Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.
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Potential support for the Greens outweighs potential support for Ukip

A new poll shows 26 per cent would vote for a Green candidate capable of winning, compared to 24 per cent for Ukip. 

Even after the Greens' recent surge, which has seen them poll as high as 8 per cent (they won just 1 per cent in 2010), the party still trails far behind Ukip. But a fascinating new poll by YouGov for the Times's Red Box shows how Natalie Bennett's band could overtake Nigel Farage's.

Asked which party they would vote for if all candidates had a chance of winning in their constituency, 26 per cent said they would "likely" support the Greens, ahead of Ukip on 24 per cent. Most likely owing to Ukip's toxic status among many centrist and liberal voters, fewer are willing to consider supporting it than the left-wing alternative. The Tories and Labour were on 35 per cent each, with the Lib Dems in last place on 16 per cent.

The polls shows the potential for the Greens to split the British left in the manner of its European counterparts, a danger Labour is alive to. As I recently revealed, the party has established an electoral unit, led by Sadiq Khan, to counter defections to its rival. Labour fears that the party could cost it as many as 17 marginal seats, in liberal-leaning areas such as Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge and Norwich.

The greatest obstacle to the Greens' advancement remains, of course, Britain's antiquated first-past-the-post voting system. Only in a handful of constituencies can the party claim to be in contention for first place, allowing its competitors to warn of the danger of "wasted votes". But that 26 per cent are prepared to contemplate voting for the Greens shows the extent to which traditional loyalties are fraying.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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