2. Is this purely because of the extra coverage received by the Greens after Dave's chicken refusal to participate in the leaders' debates unless Natalie Bennett is given a slot? No. As Adam Ramsey points out in a handy graph, there has effectively been a two-step increase in Green membership during 2014. A modest surge - as you might expect - around the time of the European elections, and then a second beginning around the time of the Scottish independence referendum and Labour conference and snowballing from there.
3. Part of this is reactive. For many people who've signed up, UKIP is the very worst of British politics. Everything that is stupid and racist, Farage and co have that market cornered. One way to hit back is to not fall behind Stand Up to UKIP, the SWP's latest exercise in guilty liberalism and bandwagon jumping, but to sign up for a party that is the antithesis of the purples' dumb bigotry. Whatever one thinks of the Green Party's programme, they make a virtue of being evidence-led. Be it climate change, anti-austerity, renationalisation, and so on they have a stronger case than any of the other parties - and that includes Labour - that they have adopted policies not just because they're popular, but because they fit the needs of the moment. That to tell the truth is somehow a radical thing speaks volumes of the state official politics is in.
4. The Green surge can be seen as an aftershock of the Scottish referendum rumble. As we know, the pro-independence parties did very well out of their "defeat". The SSP put on a thousand members, the Scottish Greens a few thousand, and the SNP surged to 90,000 plus. In the main, the joiners were people politicised and, in some cases, radicalised by the campaign. These are left folks fed up with austerity, fed up with having policies imposed on them they didn't vote for, and appalled by the way official politics in the rest of the UK is always happy to wallow in the gutter. In England and Wales, it's people with very similar attitudes who are swelling the Greens' ranks. They've looked beyond the border and have seen that a viable alternative to austerity and austerity-lite is politically possible and electorally viable, and they want to see some of that here.
5. The Greens are successively filling the political space that exists for a small left alternative on the political spectrum. The far left, unlike elsewhere, have completely failed to live up to the opportunities that exist. They're either hopeless, as per the case of Left Unity and their fixation on getting procedure right and passing resolutions no one cares about, or useless as per the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, who approach class politics as if it's the 1970s and persist seeing workers as economistic robots solely concerned with wages and cuts to public services. Their ingrained dismalism is a boon to the Greens.
6. While at the same time there are people - usually on the right of Labour - saying that we must "understand" the "genuine concerns" UKIP voters have, no such leeway is afforded the Greens. Many are the times I've been told that they're "not socialists"; are "misanthropic", caring more about badgers than people; as well as swear words like "Brighton City Council" and "sandals". I think we need to get a grip. Horror stories are good pub fodder but seldom the basis for sensible political strategy. Are there some deep Green types still in the party? Undoubtedly. Are they the majority? No, and they haven't been significant as a factional attractor for a long time. Nor are they appealing to misfits, oddballs and, for want of a better phrase, the 'socially dislocated'. They articulate the interests of a growing, rising strata whose emergence is deeply embedded in the development and contradictions of all advanced capitalist countries. To win elections Labour has to speak to, respond, and win over this increasingly important constituency.
7. It doesn't have to be like this. The Greens represent a threat to Labour's electoral prospects, yet the party can see them off, but only if it seriously wants to. Whereas UKIP offers backward-looking nostalgia for a Britain that never existed, the Greens offer the hope of something better. Labour, unfortunately, does not. Ed Miliband talks frequently of under-promising and over-delivering yet this is still managerial politics, of running things slightly more efficiently and fairly than the Tories. Such is electoral politics, that's where most of the voters are at. And this is Labour's biggest strength when facing any of the minor parties. In seats where a Green vote pulls many potential voters away from Labour it is the Tories who will benefit, and that can boldly be stated between now and election day. Green voters aren't stupid, either. As the most politically engaged and literate of all the various parties' voters, they know this too. Large numbers of them, perhaps just enough, are amenable to this lesser evil argument and come May will vote Labour in the tight marginals. This trick, however, can only be done once. Supposing Labour does win and implements the policies so far unveiled, but nothing else, that will not be a sufficiently high bar to neutralise the Greens come 2020 or whenever the next election comes round. To permanently eliminate them as a contender, Labour must redouble its efforts on climate change and education, and crucially - most crucially of all in fact - pursue policies that tackle insecurity and eliminate the blight of social anxiety. Hardly the stuff of which Winter Palace storming is made, but by acting in the general interest, the interest of the overwhelming majority of people (or the 'Common Good' as the Greens put it) Labour can ensure the Greens, as well as UKIP and the SNP, are put in a box. The prize may be even as great as a permanent majority. But again, only if Labour wants it.