celebratory curly kale on the hob, as […]

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Time for the Greens to whack the celebratory curly kale on the hob, as they storm ahead in three separate polls.

An ICM poll for the Guardian yesterday found Natalie Bennett’s party to be on 9 per cent, the highest in two decades from that particular pollster.

This confirmed the “Green surge” Lord Ashcroft’s latest polling shown on Monday, when he put the Greens on 11 per cent. And a YouGov poll for the Sun out today has now given them its highest rating ever from that pollster, 10 per cent.

What does this all mean?

Green shoots of success

It’s obviously good news for Bennett’s party, which has been pushing the narrative of a “Green Surge” for a while, as its membership figures have rocketed (see May2015‘s recent interview with Bennett).

Although the momentum is unlikely to last simply because of three individual polls confirming a recent boost in popularity, it provides the Greens with yet further ammo to propel their case for being included in the televised leaders’ debates, and in general to be taken seriously as a political party.

Labour blues

The bigger story behind the Green rise is Labour’s poor show in recent polls. The Greens seem to be splitting the left-wing vote. In what the Sun labelled a “triply whammy” for Ed Miliband, Labour’s lead has fallen in all three of these recent polls, dropping to 30 per cent (two points behind the Tories) in the latest one. (Labour do still lead slightly in May2015‘s Poll of Polls.)

Labour figures still appear to be formulating their response to the Green threat, which is likely to focus on dismissing its politics as an “upper middle-class lifestyle choice”, and they will have more to go on in terms of criticism with the Green manifesto now out there.

However, with the Greens being the only party to fill the lefty protest vote role, it will be tough for Labour to counter its populist anti-austerity messages. “They have the luxury of not having to balance too many competing interests,” one shadow minister tells me of Labour’s concerns about tackling the Greens.

Green not-so-crap

The Tories will be particularly cheerful about the Greens’ success in the polls. David Cameron has made no secret in wishing to play up the Greens’ influence, in order to eat into Labour’s vote, by refusing to appear in TV debates unless Bennett is also invited to take part.

The Conservatives’ pro-Green tactics, focusing on the party’s exclusion from the debates, and some Tory MPs suggesting left-wing voters in their constituencies vote Green instead of Labour, has clearly worked – at least in the short term.

All this from the PM who is said to have dismissed environment policy as “green crap” not so long ago. Will voters buy the Tories’ utter cynicism? And do the Greens appreciate their unlikely cheerleaders? The question is how long their Tory-induced joy is likely to endure.