‘What are you afraid of boys?’ – Greens step up TV debate campaign
The Green Party continued their push yesterday for an invite to the forthcoming TV debates with the launch of a new poster that features Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas side by side, arms folded yet smiling, and beneath them the provocation: ‘What are you afraid of, boys?’
It was a frosty morning, but there was a small crowd of Green supporters on College Green outside of Parliament, one with a ‘Je Suis Green’ placard, and a larger crowd of media that the party could scarcely have imagined a few weeks ago.
The disillusionment with mainstream politics that has been buoying up UKIP for so long has grown to encompass the Greens, and what is being referred to as the Green surge shows little sign of abating. Bennett said that she was having to update her figures by the minute, but that currently the party membership in England and Wales stood at 44,175. As has been widely reported, that is more than UKIP, more than the Liberal Democrats. Taking Scotland and Northern Ireland into account, the figure rises to 52,000. That, said Bennett, coupled with a “slough of surveys” and a petition signed by 275,000 people, make it increasingly clear that the British public believe that the Greens are a mainstream party and warrant inclusion in the debates. “It’s very clear that we should be there,” she said, “if it’s going to be a balanced debate.”
Gesturing to Westminster behind her, Bennett said: “What I am doing this morning is launching this poster…and it’s making a very important point – we have behind us what is an old boys’ club in more than one way, and it’s time we moved on from that. The debates are an important part of that moving on.” For the rest of the day the posters travelled through Central London on the backs of bicycles.
Yet for the time being Westminster is declining to acknowledge Bennett’s position. Asked whether Labour, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP had responded to her appeal for them to contact ITV to make clear that they were open to the inclusion of the Greens in the debates, she said that Nigel Farage’s response had not been “particularly constructive.” Pressed on Ed Miliband’s stance, she said that his lack of response was clear enough demonstration of his opinion. But as the Green website recovers from its crash, frozen by 2000 new members in a single day, it would be hard to suggest that the publicity generated by their exclusion from the debates has been harmful to the Greens.
Whether their thousands of new members can translate into meaningful support for the party once this current furore subsides is something that remains to be seen, but for the time being the wave is one that Bennett is very happy to be riding. “Politics is changing very fast, and there’s potential that in this election we could see politics break wide open,” she said. She pointed to the autumn’s referendum in Scotland, with its 85% turnout, and questioned if it could be replicated here if the public became aware of the existence of alternatives to the mainstream.
“This is the green surge,” she said. “We don’t know where it’s going. But it’s certain that politics in Britain is not going to be the same again. And that is a very good thing.”