* The Green Party of England & Wales, Scottish Green Party and Green Party of Northern Ireland are separate entities, although this article will deal with all of them together.
It might seem a little dispiriting that the Greens made no gains in terms of seats, but across the UK the Green parties stood more candidates, increased their share of the vote, saved more deposits and achieved creditable second and third places in constituencies where they had not previously been a factor. That is progress.
The biggest gains were made in England & Wales, benefitting from Labour’s unconvincing performance in opposition and the Liberal collapse in ways that didn’t carry over into Scotland or Northern Ireland with their distinct dynamics –
The Greens have been criticized for concentrating on economic arguments, which they then conveyed poorly. However, this is due to a wish to show that the party is about more than the stereotyped environmental message and the difficulty in conveying the viability of radical reform in relatively brief and restricted media appearances.
That is not to deny that mistakes were made and Greens across the UK found this general election campaign to be a steep learning curve as the increases in membership experienced in 2014 increased capacity but not necessarily experience.
In any case, the Greens have emerged as a significant electoral force in the UK, winning more votes (and a larger % of the total vote) than UKIP managed in 2010 and with far more winnable elections of the horizon (2016 promises local authority elections in England alongside elections for all four devolved assemblies) this is no time for introspection.
The Green’s positive, centre-left and environmentally conscious message has a natural constituency amongst the young but also in disaffected former Labour and Liberal voters and anyone tired of tribal, establishment politics. As such, their main obstacle is getting over those long established tribal loyalties, convincing people that they can win and that their policies – often so radically different from those offered by the established parties – are sound.
2014-15 has already been a breakout year for the Greens across the UK but the progress made could so easily stall or go into reverse, especially with a Conservative government making tactical voting more likely amongst centrists & soft left voters.
In many ways the hard work comes after just such a breakthrough, with increased representation in the councils, Scottish Parliament, Senedd and London Assembly the immediate aim before the push to give Caroline Lucas someone to sit beside in 2020 even begins.
In addition to these concerns, the Greens have immediate battles on their hands at the forefront of the push for electoral reform and in the EU referendum which will surely be scheduled for some point in 2016 or 2017.