By Daniel J. McLaughlin
The Green Party will be "the most influential party in 21st century politics", claimed co-leader Jonathan Bartley at their party conference in Harrogate. There is only one problem: the party only has one MP in the House of Commons, and its national vote share is dwindling. While it is still early days in the 21st century, the Green Party has a great deal of work on their hands to achieve this ambitious promise.
The leaders' debates during the snap general election resembled a round of the Weakest Link, with a rainbow of candidates grilled to reflect the diversity of politics – and the end of the two-party system. However, the outcome of the election revealed that the system is returning with 82 per cent of voters backing the Tories or Labour, at the expense of the Lib Dems, SNP, UKIP, and the Greens. The latter received 1.6 per cent of the vote, down on 3.8 per cent in 2015. It managed to retain, however, its sole Westminster seat, Brighton Pavilion, held by co-leader Caroline Lucas since 2010.
The party contested over 450 constituencies, and yet only won one. The number of seats they contested could have been higher, but the party stood aside 22 candidates in marginal seats to give Labour or the Lib Dems a better chance of beating the Tories. In all of their target seats, except Brighton and the Isle of Wight, the vote fell – dropping from 27 per cent in Bristol West to 14 per cent. There were only nine seats where they were able to get back their election deposit - by winning at least five per cent of the vote - compared to the 123 deposits saved in the 2015 election.
The national results tells a different story than what they achieved in the local elections. The Daily Mirror reports that they doubled its wins in the local elections in May this year, gaining seats in Gloucestershire, the Isle of Wight, Dorset and Somerset. They were the only other national party, besides the Conservatives, to have gained seats.
Despite their losses in the general election, shedding half their previous tally in the national polls, the mood at their conference in Harrogate has been reflective, not despondent, according to BBC political correspondent Leila Nathoo. Party members have admitted that the snap general election caught them off-guard, as did the resurgence of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, but even in defeat, there is "a sense of optimism that the Greens do still have a place and a role".
There is still a long way off to conclude whether the Green Party have been the most influential party in 21st century politics, but they are currently way off from their target. While the Greens are starting to make an impact locally, they need to win on the national stage to gain their lofty ambition.