The spectacular success of the British Greens in winning 15% of the vote in the 1989 elections for the European parliament contrasts starkly with their previous failures. The turnaround in their fortunes is attributable in part to increasing awareness of environmental issues, both domestic and global, but especially to changes in the state of party competition: the collapse of the Liberal and Social Democratic Alliance, the unpopularity and negative campaign of the Conservative party, and the Labour party’s abandonment of unilateral nuclear disarmament, all exacerbated by low turnout in an election for a parliament few Britons knew or cared much about. It is likely, however, that in a general election more usual conditions of political competition will obtain and that, because of the disciplines of the British electroal system, the Greens’ success of 1989 will not be repeated in national elections.
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