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Is there a Green surge in Wales?

April 9, 2016

 

Wales goes to the polls in May to choose a Welsh Assembly. We asked Evening Post columnist and public affairs specialist Lawrence Bailey to sketch out the state of the parties, their policies and how they might fare.

 

His six-part series concludes today with the WALES GREEN PARTY

 

 

 

 

As everyone knows, Greens are essentially good for you. The key factor however is whether enough voters have the appetite to back them.

 

Wales has recently seen a “Green surge”. Membership has near enough trebled with an influx of predominantly young people looking for something different.

 

Candidates insist they can win seats. That might have been possible if talks about an electoral pact with Plaid Cymru and Lib Dems had come to anything. As it is, pollsters estimate support is too thinly spread for the party to make inroads.

 

They offer an attractive manifesto package but there is a tough edge to green politics that the party may find harder to sell.

 

"It's time to put the public first. We have the means to create a Wales we want to see - right here, right now."

 

Alice Hooker-Stroud, Wales Green Party leader

Green message links to anti-austerity agenda

 

There’s a story is the car industry as to how the 4x4 vehicle market owes its growth to the European green movement.

 

The story goes that public pressure to protect the environment and wildlife put an end to the practice of salting roads in winter. This required cars to have better traction capability and the industry reacted accordingly.

 

Whatever the factual basis of this tale, it’s a familiar illustration of how the green agenda extends its influence into our lives.

 

Nowhere is this more evident than in politics. Moreover, never before have so few (Greens) had their ideas copied by so many - recycling and renewable energy being just a few examples.

 

At one time, all any political party needed to do was preface their policies as “green” to register themselves as socially responsible in the public eye. It’s not so simple these days.

 

In fact a recent piece of private research suggests the Greens are finally benefiting from this cross-party pollination.

 

Activists tend to get their first taste of green power while members in other parties. It’s when they become disillusioned with environmental policies dressed up as political window-dressing that they start to hanker after the real thing.

 

Nearly 4% of us voted Green in the general election. That would have given them around 26 MPs if strict proportional representation applied.

 

I took one of those online tests the other day. I was mildly gobsmacked to find that my policy preferences made me 44% likely to be a Green voter. By comparison, I was only 28% in agreement with the party I normally support.

 

The Wales Green Party wants “a fairer economy and vibrant communities”, says its leader, Alice Hooker-Stroud.

 

Having been the post for just four months, the first that voters may have seen of her for any length of time was during a recent ITV Wales interview.

 

She talks a pretty good fight about having “new voices and new ideas in the assembly”.

 

Her anti-austerity platform comes as close as you can get to describing a holistic solution to society’s ills without actually using the phrase.

 

But don’t think that it’s all tree-hugging stuff . Welsh Green election literature carries a coherent message and there is a slick party political broadcast using kids to illustrate the childishness of conventional politics.

 

They also preach an attractive return to ‘cradle to grave’ provision that has been missing from mainstream manifestos for a decade or more.

 

Commitments to protect frontline services, boost renewable energy, end school closures, increase social housing, especially energy efficient homes and a greater emphasis on public health make for stimulating reading.

 

Admittedly there are few clues as to how this gets funded other than a realignment of wealth and an emphasis that global neo-capitalism is a bad thing.

 

Despite the demographics that work against them, the Greens intend challenging what they describe as "stale government” in Wales.

 

Having recently spurned electoral pacts though, it’s hard to see how a movement caught between being a pressure group and a full-blown political force can achieve that aim.

 

 

 

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