Has the “Green Surge” missed Lincoln?

Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader

Natalie Bennett has repeatedly claimed that her party can be the voice of young people (Photo: The Weekly Bull, via Flickr)

Six months ago, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett wrote in the Independent: “We have to offer a new and inspiring vision of the future to young people. I’m convinced they’re up to, and up for, the challenge.”

Yet thousands of young people at Lincoln’s two growing universities won’t see the Green Party on their parliamentary ballot if they stay in the city to vote.

The local Greens have chosen not to submit a parliamentary candidate for the constituency, despite a £74,762 national fundraiser aiming to “give everyone a chance to vote Green in 2015”.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, and it’s one that’s been discussed quite a lot,” Lee Thomas, of the Lincoln Green Party, told The Linc. “It certainly wasn’t unanimous, and it took quite a while, but ultimately we looked at the constituency itself: it’s quite a marginal seat, so Labour and the Conservatives are throwing quite a lot of money at it. Although we’re now an emerging major party, there’s still relatively limited resources to actually fight a campaign properly and make a real impact.”

Lee Thomas, Lincoln Green Party

Lee Thomas is standing as a city councillor for the Greens in Bracebridge Ward in the south of the city. (Photo: Gregor Smith)

Does that mean, then, that the “Green surge” – the name given to the dramatic and sudden increase in the Green Party’s membership – didn’t wash over Lincoln?

Lee doesn’t seem to think so: “There’s been a fivefold increase in membership locally, with well over 100 members now. But that’s still limited relative to the experience – these people are still new to politics, and to actually run a campaign could be quite difficult.

“We want to use this Green surge to get people elected who are standing in seats we’re genuinely going to win, so we can use that platform to fight for the common good.”

However, that doesn’t change the situation for those who’d hoped to see a Green MP in Lincoln.

Jack Avis, a Law student at the University of Lincoln, recently set up a Green society within the Students’ Union. Formerly a “fervent Labour supporter”, he distanced himself from the red party after the last election.

“I’m a socialist and quite left-wing,” he explained. “I feel that the Labour Party’s become too centrist, if not a right wing party. I did research into the Green Party and ever since I came to Lincoln I’ve got more and more involved.”

The lack of a Green candidate for Lincoln is “disappointing”, he commented, adding that he’d be going home to vote: “I personally will be voting Green in the general election, because I’m from a constituency in Colchester, which is forwarding a Green Party candidate.”

Yet the Lincoln Greens will field candidates in all wards for the city council elections – but might they lose votes from students going home to vote Green nationally?

When posed the question, Lee said the situation spawned “an interesting debate”, depending on their home constituency. “If they’re going home to Norwich, to Bristol West, to Sheffield Central, then absolutely; we’re polling very well,” he noted. “If not, have a look at the local ward; for instance, Carholme is a strong student area, and perhaps we could get a lot of strong Green support there. That’ll have to be a decision they’ll make themselves.”

He encouraged all students to vote, despite his own apolitical past: “Personally, a few years ago, I would have advocated not bothering. I also felt disengaged with politics, because it was a choice between one or the other, neither of which interested me.

“Ultimately though, we have the system we have, and the only way we’re going to change that system is by voting and actually making your voice heard. If young people don’t do that, politicians will continue to ignore them.”

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