With a message of “yes to Europe, no to climate change”, environmentalists are emerging as a force to reckon with in Brussels
Last night’s results from the EU elections were clear: voters in the UK want a decisive strategy on Brexit, whether Leave or Remain.
But those of you who despair at Nigel Farage’s crusade can take hope in the emergence of a new and altogether more optimistic breed of politics that’s sweeping Europe: the feted “green wave”.
Green parties have traditionally stood on the margins of the political sphere in Britain and beyond.
But in a year that has seen thousands of schoolchildren take to the streets to in mass climate strikes, and protest groups such as Extinction Rebellion bring central London to a standstill, the electorate has delivered the strongest ever results for Greens in EU parliament.
The vote count last night outlined a surge in support with major gains for Green parties across Europe, from Germany’s Die Grünen party, which leapt into second place, doubling its vote share, to the Écologie Les Verts in France, which is forecast to come third in the country, with 14% of the vote. Finland’s Greens also landed second place with around 16% of the vote, while Ireland tripled its Green party support from 5% to 15%.
And Alice Bah Kuhnke of the Swedish Greens (pictured above, main) has become the country’s first black MEP, vowing “to go where the far-right extremists go” and face them down.
Meanwhile here in the UK, an unprecedented 4.6% spike in vote share for the Greens saw the Tory party pushed into disastrous fifth place ranking.
“Clearly people wanted to vote for the Green party because they know that we are a passionate remain party but it’s also the case that right at the top of our messaging we had responses to the accelerating climate crisis and that was the same both in the UK and right across Europe,” said party leader and Green MP Caroline Lucas.
Green MEPs who raced to victory last night included Magid Magid (above), a Somali refugee and former Lord Mayor of Sheffield who famously banned Donald Trump from his city.
Meanwhile Ellie Chowns said she was “absolutely delighted” to became the first Green MEP in the West Midlands, and Alexandra Phillips branded it the “honour of a lifetime” after securing a 13.52% share in the South East.
“Many of you weren’t born in our country, you have made a home here more recently,” the newly elected Green MEP wrote on Twitter. “I stand with you. Many of you didn’t have a vote in this election, some of you were denied one even though you had a legal right to one. I stand with you. I am *your* MEP.
“And I have a message for those MEPs elected across the country this evening who aim to use their position in Brussels to spread fear and hate. The demagogues dressing up as democrats. I will stand against you.”
As of now, the total tally for Green MEPs in Brussels stands at 71, meaning they could become a dominant force in an increasingly fragmented EU parliament.
The Brexit Party took the lion’s share of the EU election vote in the UK last night, while the Lib Dems also performed well with their “Bollocks to Brexit” campaign, in second place.
It’s not yet clear how this new political reality will shape the future of the EU; and specifically, the UK’s place within that.
But as Green leader Lucas points out, widespread gains for Farage’s group don’t necessarily mean a mandate for Leave: “I think the Brexit party got about 35% of the vote and the strongly remain parties got about 40% of the vote,” she said on the BBC’s Today programme this morning.