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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Why Barack Obama was right to release Chelsea Manning

A Presidential act of mercy is good for Manning, but also for the US.

In early 2010, a young US military intelligence analyst on an army base near Baghdad slipped a Lady Gaga CD into a computer and sang along to the music. In fact, the soldier's apparently upbeat mood hid two facts. 

First, the soldier later known as Chelsea Manning was completely alienated from army culture, and the callous way she believed it treated civilians in Iraq. And second, she was quietly erasing the music on her CDs and replacing it with files holding explosive military data, which she would release to the world via Wikileaks. 

To some, Manning is a free speech hero. To others, she is a traitor. President Barack Obama’s decision to commute her 35-year sentence before leaving office has been blasted as “outrageous” by leading Republican Paul Ryan. Other Republican critics argue Obama is rewarding an act that endangered the lives of soldiers and intelligence operatives while giving ammunition to Russia. 

They have a point. Liberals banging the drum against Russia’s leak offensive during the US election cannot simultaneously argue leaks are inherently good. 

But even if you think Manning was deeply misguided in her use of Lady Gaga CDs, there are strong reasons why we should celebrate her release. 

1. She was not judged on the public interest

Manning was motivated by what she believed to be human rights abuses in Iraq, but her public interest defence has never been tested. 

The leaks were undoubtedly of public interest. As Manning said in the podcast she recorded with Amnesty International: “When we made mistakes, planning operations, innocent people died.” 

Thanks to Manning’s leak, we also know about the Vatican hiding sex abuse scandals in Ireland, plus the UK promising to protect US interests during the Chilcot Inquiry. 

In countries such as Germany, Canada and Denmark, whistle blowers in sensitive areas can use a public interest defence. In the US, however, such a defence does not exist – meaning it is impossible for Manning to legally argue her actions were in the public good. 

2. She was deemed worse than rapists and murderers

Her sentence was out of proportion to her crime. Compare her 35-year sentence to that received by William Millay, a young police officer, also in 2013. Caught in the act of trying to sell classified documents to someone he believed was a Russian intelligence officer, he was given 16 years

According to Amnesty International: “Manning’s sentence was much longer than other members of the military convicted of charges such as murder, rape and war crimes, as well as any others who were convicted of leaking classified materials to the public.”

3. Her time in jail was particularly miserable 

Manning’s conditions in jail do nothing to dispel the idea she has been treated extraordinarily harshly. When initially placed in solitary confinement, she needed permission to do anything in her cell, even walking around to exercise. 

When she requested treatment for her gender dysphoria, the military prison’s initial response was a blanket refusal – despite the fact many civilian prisons accept the idea that trans inmates are entitled to hormones. Manning has attempted suicide several times. She finally received permission to receive gender transition surgery in 2016 after a hunger strike

4. Julian Assange can stop acting like a martyr

Internationally, Manning’s continued incarceration was likely to do more harm than good. She has said she is sorry “for hurting the US”. Her worldwide following has turned her into an icon of US hypocrisy on free speech.

Then there's the fact Wikileaks said its founder Julian Assange would agree to be extradited to the US if Manning was released. Now that Manning is months away from freedom, his excuses for staying in the Equadorian London Embassy to avoid Swedish rape allegations are somewhat feebler.  

As for the President - under whose watch Manning was prosecuted - he may be leaving his office with his legacy in peril, but with one stroke of his pen, he has changed a life. Manning, now 29, could have expected to leave prison in her late 50s. Instead, she'll be free before her 30th birthday. And perhaps the Equadorian ambassador will finally get his room back. 

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.