Amelia Womack wants to make a difference now. At the end of her speech, she calls on her audience in Bristol once again to act. "If not now, when?" She calls. People clap enthusiastically. Womack, vice-president of the English Greens, chairperson Sian Berry and the local candidate for the parliamentary election are on stage in the arms.
The Greens stage their election campaign here in the southwest of England. And it is not entirely clear what exactly should provide for the spirit of optimism: only the hope of a different climate policy – or the historic opportunity for the previous small party to gain more power in Westminster.
On December 12, Britain votes and the Greens want to make the breakthrough that they have never had. Currently, they have only one seat in the lower house, which has held since 2010 Caroline Lucas. In national elections, they never got over four percent of the vote.
As strong as never before
But now the Greens are stronger than ever. Climate change is worrying more and more people. Thousands of demonstrators and activists traveled through London in the summer, as part of the international "Fridays for Future" movement. In the recent local elections, the Greens more than doubled the number of seats in regional parliaments, in the European elections they got their best result with about twelve percent. "We are ready for the hat-trick," says Green Party President Berry in Bristol.
The offer of the party has hardly changed. It's all about environmental issues. Converted just under 120 billion euros, the Greens want to spend on climate policy. Per year. This is to be financed by new debts. Britain's CO2 neutrality does not want the party until 2050 – as previously targeted – but by 2030 reach.
But the Brexit helps the Greens. The party has clearly positioned itself as a pro-European force – and is much clearer on this issue than, say, Labor. The Greens not only campaign for a second referendum, they also want to fight openly for remaining in the EU. Berry says environmental protection and EU membership can not be separated. "The Greens are the strongest vote for remaining in the EU," she says. "We have to work with our neighbors to avert climate chaos."
Copied from the competition
However, the Greens also have a problem: they are copied by other parties. Ideas for which they were mocked for a long time have long since arrived in the mainstream. Back in 2008, the Greens called for a comprehensive investment program, the Green New Deal. Meanwhile, a plan of the same name is an important cornerstone in the Labor program. The largest opposition party also toying with a four-day week and an unconditional basic income – both also claims of the Greens.
The pro-European Liberal Democrats are also committed to environmental protection. And even the conservatives are striving for a green coat of paint. "I want this country, this government, to be the greenest of all times," Tory PM Boris Johnson told the British Times in September. Recently, his government announced the halting of fracking, the controversial method of producing natural gas, in the United Kingdom.
On the one hand, it may flatter the Greens that their opponents are running after them. But it will also be much harder for them to emphasize unique selling points. The party relies on credibility. People should not accept imitators, says Vice President Womack in Bristol. "We are the experts."
Suffrage becomes a problem
However, the biggest hurdle for the Greens is the British electoral system. Unlike in Germany, there is no proportional representation in which parties are allocated seats in parliament according to their percentage total vote. In the United Kingdom, only direct candidates are elected. This means that in each constituency, only one person can prevail, all other votes remain ineffective. This makes it extremely difficult for small parties to gain seats in the lower house.
Especially since politically related parties take each other votes. Although the left-liberal camp around the Greens, Labor and Liberal Democrats could unite the vast majority of voters in some constituencies, the Tories could still serve the MPs if they become the strongest force.
The Greens therefore want to get voters to vote tactically in case of doubt. Meanwhile, they have concluded a pact with the Liberals and the also pro-European Welsh party Plaid Cymru. In some electoral districts, two of the three parties refrain from having their own candidate to support the most promising candidate.
"The right to vote in the UK is like a straitjacket for us," says Molly Scott Cato, previously a Green Party member in the European Parliament and now a candidate for the general election in Bristol West. From the recent agreement, the party could now benefit in ten constituencies. There, the Greens face real opportunities. However, as long as the powerful Labor Party does not enter into a deal with the Greens, the longed-for breakthrough remains a difficult task.