In Tomorrow's Council Elections, Greens Can Beat the System

04/05/2016 15:09

Tomorrow, the majority of people in Britain will have the chance to go to the polls.

For the Green Party of England and Wales, and our sister parties in Scotland and Northern Ireland, these are exciting elections.

In Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London, these are fair, proportional elections, in which voters can vote for what they want, and get it. Tellingly, these are all for institutions created relatively recently - no one would create a first-past-the-post electoral system, as we have in Westminster and local councils in England and Wales, now, in our world of multiparty politics.

But in these local elections, the Green Party is in a better position than ever before to beat the system.

Following on from the Green Surge last year, when membership more than trebled and we got 1.1 million votes in the general election, we're standing in 54% of the council seats contested. (That's up from 26% in the corresponding elections four years ago.)

In places where we are traditionally strong on councils - Norwich, Solihull and Liverpool (where we are already the official opposition), Bristol (where we won a 23% swing in 2015 and got agonisingly close to winning the seat of Bristol West), Sheffield (where we finished second in Sheffield Central) and Oxford - we can build on that strength.

Then in places like Nuneaton, Huddersfield, Stroud, Worcester, Reading and Cambridge, where we are already having a real impact on the council, we've got the chance to grow that effect.

Then there are many places around the country where we have the chance to win our first representation on the council - to be a new broom sweeping into what are all too often dusty corridors, asking questions, challenging, scrutinising.

From Exeter to Manchester, Newcastle to Plymouth, Cheltenham to Sunderland, Cannock to Portsmouth, South Shields to Southampton, we've got a great chance to win our first green councillors.

Greens acknowledge that it is extremely tough for councils under the failed, disastrous Westminster Tory policy of austerity while saying that we can do more to protect essential services and the most vulnerable in our communities - whether it is finding creative ways to build or find new homes (see Louis Stephen's widely praised "living above the shop" campaign in Worcester), finding ways to cut household energy bills while reducing carbon emissions, or ways to use social enterprises or volunteers to keep open libraries, visitors' centres and their building - which can again be fully utilised in better times.

Greens are the supporters of small independent businesses, understanding that strong local economies where money is kept circulating locally rather than going into the jaws of multinational giants and all too often into a handy tax haven are essential to prosperity of communities.

We're determined to protect services for the most vulnerable, including the homeless, and have been at the forefront of campaigns against the injustice of Public Space Protection Orders, a Tory weapon all too often being wielded by Labour councillors that can criminalise the homeless simply for being homeless.

Every vote for a Green Party council candidate on Thursday will have an impact - will deliver a message that you want a new kind of politics - and a new kind of fair, proportional electoral system.
And it could give you a local Green councillor, a person embedded in your community who will represent your interests.

Greens are used to other parties "stealing" our ideas - it's usually around a decade after we take up an issue that it gets adopted by other parties: see the living wage, 20mph speed limits and getting serious about air pollution.

But given the state of our economy, our society, our environment, we can no longer wait that long. We need to elect more Greens, put Greens in power, to deliver a new society that works for the common good, not just the 1% of the richest, within the environmental limits of our one fragile planet.