The Big Green Vote in the Sky June 1989

Andrew Pearmain has produced an excellent, detailed and well referenced paper on the Green Party election success - in votes, but not seats - in the 1989 European Election. There is a lot of well researched background detail into the workings of the campaign and the aftermath.

In the light of today's growing mass awareness of the threats of ecological destruction, climate change, and social division there is much food for thought for today's activists from this historical account.

We are delighted to have the paper itself available in the library. You can download it here or click/tap the thumbnail on the right.

The full paper runs to 74 pages. A brief synopsis is provided below


This study takes a fresh look at the politics of the Green Party of England and Wales, using the 1989 European election as a focus. The Party's performance in 1989, with 2.3 million votes and 15 per cent of the vote, was by far the best performance of any green party in a national election up to that point, and remains the GPEW's best ever. This study examines how that was achieved, with fresh archival research and a thorough survey of the surprisingly meagre literature on the subject.

From there, the author examines

•      Where green politics came from, with a comparison between the British situation and other European countries, especially Germany, where a more receptive political system and culture has enabled Die Grunen to establish themselves in the political mainstream.

•      Where green politics went after 1989, and how the opportunities presented by the European election were minimised by other political parties but also squandered by the Green Party itself.

•      Particular themes and issues within that trajectory, such as the phenomenon of protest voting and 'flash parties', the contours of a politics 'beyond left and right', the relationship between 'movement' and 'party' politics, and the tension between immediate political objectives and grander historical themes (in this case, the global threat of environmental degradation and climate change).

The author concludes with a novel interpretation of the significance of 1989, that it represents a largely inadvertent coincidence of the leftward trajectory of green politics with the rightward trajectory of British society, which is unlikely to recur. It is therefore incumbent on the Green Party itself to devise and promote a conscious political strategy to win mass support among the voting public.

Andrew Pearmain is a political historian, author of 'The Politics of New Labour' (2011) and a forthcoming biography of the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, and a founder member of the Greenhouse thinktank.  

Click here to download the full paper.