Caroline Lucas is the Green party's only MP and their former leader.
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Have the Greens really overtaken the Lib Dems in the polls?

Today's numbers rely on nearly one in three young voters backing the Greens - we need more data before we can confirm today's spike. 

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Earlier this summer we looked at how the Greens, despite the media’s likely appetite for a fifth major political party, seemed to be pegged at 5 per cent in the polls.

Their support skews disproportionately towards the young. One in eight voters aged 18-24 back them, but less than 5 per cent of those older than 40 do – and they make up two-thirds of the electorate.

That story hasn’t changed in YouGov’s polls. Their four Tue-Fri polls for the Sun last week showed the party still at around 5 per cent, and appealing to 10-12 per cent of young voters.

But today’s weekly national poll by Lord Aschcroft has suggested Britain’s most left-wing party just jumped from 5 to 8 per cent.

Breaking that result down by age group shows why we should be wary of the finding: Ashcroft’s data suggests 28 per cent of 18-24 year olds are now planning to vote Green.

This would be far beyond the level of support suggested by anyone, including the party.

The data is not nearly robust enough for Ashcroft to actually be saying this. His poll surveys around 1,000 people – as all must to be within 3 per cent of accuracy – but, by the time he has ironed out those not planning to vote or undecided, he is down to around 500.

By the time he breaks the data into age groups he is weighing less than 100 people. The margin of error becomes untenable under around 200 people, when it is 7 per cent.

There are only 56 weighted 18-24 year olds in Ashcroft’s poll – so we can’t say 28 per cent of them are actually going to vote Green.

Ashcroft isn’t trying to, but the point is that this is only one poll. We should hesitate to say 8 per cent of the population are now converts. Despite the party’s protestations to the contrary, the Greens have consistently polled below the Lib Dems, who have been at around 8 per cent for months.

We can only take sub-breaks seriously over time. And YouGov's have shown the party's youthful support at far lower levels than today's poll implies. If Ashcroft's numbers had shown only 12 per cent of 18-24s backing the Greens in today's poll (7 rather than 16 of the 56 18-24s), the party would have managed 6, rather than 8, per cent overall (32 rather than 41 of the 517 in the weighted sample).

Until Ashcroft continues to show the Greens really have captured a third of Britain’s youth, or other pollsters start to agree with him, renewed calls for Natalie Bennett’s inclusion in the leaders’ debates should be postponed.

But today’s poll does show some movement, and is a frank example of what we discussed this morning: the polls can be shaped by the media. After a week of press coverage following Bennett’s exclusion from the broadcasters’ proposals, the party seems to have won a poll spike.

Now the polls will in turn probably shape the press. The Greens could win another round of coverage, potentially driving them up in the polls yet again.


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

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood