By Zoe Williams
The Greens’ successes go unrecorded by commentators who would rather have a few rogues to liven up things
Polling data hardly means a consistent thing from one party to another, does it? If you say you’re going to vote BNP, it’s like saying you’re going to set fire to a pub. You’d have to get as far as the front door with a can of petrol before anybody would believe you.
A stated intention to vote Green, on the other hand, doesn’t have the ring of merry threat or bravado; it has the ring of sober consideration. To test that theory, however, you would have to look at a result and compare it with a poll. This is made exceedingly difficult by the fact that the Greens are habitually called “other”, lumping them together with the BNP, along with the more like-minded but factually incorrectly named Animals Count (animals cannot count) and the properly barmy Christian People’s Alliance.
“Othering” actually has a sort-of specific meaning, in sociological terms, placing a person or a thing outside the scope of normality and acceptability. However, the meanings collide: when they put a political party in the “other” category, this “othering” is, by happenstance, the result.
Polls as a ranking tool are pretty boring. Maybe I’m being trivial and trying to turn psephology into Emmerdale, but I don’t just want to see who wins and who loses; I want to see who wins from whose losses. In 2009 Labour was down nearly 7 percentage points (anybody who thinks they’re unpopular now just has a very short memory), but those numbers weren’t showing up in support for the Tories or Ukip, still less the Lib Dems, who were themselves down 1.2 percentage points (and people still liked Nick Clegg back then. Imagine!). The Greens, though, had picked up 2.4 percentage points, which, since it increased their vote share from under 6% to over 8%, was pretty significant.
However, you would have had to wait until the weekend after polling day to find that out.
This time around, the Greens are polling higher than at any point since 1989. Their share went from 3% to 8%, in a poll whose results were interpreted, by every paper apart from the Evening Standard, as testament to the fact that voters hate everybody (to put that in Westminster terms, it’s a “war of the weak”). Imagine if Ukip’s poll ratings had nearly tripled what manner of political flurry we would be in then. Imagine if the Lib Dems went below the Greens, which they very nearly have (in this same poll, they were on 9%); in a YouGov poll last week asking about voting intentions for the European elections, the Lib Dems were two points behind the Greens, who reached 12%. Continue reading