The Wales Green Party has traditionally seen the National Assembly elections as an opportunity to try and get representation through PR – only putting candidates up on the regional list. Indeed the 2011 Manifesto was entitled “2nd vote Green”. This time however they plan to select candidates in each of the 40 first-past-the-post electoral constituencies, as well as the five regions.
The 2011 manifesto pledged to defend public services and build a low carbon economy. They offered a ‘Green New Deal’ that would support local businesses and create 50,000 sustainable jobs. They underlined their opposition to nuclear power, and expressed a wish to follow Scotland’s lead in offering free social fare for the elderly.
By the 2015 General Election their campaign’s main message was an attack on austerity. Achieving international agreement on limiting climate change was deemed to be the major foreign policy priority. The Wales Green Party’s manifesto included a section on policies in devolved areas, forming the basis of what we should expect to see in their 2016 Assembly manifesto.
On climate change the party would aim to steadily reduce all Welsh greenhouse emissions to 10% of their 1990 levels by 2030. A Green government would invest heavily in energy conservation and renewable energy technology. Eradicating fuel poverty would be a priority. With decisions over energy projects generating up to 350 megawatts of power being devolved to Wales, we would expect more detailed plans and a call for a complete ban on fracking in the 2016 manifesto.
On rural affairs the party would maintain Wales’s GM-free status, would phase out factory farming and support organic and less-intensive farming. On housing the party would increase the number of social rented homes built, and end the Right to Buy scheme.
The party would work towards an integrated health and social service, and would put more emphasis on promoting public health and reducing health inequalities. The Greens would restore the right of local authorities to plan and build schools according to local needs and encourage them to provide secondary schools with a more balanced intake to discourage inequality.
The Greens see their transport policy as distinct from other parties by stressing the need to reduce the demand for travel, through creating strong local economies. They would prioritise walking, cycling and public transport over private and air transport, and would seek to devolve transport fully to Wales.
Finally the Green Party support lowering the voting age to 16. The party will adopt a Policy for a Sustainable Society in Wales in their Annual General Meeting in November which will be used as a basis for their 2016 manifesto.
So what hopes do the Wales Green Party have of influencing a programme of government from within the Assembly chamber? Back in 2011 they achieved 3.4% of the votes cast for candidates on the regional lists. In the Euro elections of 2014 they achieved 4.52% of the vote in Wales. They had performed poorly in the 2010 General Election, achieving only 6,293 votes in Wales, so to see a six-fold increase in their vote in 2015 – and a vote share of 2.6% – was seen by them as a great achievement and part of a “Green Surge”. They had seen an increase in membership in Wales and stood a record 36 candidates out of a possible 40. Throughout the UK the Greens got their best ever General Election result with over 1.1 million votes.
Wales Green Party leader Pippa Bartolotti has set an ambitious aim of gaining three seats at the next Assembly election – including two on the regional list. Following the General Election, the Welsh Political Barometer Poll for June noted that the Greens were on 4% of the regional vote in an Assembly election, which would deliver them no seats. The same poll also asked participants to rate the leaders of the parties in Wales, giving them an option of “Don’t Know” – 61% of them did so in the case of Pippa Bartolotti. So it appears that her raised profile in the Welsh TV election debates, coupled with the exposure given to Natalie Bennett in the UK-wide TV debates, hasn’t translated yet into a significant increase in support since the general election. It remains to be seen if there will be a Green Surge at the next election…