Green Party co-leaders Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay

The 2023 local elections are the most important in the history of the Green Party of England and Wales. In May, the Green Party will be defending over 200 council seats and has ambitions to gain at least 100 more. If the party pulls this off, it will be historic, and would confirm that the Greens are a major force in local government for the long term. In the run up to these elections, Bright Green is taking an in depth look at some of the councils where the results could be the most interesting and significant for the Green Party.

There are just three Councils in the country that are currently led by Greens. Phelim Mac Cafferty leads Brighton & Hove, where the Green Party is in sole administration. In Stroud, Catherine Braun leads a coalition of Greens, independents and Liberal Democrats. The third is Lancaster, where Caroline Jackson leads the Council in joint administration with independents and Labour. 

In Lancaster, the Greens are confident of retaining power. At Lancaster’s last local elections in 2019, the Green Party won 10 seats. As a result of a series of defections and by-election victories, the Greens now find themselves going into this year’s elections defending 15 seats. 

But they have no intention of stopping there. In 2019, the Greens stood just 35 candidates – little more than half the number of seats up for election. This time around, the Greens are standing a full slate, and activists on the ground are talking about potentially finishing up with a tally of more than 20 seats.

Councillor Jack Lenox, who is also the party’s parliamentary candidate for Lancaster, told Bright Green: “We launched our local election campaign a few weeks ago, and we’re well on our way to reaching our target of getting over 20 councillors elected in a month’s time. We’re getting a very positive response on the doorstep. Many people are telling us they’ll be voting Green because they know we work the hardest and that we have a track record of winning and delivering for Lancaster.”

If recent by-elections are anything to go by, that doesn’t look to be hubristic. In 2022, the Greens won two seats from the Tories in by-elections. The party also narrowly missed out on gaining a seat from Labour in a by-election at the tail end of 2021. In all three of these, the Green vote share increased by more than 10 percentage points. 

Talking up their successes, Councillors and campaigners locally say that voters are moving towards the Greens because of their record in administration. Council leader Caroline Jackson told Bright Green: “I am proud of the Greens’ track record of working hard and co-operating with others, turning good ideas into realities and keeping in touch with our communities. It is a testament to our strong record serving the people of Lancaster that we’re seeing so much support locally, and that we’ve already beaten the two main parties in standing a full slate and record of 61 candidates.”

Prospects for further Green gains are aided by the fluctuating nature of local politics in Lancaster. At the 2019 elections, many wards essentially became two or three way marginal seats. This means that there are places dotted over the district where the Greens came second or third last time round, but need only a small swing in their favour to tip the balance this time around. Alongside this, Labour in Lancaster are known to be struggling both organisationally and with internal divisions.

Cumulatively, all this means Lancaster is fertile ground for the Green Party this year. If the Greens make gains on the scale local activists think they could, Lancaster’s Green Group would become one of the largest in the country and the city would produce one of the most interesting results on election night.

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Image credit: Bristol Green Party – Creative Commons