Green Party local election preview: East Midlands
Local elections are right around the corner. Thousands of new councillors are set to enter local government in England and the north of Ireland. Nearly 200 Greens are currently elected to local authorities across the UK. On May 2, both the Green Party of England and Wales and the Green Party in Northern Ireland are hoping to add to their tally.
Bright Green is taking a look at some of the most interesting races for the Greens – highlighting the candidates, reviewing the campaigns, and previewing what could happen on polling day.
Next up in our previews is the East Midlands.
A town called Spalding
Spalding is a town near the border between Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. It sits almost equidistant between Peterborough, Grantham, Boston and Sleaford. Peterborough is famous for its train station. Grantham for giving us Thatcher. Boston for its American cousin. Sleaford for lending its name to the best band in the world – Sleaford Mods.
Spalding is probably best known for claiming to host the world’s first rock music festival – Barbecue 67, at which Jim Hendrix graced the stage. It is less known as a potential site of Green councillors.
South Holland District Council is currently comprised exclusively of Conservative and Independent councillors. In Spalding Castle ward 2015, the Greens polled just 125 votes, coming third behind both the Conservative and independent candidates. But a Young Green candidate – Alistair Crisp – is putting the political orthodoxy under threat.
Committed in his campaigning, Crisp has been working hard to convert voters to the Greens. A tall order in an area that has been long consistent in its voting patterns.
But interestingly, Spalding is one of those places that is oft referred to in conversations about Brexit and the ‘left behinds’. It is a small town that is culturally, politically and geographically distant from London and the metropolitan university cities. There is no real history of significant political campaigning – canvassing is far from the norm, and get out the vote campaigns are virtually non-existent.
This is why the Green campaign is so interesting, and has such potential. For many voters, Crisp is likely to be the first election candidate to have ever knocked on their door. He’s likely the first who has asked them for their views on local issues. And he’s certainly the first to offer a genuine alternative.
Toppling the Tory in this election is a tall order, but Crisp may just do it.
From Alistair Crisp to Walker’s Crisps
Leicester is the second best city in the Midlands (after Birmingham of course). It is known for being the birthplace of Walker’s Crisps as well as home to two sporting titans: the plucky Premiership winners – Leicester City FC – and the once dominating rugby union side – Leicester Tigers.
Leicester Green Party are channelling all the underdog spirit of the footballing foxes. In 2015, all but two of the city’s council seats went to Labour. The Greens were without representation.
But in Castle ward, Green candidate Mags Lewis came just 220 votes away from snatching a seat from Labour. Her fellow Green candidates in the three seat ward also polled well.
As in Spalding, the Greens have an opportunity to break political norms here. If the Greens were able to break onto the council, it would disrupt Labour’s dominance on the council, and bring a fresh voice to Leicester’s politics.
The theme for the Greens in the East Midlands this year is breaking new ground. Many of the most interesting elections are taking place in areas that have no history of Green representation. The campaigns are thus about getting the first Green in the room on councils.
The Derbyshire authority of Amber Valley fits with this trend. As does the village of of Duffield, where the Greens’ chances are highest.
A few miles north of Derby, Duffield is firmly into rural Derbyshire. It’s nestled within two rivers – the Derwent and the Ecclesbourne and sits at the southern tip of the Pennines.
In 2018, Green candidate Dave Wells polled an impressive 34% of the vote. In 2019, Wells will be hoping to improve on that result and beat the Tory into first place.
Where Amber Valley differs from Spalding and Leicester is that it is not nearing a one party state. In fact, the council is fairly evenly split between the Conservatives and Labour. Were Wells to be elected, he would therefore have an important role in the politics of the area.