Keith Taylor

A former Green MEP for the South East of England, Keith Taylor, passed away on 31 October 2022. Involved in Green politics for more than two decades, Taylor was one of the most significant figures in the history of the Green Party of England and Wales.

Taylor served as an MEP from 2010-2019, during which time he held major roles within the European Parliament and championed environmental, animal rights and global justice causes. In the European Parliament, he was a member of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, as well as the Committee on Environment, Public Health and food Safety.

Taylor first became an MEP following the election of Caroline Lucas to the House of Commons – after which she was forced to resign her seat in Brussels, due to the European Parliament’s rules on dual mandates. History could have been different, however. In 2005, Taylor was the parliamentary candidate for the UK parliamentary constituency of Brighton Pavilion in which he received the then highest ever vote share for a Green parliamentary candidate, coming third with 22 per cent of the vote. Two years later, he was narrowly defeated by Lucas in a selection for the Greens’ candidate in the following election.

At the point of his historic general election result, Taylor was a principal speaker for the Green Party of England and Wales – the closest thing the party had to a leader at the time – jointly with Lucas. Appointed to that post following the death of Oxford City Councillor Mike Woodin, Taylor would go on to be elected as principal speaker by party members in 2005. In that election, he won a narrow victory against the standard bearer of the party’s left Derek Wall, who would unseat Taylor just one year later.

Prior to becoming an MEP, Taylor already had a decade of experience at local government under his belt. First elected in 1999, he was part of a group of just three Green Councillors for his initial term on Brighton & Hove City Council. A year after he stood down as a Councillor in 2010, the Greens took over the running of the Council, making Brighton & Hove the first, and to this day, only Council run solely by the Green Party. During his time on Brighton & Hove City Council, Taylor had a stint as the Green Group’s leader.

Taylor’s achievements as a politician and campaigner include playing a major role in the campaign to secure the release of Brighton resident Omar Deghayes from Guantanamo Bay, supporting a successful parent-led High Court challenge in opposition to Labour-run Brighton & Hove cutting specialist services for autistic children in 2000, and working on EU-level legislation designed to help tackle air pollution.

Writing in 2019, Taylor said of his time in politics, “Throughout my political career, I have tried to make the future better, not worse. But I have been told that this mantra is redundant because, hey, who does want to make the future worse? Sadly all I can say is that, after rubbing shoulders with industry lobbyists and self-interested politicians, it has become clear that plenty of people want to trash your future. I think all politicians have a duty to their constituents to challenge what their governments are doing in their name and to resist pressure from multinational corporations who want to make money through activities that damage our environment.”

Following the news of Taylor’s passing, tributes have poured in from figures across the Green political movement.

Jean Lambert, who served alongside him as an MEP tweeted, “Heartbroken to hear of the death of my friend and former MEP colleague #KeithTaylor. Passionate about making the world a better place. Always good company. Deepest sympathy to his family.”

Molly Scott Cato also served as an MEP alongside Taylor from 2014-2019. She said, “So desperately sad to read this. Keith welcomed me into the European Parliament and his kindness and warmth were rare amongst politicians. He will be deeply missed and I send love to to his family and close friends”.

Caroline Lucas tweeted, “So incredibly sad to hear of death of #KeithTaylor@TheGreenParty pioneer, former #Brighton councillor, MEP & friend. Passionate about building a better world, worked so hard to secure first MP seat, infectious sense of humour. I owe him so much. Deepest sympathy to his family”. 

Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay tweeted, “Incredibly sad news that Keith Taylor has passed away. Keith made a huge impact for @TheGreenParty, serving as Principal Speaker, MEP & a leading Green in Brighton. Always compassionate, he had a great talent for taking our message to the public. My thoughts are with his family”.

Former Green Party co-leader Sian Berry said, “Oh such awful news. Keith was Principal Speaker just before me and was so encouraging, kind and supportive. He made history by building up Green support to pave the way for our first MP in Brighton Pavilion and was an amazing MEP and campaigner”.

Catherine Rowett – one of the Green MEPs who served after Taylor stood down – said, “This is sad news of the death of a former long serving Green Party MEP. His work for the protection of animals and improvements to EU regulations for animal welfare was second to none.”

Taylor is survived by his wife Lizzie, two children and four grandchildren.

Image credit: European Union 2016 European Parliament – (Creative Commons)