UK Green Party Overtakes Ukip to Become 5th Largest Party

Natalie Bennett
Natalie Bennett being interviewed by the New Statesman. YouTube

The Green party has announced that they have passed Ukip in terms of membership. The party announced earlier today that their total membership stands at 43,829 - 35,481 from England and Wales, 8026 Scottish and 322 in the Northern Ireland Greens.

The party claims that a surge of new members over the last couple of days has allowed them to surpass Ukip's membership of 41,943, making them the UK's fifth largest party.

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green party, said that 3,000 members had joined in the last 36 hours. "We are now entering new political territory, for the Green party and more broadly for Britain," she added.

The increase in membership will give further ammunition to the party in its demand to be included in the upcoming television debates, which they have been controversially left out of. Green party leader Natalie Bennett wrote to Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage on the morning of the 14th of January, calling for them to back her bid to appear in the planned debate between the four main parties.

In a public consultation released in January on who might be considered as major party in May's election, Ofcom, the UK's media regulator, said that while Ukip might qualify for consideration as a major party, the Greens did not, because they have not, "secured sufficient support in previous elections and current opinion polls". One of Ofcom's roles as broadcasting regulator is to ensure that broadcasters give "due weight" to coverage of major parties during the election.

In an interview today on London Live, Natalie Bennett said that the Green party is exploring legal options should the party be denied participation in the leaders debate. "We have to look at the fine legal detail," she said, "but certainly we are talking to some lawyers and they are giving us very strong support that we really appreciate. Legal action is an option whether it would be directly against ITV or against the consortium, would be a matter of detail"

The latest polling from YouGov shows the Green party on 7%, a point ahead of the Liberal Democrats on 6%, while 15% of respondents said they would vote for Ukip.

YouGov also found that 67% of Britons think Natalie Bennett should be invited to take part in the leaders debates, while 72% think it is unfair that the Greens are not included while the Lib Dems given their similar level of support in the polls.

A spokesperson from Ofcom said that party membership was not part of the regulator's assessment. The Scottish National Party (SNP) is also keen to be included in the debates and recently overtook the Lib Dems as the UK's third biggest party by membership.

There are signs Labour are worried that the Greens will form a legitimate challenge on the left in the same way Ukip has been to the Conservatives on the right, with the Telegraph reporting that shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan is heading a unit to "halt the green rot".

The Green party will be fielding candidates in at 75% of seats in England and Wales in May's general election.

Ukip did not immediately respond to a request to comment.