The Greta Thunberg Effect? Green Party Increases Vote Numbers in U.K. Election By Over 60 Percent

The U.K. Green Party increased its vote numbers by more than 60 percent at the country's recent general election—a bigger rise than any other party.

In total, more than 850,000 people voted for the Greens, whose ideology is based on environmentalism and left-wing economic policies.

The party stood on a platform which involved promising to tackle the climate crisis, transforming the economy and putting the wellbeing of citizens at the heart of government.

"This was a breakthrough election for the climate emergency and the collapse of our natural world," Natalie Bennett, a Green Party peer and former leader, said in a statement provided to Newsweek. "They were at the center of the debate as never before, with more than one in five people saying climate was a major election issue."

"The majority of the public supports our 2030 net-zero carbon target and that's one key reason why the Green Party piled on votes yesterday. From the recent flooding in South Yorkshire to the decline of biodiversity, the impacts of the way we've been treating our fragile planet are more evident every day. That's the most pressing political issue of today," she said.

Party co-leader Sian Berry also said the hard work of party members had played a big part in the result.

"We all knew a December election was going to be hard work, but they have excelled themselves, stuffing envelopes, knocking doors and pounding pavements despite the weather to make sure we reached as many voters as we could," she said in a statement. "Their tireless efforts have paid off, with more than 850,000 votes."

However, despite gaining 850,000 votes across 500 local constituencies, the party only managed to win one seat out of a total of 650 in the U.K. parliament's lower house.

This can be explained by the first-past-the-post voting system which is used in the U.K. to elect members of parliament. Under this system, the candidate with the most votes in each individual constituency wins the seat.

But this system means that a party can win a large number of votes overall across the country and still fail to gain a seat if they are spread out too thinly among different constituencies, critics say.

"It's just a shame that our broken first-past-the-post system will not recognise the true political will of the people and I look forward to the day we win proportional representation so we can see our votes fully reflected in the number of Green MPs," Berry said.

Green MP (Member of Parliament) Caroline Lucas won the only seat of the election for her party after being re-elected to represent the constituency of Brighton Pavillion—located on the south coast of England.

Lucas—a former leader of the party—won 57.2 percent of the vote in the constituency, an increase of 4.9 percent on the 2017 U.K. general election. She beat her closest rival by almost 20,000 votes.

Caroline Lucas
MP Caroline Lucas of the Green Party speaks at a Climate emergency protest in Parliament Square outside the Houses of Parliament on May 1, 2019 in London, England. John Keeble/Getty Images

"I feel incredibly proud that my majority has increased because it demonstrates that Brighton Pavilion continues to believe in compassion, justice and a bigger future," Lucas said after winning the seat. "That matters so much when the status quo in this country is intolerable—and when we are now on course for it to become even more so."

"As well as proud I feel deeply angry, too, that our political system is so badly broken and is still letting individuals and our country down so badly. It has been doing so for decades. It has locked out millions and ignored their voices for years. And it's our children and the climate that will pay the highest price of all," she said. "This may well have been a Brexit election but it was also the climate election and I am determined to make this the climate parliament."

In an election dominated by the polarizing issue of Brexit, Boris Johnson's Conservative party won a comfortable majority, taking home 364 seats in the House of Commons—an increase of 47. Meanwhile, the main opposition Labour Party won just 203 seats—a decrease of 59—followed by the Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrat with 48 and 11 seats respectively.