Green Party (UK) - Green Party (UK), 1985–1990s

Green Party (UK), 1985–1990s

1985 was a time of political change in the UK. After the formation of the SDP, there were noises being made that the UK needed a "green" party. In response to the rumours of a cohort of Liberal Party activists being about to launch a UK Green Party, HELP (the Hackney Local Ecology Party) formally registered the name "the Green Party", with a green circle, designed by Steve O’Brien, as the logo. The first public meeting

, chaired by David Fitzpatrick (then an Ecology Party Speaker), was 13 June 1985 in Hackney Town Hall. Paul Ekins (then Co-Chair of the Ecology Party) spoke on the subject of Green Politics and the Inner City. Hackney Green Party put a formal proposal to the Ecology Party Autumn Conference in Dover that year to change to the Green Party, which was supported by the majority of attendees, including John Abineri, formerly an actor in the BBC series Survivors who supported adding the colour 'Green' to the name to fall in line with other environmental parties in Europe.

In 1986, a new internal dispute arose within the Party. A faction calling itself the 'Party Organisation Working Group' (POWG) proposed constitutional amendments designed to create a streamlined, two-tier structure to govern the internal workings of the Party. Decentralists voted these proposals down. Paul Ekins and Jonathan Tyler, prominent Party activists and leading members of POWG, then formed a semi-covert group called 'Maingreen', whose private comments, on becoming public knowledge, suggested to many that they wished to take control of the Party. Tyler and Ekins resigned and left the Party but Derek Wall describes how the "wounds" left by the 'Maingreen Affair' lingered on in the heated internal debates of the late 1980s.

Meanwhile, the Party gained ground electorally. The 1987 General Election saw the 133 Greens standing for office take 89,753 votes (1.3% on average), an improvement on 1983. The next two years would see growing membership and increasing media attention. This coincided with greater concern over the environment following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and concern over CFCs.

The Party enjoyed evermore success. The 'Campaign for Real Democracy' launched by the Party allowed it to play a part in the Anti-Poll Tax Campaign. The Party's greatest ever success came at 1989 European Elections, where the Green Party won 2,292,695 votes and received 15% of the overall vote. European Elections in Great Britain were then run on a first-past-the-post basis, whilst the three seats in Northern Ireland were elected by single transferable vote, and the party failed to gain any seats. According to Derek Wall, the Party would have gained 12 seats if they had been running in other European countries who employed Proportional Representation. Wall explains this "breakthrough" as a combination of the declining popularity of Margaret Thatcher, the reaction to the Poll Tax, Conservative opposition to the European Union, ineffective Labour Party and Liberal Democrat campaigns and a well-prepared Green Party campaign. That environmental issues were very prominent in UK politics at the time should also be added to this list. At no time before or since have Green issues been so high on the minds of UK voters as a voting issue.

As a result of this success, Sara Parkin and David Icke rose to prominence in the UK media. Parkin especially was in demand as a Green spokeswoman. However, the new media attention was not always handled well by the party as a whole. In the run up to the 1989 party conference, the party attracted criticism for advocating policies aiming to reduce the total population, proposals which were subsequently rejected. Further controversies included Derek Wall's intervention as a maverick 'Green fundamentalist' and rejection of possible alliances to establish PR.

Mainstream political parties were however alarmed by the Green's electoral performance and adopted some 'Green policies' in an attempt to counter the threat.

In this period, the Green Party had representation in the House of Lords, the (unelected) upper chamber of Parliament in the person of George MacLeod, Baron MacLeod of Fuinary, who died in 1991. He was the first British Green parliamentarian.

In 1990, the Scottish and Northern Ireland wings of the Green Party in the United Kingdom decided to separate amicably from the party in England and Wales, to form the Scottish Green Party and the Green Party in Northern Ireland. The Wales Green Party became an autonomous regional party and remained within the new Green Party of England and Wales.

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