Post-election round-up: 6 things we learnt from 5 May’s elections
Now that the dust has settled from the various elections across the UK on the 5th May, Joe Lo looks at 6 key things to take away from the results.
- The ‘Corbyn effect’ cost English Greens seats in our student-city strongholds
In the places where the Greens did best in the pre-Corbyn era, we are now doing less well. In Bristol, Norwich, Oxford and Cambridge, the Greens either lost or failed to gain councillors. This makes sense and was, to a certain extent, inevitable. The kind of people who voted Green when Ed Milliband was Labour leader are the same kind of people who are likely to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. While the kind of Labour councillors they are asked to vote for may not have changed, people see a vote for Corbyn’s Labour as a vote of confidence in Corbyn’s leadership.
So what to do about this? Rupert Read has argued in The Ecologist that the Green Party should move towards the so-called ‘centre-ground’ of British politics and abandon our socialist values, so that we can be different to Corbyn’s Labour.
Such a strategy would be a disaster. It’s taken decades to build up a reputation as a party of the left. To abandon our left-wing values as soon as it becomes politically useful (in the short-term) to do so, would wreck our electoral fortunes for a generation. While Jeremy Corbyn is leader, the Green Party should show solidarity with him and work with him where possible. If he is deposed by the party’s right, Labour voters and activists will flock (back) to the Greens. If he makes it to the next general election, that election will be a once-in-a-generation chance to elect a decent prime minister and the Greens will not be forgiven if we stand in the way of that.
In the short term, we should stick to our guns and fight local elections on local issues, pointing out that Labour’s councillors do not always share the views of their national leader. In mayoral elections (in Labour cities like Bristol, Liverpool and London), where the candidate is more distinct from the party, the Greens performed well.
- English Greens took seats from Tories
In traditional Tory areas of the West Midlands like Worcester and Solihull, the Greens took council seats off Tories. In Tory Dorset, we got our first seat on Weymouth and Portland borough council and there were gains in areas of Stroud, Gloucestershire, which are not traditionally Green. So outside of the big cities and away from our traditional student voters, the Greens had a good night in terms of council elections.
- The Greens are London’s third party
Thanks to an excellent campaign by Sian Berry and her team, the Greens kept their two assembly members and beat the Lib Dems and UKIP into third in the Mayoral election for the second time in a row. A lot of the credit for this can go down to a good campaign and candidate. Reading the Evening Standard (the London commuter’s bible), Berry was mentioned far more, and in better terms, than either the Lib Dems or UKIP. When she performed in hustings, even journalists you’d expect to be hostile seemed impressed by her. According to the Independent, she also received more second preference votes than any other candidate, showing that a lot of Londoners (many of them Labour voters) liked her but not quite enough to vote for her. If the party can turn that goodwill into solid votes, there could be a lot more Green London councillors in the future.
- The Greens did well in Scotland
The factors and forces spoken about above seem to have almost no bearing on the Greens’ performance in Scotland. It’s (literally) a different party, a different political context, different results. The Scottish Greens gained four MSPs and the balance of power in the Scottish Parliament, which Ric Lander wrote more about here.
- …and in Northern Ireland
The politics of Northern Ireland are even more unique and Bright Green’s correspondent in the region Bradley Allsop has written about a good election night there with the Greens increasing their representation on the national assembly from one to two and increasing their overall vote share.
- Results in Wales were disappointing
With the Greens going for two seats on the Welsh Assembly, we ended up with none. Depressingly, UKIP increased its share of the vote while Labour and Plaid Cymru battled for control of the Assembly. Professor Roger Scully of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre told Wales Online: “I think the Greens in particular, having had a reasonable prominence in the debates, still had a pretty dreadful result in the end, [and] will need to do some pretty serious thinking about [how] if they are going to be at all serious about Assembly elections in the future and about trying to get somewhere then that might lead them to looking at potentially making some deals.” He said that, if an electoral pact with Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems, had resulted in those parties stepping aside in Mid and West Wales, where Welsh Green Party leader Alice Hooker-Stroud was standing, she might have won.