THE BLOG

Next Year, Every London Borough Matters for the Greens

29/07/2015 12:10 BST | Updated 28/07/2016 10:59 BST

Over the course of the selection of the Green Party's mayoral candidate I've made it very clear that I believe the elections in London next May are make or break for the Green Party.

We may be riding high from the 'Green Surge' of earlier this year, but the party must confront the very real prospect of a repeat of the late 80's; when the momentum petered out to leave the Greens in the political wilderness for over two decades.

The recent growth in membership and support for Greens is not our birthright. People up and down the country are sick and tired of politics as usual and we won many of these supporters because they recognised in our party a prospect for hope and doing politics differently.

But we can't stop there. We have to take that trust seriously and build a political force that can take on the establishment and win the power to change people's lives.

The last ten years have been marked by hard fought victories, ground out by campaigners in seats with concentrations of likely Green voters.

That was the right strategy and that's taken the party to where we are today. But we must now take our place as the third force in British politics. And next year's London Mayoral contest is a watershed.

In 2012, Jenny Jones finished a close third for the Greens. With the rise of UKIP, Labour firmly in opposition and a new generation of politicians at the fore, the landscape is drastically different.

We can't afford to play safe. We can't afford to go backwards. At next year's election we have to put daylight between us the other contenders.

If we're going to achieve that, we have to reach beyond our traditional supporters. And yes we have to go beyond the many excellent campaigning and protest groups that we support and admire.

Greens, we have to get stuck in where live and work. In Lambeth we discovered that no area is unwinnable. If casual observers were looking at the result from the prior election, Streatham St Leonard's would not have been considered a target ward. But, we had a good hunch through informal conversations with our neighbours that there was a lot of Green promise. We started by asking people one question: "How can we help you?" We organised around the issues that residents cared about and our vote went from 8% to 30%, gaining our first Green councillor in Streatham.

During the General Election, hundreds of thousands of people used the website Vote for Policies to find out who, based on policy alone, should get their vote. Our policies proved incredibly popular. This has not, as yet, translated into support at the ballot box.

A thirty-two borough strategy is not naive. I'm not suggesting we pour the same level of resource into both Richmond and Hackney. But we can't pretend that our London campaign is only for the leafy streets of Highgate and Holborn.

That's how Labour and the Tories operate. Carving out territory as red or blue. But that's the beauty of Green politics. We aren't tied to decades of ill-feeling or entrenched local party machines.

Every borough needs its own strategy rallied behind a common cause.

We must look beyond 2016 to build our party organisation with every one of our 12,000 members playing an active part.

We should be looking to grow our membership further in this campaign, turning our supporters into members and our members into activists.

We can use this campaign to build our organisation in every Borough so when it comes to the next Borough Council elections we can realistically jump from 4 councillors to 40.

And if we are going to reach every Londoner, we have to recognise that every borough counts.

If London Greens choose me as their Mayoral candidate, I will start the campaign in boroughs with promise but with low levels of Green activity. The first step is understanding what the London campaign can do to build capacity in each Borough, identify training or support requirements, helping Borough parties put together electoral plans.

But most importantly I'll do what I did in Lambeth. I'll hit the streets with party members, building a broad based movement to put Greens into elected office at every level of London politics over the next 5 years.

Next year's election will be make or break for our party. We can stay where we are, making small gains but ultimately shouting from the sidelines. Or, we can be bold, believing that we have the right values and policies to lead London into a new era.

We owe it to our friends and families. We owe it to the city we call home and we owe it to ourselves.

We must seize this once in a generation moment and take the fight to Labour and the Tories in every London Borough in 2016.