Who are the Greens’ new MEPs? #1: Alex Phillips
Green Parties have achieved historic results across the continent in this year’s European parliamentary elections. These results have been mirrored in the UK, where the Green Party of England and Wales won seven MEPs. One of these newly elected MEPs is Alex Phillips. She was elected in the South East of England, replacing the outgoing Keith Taylor as the Greens’ sole representative in the region.
Phillips had her first electoral success for the Green Party in 2009, when she won a by-election to become a member of Brighton and Hove City Council. Two years later, the Greens came to power in the city, running the council through a minority administration. That administration was the first ever Green run council in the country.
Deputy leadership campaign
Away from the south coast city, Phillips’ profile grew significantly in 2012. That year, the Greens held their leader and deputy leadership elections. These were a pivotal movement in the party’s history as they decided who would replace Caroline Lucas at the helm.
Phillips stood to be the party’s deputy, fighting the election from the left of the party. Speaking to Bright Green in 2012 she said:
I’m a lifelong socialist, and like many people I joined the Green Party after being betrayed by Labour. The Greens are the only party rejecting cuts, privatisation, authoritarianism and war. I want Greens to feel more confident about saying this to the media and to the public at large.
Ultimately, she was eliminated from the election before a single vote had been counted. The party’s leadership election results at the time required the leader and deputy leader to be of different genders. As Natalie Bennett was elected leader, Phillips became ineligible and Will Duckworth won the deputy leadership race.
Brighton and the bins
Back in Brighton & Hove, the Green Party administration in the city became mired in controversy. The party’s bungled handling of a pay equalisation case led to a strike by refuse workers. Caroline Lucas supported the strikers, joining the picket lines, despite her own party being in power at the council.
Phillips was part of the group of Green councillors in Brighton & Hove who opposed the way the council – led by Jason Kitcat – handled the dispute. In an open letter published by Bright Green she, along with other councillors, said:
We are appalled that the situation has escalated to the point where Council employees are forced to take strike action in order to be heard. We are concerned that as activists from a party which has spent years arguing for workers’ rights that on this occasion the argument is wrong.
We continue to oppose the imposition of pay cuts as per the decision of our Emergency General Meeting in May. Further we will show solidarity with the workers affected by this decision.
We are Green Party members because we believe in its core value of social justice. Imposing a reduction to the take home pay of some of our lowest paid workers runs completely contrary to this.
Phillips had previously publicly suggested Kitcat should resign as leader of the council, and leaked Twitter messages found that she had been courting support from the Labour group on the council to remove Kitcat from his post.
In 2015, the Greens tumbled out of power in Brighton & Hove, losing 12 seats. Phillips kept a seat on the council, jumping from Hove to Brighton to win in Regency ward.
In the 2019 local elections, the voters swung back to the Greens in Brighton & Hove, with the party finishing up on 19 seats, just four seats short of the 2011 high point.
In 2014, Phillips was selected as the Greens’ second candidate for South East England in the European parliamentary elections. As the Green vote share fell by 2.5% in the region, Phillips failed to win a seat.
Now, five years later she will enter the European parliament as one of the new group of seven Green MEPs from the UK. She got there by winning a hotly contested selection process which included high profile candidates including former lord mayor of Oxford Elise Benjamin, Bernie Sanders’ brother Larry Sanders, and the leader of the Green group on Brighton & Hove council Phelim Mac Cafferty.
After all the votes were counted, Phillips was comfortably elected to the European parliament, with Benjamin, who was second on the Greens’ list coming just 0.5% of the vote short of also winning a seat.
Alongside her new role as an MEP, Phillips was recently appointed as lord mayor of Brighton & Hove. In doing so, she became the youngest ever lord mayor of the city.