Concentration is Crucial for the Greens’ National Ambitions

Over the last few weeks some may have noticed that the Green Party has received more media attention than usual. In all honesty that is not hard to achieve. Ordinarily one would suppose that the media is selectively colour blind – seeing only blue, red, yellow and (recently) purple. This media attention marks a dramatic rise in the Green Party’s national profile, but it is only through local concentration that this will translate into national power.

This attention was sparked by the eye-catching wealth tax policy, which would see those with £3 million in assets taxed at 1 or 2%. A policy straight from the pages of Capital (the 21st century one) is appealing to left leaning Brits up and down the country. It stakes the ground for the Greens to become the party of left in the ground Labour vacated in their 1990’s charge to the centre. But if, as leader Natalie Bennett wants, the Greens are to become a national party, paradoxically, they must focus on localised campaigns.

The aspiration to be a national party is behind policy’s such as a wealth tax, they will appeal across the country to the left leaning. But these are not the sort of policies that will win seats in the 2015 general election. This is because, for a small party under the first-past-the-post voting system, a spread of votes over many seats is less powerful that concentration in fewer seats.

We need look no further than the Liberal Democrats to see the power of concentration. Despite plunging poll ratings many expect that the Lib Dem will lose perhaps only 15 seats in the House of Commons. The reason for this is that they have strong local power bases. An example of this local power in action is the Lib Dem success in the Eastleigh bi-election. A strong local presence in Eastleigh overcame dismal national poll ratings.

Though I have so far focused on elections, that success on British politics is based on concentration is also true after the election. The Lib Dems are, again, our example. Though this time they did rather less well. During the coalition negotiations in 2010 Nick Clegg had two options, to dip his finger in every pie and have a presence across government or take control of a major department – like the Home Office. In the end Clegg opted for the first option, and the result is that the Lib Dems have few success stories that they alone can claim, and they still suffer for the coalition policies unpopular with their base. If they had taken control of the Home Office they might have been able to secure some successes in their own right, like regaining civil liberties which is popular with their base. The point is that, for outsiders to the central power of British politics, concentration is crucial.

In British politics, particularly for parties out side the big two, is about concentrations of power in order to achieve wider, national power. The Green Party wants to be a bigger player on the national stage, but to do this it must concentrate locally. Exploit positions of strength in places like Brighton, Bristol and Liverpool, where the Greens have the most council seats, and tailor policies accordingly. Only then will they see their national power and presence grow.