The Greens are relatively popular among the young, but just 3 per cent of over 60s would vote for them. Photo: Getty.
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Without older voters the Greens have little hope

Are the Greens set to become the latest party of significance? Their lack of support among older voters is pegging them at 5 per cent.

Are the Greens becoming an electorate force? Could they become the second new significant party, after the rise of UKIP?

Some have suggested as much, pointing to how the Greens are polling eight per cent in recent Ipsos MORI polls. That would match their vote in last month’s European elections, when they won three MEPs.

But more detailed data, provided by YouGov, suggests the party still has a long way to go – and shows how much support for them varies across different age groups.

The party has quite strong support about  18-24 year olds – the youngest voters. One in eight of them support the party. That is more than the ten per cent who support the Liberal Democrats, and is within single-digits of the 23 per cent who vote Tory.

But the party has far less support among older voters. Just four per cent of 40-59 year olds, and three per cent of those older than 60, would vote for them. These older voters are the backbone of UKIP’s support – 14 per cent of the former and 18 per cent of the latter support the right-wing group.

This is why the Greens are still a marginal party, despite their youthful support. Most voters – nearly two in three – are older than 40.

Younger voters are too small a proportion of the electorate to help the Greens much. Unless the party builds support among older voters, they are likely to stay stuck on around five per cent.

That will continue to leave them as the UK’s fifth party. A more favourable distribution of support means the Lib Dems remain ahead of them with eight per cent – and UKIP are more than twice as popular.

It might seem like, though the Greens are struggling now, their support among young voters will bear fruit in the coming decades. But recent research from the New York Times showed how voters tend to drift to the right after they reach 30.

Given that our older voters are also more right-wing, the Greens may simply be benefitting from a youthful interest in the left – which soon dissolves as voters grow older.

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

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Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.