The European elections of 2014 were always going to be tough for the Green Party. UKIP was dominating the headlines, and the Labour Party was set for a huge increase in its MEP numbers as voters flocked back to them in response to the Coalition government. It was in this context that the Green Party of England and Wales took a strong step forward and increased our MEP numbers by 50 per cent to three.
Our new MEP, Molly Scott Cato, won her seat with 11.1 per cent of the vote, up 1.8 per cent on the previous election. With the Lib Dems in freefall, Molly ran a positive campaign focusing on what a Green voice in Brussels could do for the people of South West England. She brings her expertise in economics and an obvious flair for campaigning to our MEP team.
Both Jean Lambert MEP and Keith Taylor MEP had to contend with a resurgent Labour Party in London and South East England respectively. Despite this, and in a large part thanks to Green Party activists, both were returned as MEPs.
Unfortunately, a number of excellent campaigns were unsuccessful. Peter Cranie ran a superb campaign in North West England, but missed out once again on a seat. Rupert Read, who was bidding for a seat in the Eastern Region, came close but sadly didn’t quite have enough votes to become an MEP.
At this election, Greens focused on being the party of ‘real change’. Natalie Bennett, the party leader, campaigned up and down England on issues such as renationalising the railways, capping bankers’ bonuses and protecting migrants’ rights. At this election, it was only the Greens who truly stood up to Farage, and over a million voters supported us.
Overall, the Greens’ vote share was down slightly, but thanks to the hard work of activists across the country, we’ve increased our representation in Brussels and ensured that millions of people continue to be represented by Green Party politicians. It’s also significant that the Green Party beat the Liberal Democrats into fifth place in this election. Already conversations have been had that suggest that Greens can expect a boost in media coverage for their European work.
The picture across the rest of Europe was somewhat similar. Greens’ vote share was slightly down, and our number of seats in the parliament will reflect that. But, as things stand, Greens look likely to be one of the largest parties in Brussels once again. We lost MEPs in both France and Germany, but won more in Sweden and Austria, and Hungary and Croatia are represented in the Green Group for the first time. Green MEPs are also likely to be joined in our European group by MEPs from other parties, including the German Pirate Party.
Though losing seats in Germany and France was a blow, it was expected after an extraordinary showing in 2009, especially in France. It’s reassuring that our presence is extending across the continent and our message, of respect for the environment and of a tolerant, diverse Europe is popular with people no matter where they live.
Once again, the European Parliament elections saw a dismal turnout, both in the UK and across Europe. In the UK, 34 per cent of people came out to vote, roughly the same as at the last elections, while the average turnout across Europe remained at 43 per cent. There’s no doubt that politicians of all parties need to work harder to ensure that people across the continent feel more connected with their parliament, and more inclined to take part in the electoral process.
Over the next few months, the political groupings of the parliament will be solidified, the new EU Commission president will get to work and the lawmaking process will begin again. Rest assured that your three Green MEPs will be working hard for a Europe that puts people first and protects our environment.