Peterborough Town Hall

This follows up from a recent article in Bright Green on 2 May about how defected Labour councillors were getting on with their respective campaigns, including my ward – Orton Longueville – Peterborough, where as a defected Labour councillor I was standing for re-election as a Green. The ward has never had a Green councillor – although in the neighbouring ward they have had three, now two – and has always been something of a two-horse race between Labour and the tories.  When I won the seat in 2019 it was with the slimmest of majorities – 31 votes – and after the third time of standing.

So, after my defection last July following a 16 month suspension from Labour who never told me the reason for the suspension, I realised that a lot of hard work would be needed to retain this seat as a Green. Peterborough Green Party is quite small with only a few active members, but also has some great supporters and volunteers. I originally had a team of supporters as a Labour councillor and all of them have followed me to the Green party – mainly due to their own dissatisfaction with what Labour has become, some of them had also been suspended and expelled. They too realise the potential of the Green Party and resonate with the principles and values.

With a good team of leafleters, sustained and targeted help from the campaign manager, Councillor Kirsty Knight, excellent and plentiful literature and relentless door knocking by myself and others, the campaign gathered momentum as we moved into 2023 and eventually the short campaign. We had action days and  visits from Adrian Ramsay and Baroness Natalie Bennett to boost morale and visits from activist from other areas. In all my years of campaigning with Labour, I have never-been part of such a well-oiled, coordinated machine, and I put the work in despite sometimes despairing that a win could never happen in such a short time after defection. It was great to finally be part of a team effort where everyone had the same goal to retain this ward. I had been told by the Field Organiser that winning under these circumstances is very difficult so at no point did I take winning for granted or become complacent.

On election night when the results started to come through, I dared to hope for success. We had 900 Green promises and the final result was 865 – 300 ahead of both major parties. The dynamics of this ward have been turned upside down and it was a historic win for the Green party – the 1st Green win for a defector – but also in Peterborough this has not happened for 20 years for any defected councillor. I know that Jo Bird in the Wirral also achieved a massive victory coming from a situation similar to mine, and also Patrick Kitterick in Leicester did the same. Other defectors stood and missed out this time – I hope they keep going and try again next time. Our other sitting councillor, Green Group leader Nicola Day won with the most votes for any candidate on the night with over 1700 and 70% of the vote.

We have now got seats in two wards in Peterborough City Council for the first time and are a team of three. We plan to branch out for more seats next year to consolidate the successes of this year. As a team we work well together and recently were nominated for 3 awards from the Eastern Region. Kirsty Knight and team’s polling day operation got runner up – she was also nominated as best campaign manager – and I won the category for most inspiring candidate. This was exciting and gratifying and I know it was only possible through the teamwork throughout the campaign.

I believe this win following defection shows that although a difficult challenge to change voters minds, it can be done through sheer persistence and keeping focussed on the final goal. The Greens nationally are definitely on the up – we need to keep them there!

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Image credit: NotFromUtrecht – Creative Commons