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. 

For daily news, analysis and predictions on next year's election, follow May2015.com.

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.

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

John Moore
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The man who created the fake Tube sign explains why he did it

"We need to consider the fact that fake news isn't always fake news at the source," says John Moore.

"I wrote that at 8 o'clock on the evening and before midday the next day it had been read out in the Houses of Parliament."

John Moore, a 44-year-old doctor from Windsor, is describing the whirlwind process by which his social media response to Wednesday's Westminster attack became national news.

Moore used a Tube-sign generator on the evening after the attack to create a sign on a TfL Service Announcement board that read: "All terrorists are politely reminded that THIS IS LONDON and whatever you do to us we will drink tea and jolly well carry on thank you." Within three hours, it had just fifty shares. By the morning, it had accumulated 200. Yet by the afternoon, over 30,000 people had shared Moore's post, which was then read aloud on BBC Radio 4 and called a "wonderful tribute" by prime minister Theresa May, who at the time believed it was a genuine Underground sign. 

"I think you have to be very mindful of how powerful the internet is," says Moore, whose viral post was quickly debunked by social media users and then national newspapers such as the Guardian and the Sun. On Thursday, the online world split into two camps: those spreading the word that the sign was "fake news" and urging people not to share it, and those who said that it didn't matter that it was fake - the sentiment was what was important. 

Moore agrees with the latter camp. "I never claimed it was a real tube sign, I never claimed that at all," he says. "In my opinion the only fake news about that sign is that it has been reported as fake news. It was literally just how I was feeling at the time."

Moore was motivated to create and post the sign when he was struck by the "very British response" to the Westminster attack. "There was no sort of knee-jerk Islamaphobia, there was no dramatisation, it was all pretty much, I thought, very calm reporting," he says. "So my initial thought at the time was just a bit of pride in how London had reacted really." Though he saw other, real Tube signs online, he wanted to create his own in order to create a tribute that specifically epitomised the "very London" response. 

Yet though Moore insists he never claimed the sign was real, his caption on the image - which now has 100,800 shares - is arguably misleading. "Quintessentially British..." Moore wrote on his Facebook post, and agrees now that this was ambiguous. "It was meant to relate to the reaction that I saw in London in that day which I just thought was very calm and measured. What the sign was trying to do was capture the spirit I'd seen, so that's what I was actually talking about."

Not only did Moore not mean to mislead, he is actually shocked that anyone thought the sign was real. 

"I'm reasonably digitally savvy and I was extremely shocked that anyone thought it was real," he says, explaining that he thought everyone would be able to spot a fake after a "You ain't no muslim bruv" sign went viral after the Leytonstone Tube attack in 2015. "I thought this is an internet meme that people know isn't true and it's fine to do because this is a digital thing in a digital world."

Yet despite his intentions, Moore's sign has become the centre of debate about whether "nice" fake news is as problematic as that which was notoriously spread during the 2016 United States Presidential elections. Though Moore can understand this perspective, he ultimately feels as though the sentiment behind the sign makes it acceptable. 

"I use the word fake in inverted commas because I think fake implies the intention to deceive and there wasn't [any]... I think if the sentiment is ok then I think it is ok. I think if you were trying to be divisive and you were trying to stir up controversy or influence people's behaviour then perhaps I wouldn't have chosen that forum but I think when you're only expressing your own emotion, I think it's ok.

"The fact that it became so-called fake news was down to other people's interpretation and not down to the actual intention... So in many interesting ways you can see that fake news doesn't even have to originate from the source of the news."

Though Moore was initially "extremely shocked" at the reponse to his post, he says that on reflection he is "pretty proud". 

"I'm glad that other people, even the powers that be, found it an appropriate phrase to use," he says. "I also think social media is often denigrated as a source of evil and bad things in the world, but on occasion I think it can be used for very positive things. I think the vast majority of people who shared my post and liked my post have actually found the phrase and the sentiment useful to them, so I think we have to give social media a fair judgement at times and respect the fact it can be a source for good."

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.