A poster reading "Vote Green Party" on the back of a chair

It’s no wonder that for the last few years, The Green Party has seen growing success in rural areas and that the polls in formerly true blue areas like Suffolk and Herefordshire are predicting Green MPs for the next election.

Because when the Conservative say ‘judge us on our record,’ the hard evidence shows they have failed.  ‘Levelling Up’ was the flagship centrepiece of the Conservative 2019 manifesto, claiming they would  ‘reduce inequalities’ and they invited  us to judge them against 12 missions in key areas like health and education and skills and crime.

But this recent analysis by the Institute of Fiscal studies shows that in fact many of those  gaps have widened, and not just in rural areas, where the inequality gap is so often greater. The whole country  has gone into reverse.

And it’s this look and feel of failure that pervades our country, as experienced by anyone struggling to get a dentist appointment, or who’s afraid of getting ill because of the state of the local hospital, or who is just fed up with the state of the roads and other public services maintained by councils starved to the bone.

But many non-city voters don’t want to turn to the Labour Party. Because Labour priorities are clearly focussed on cities where most of their voters live, and because Labour are remaining strangely and worryingly silent on three key rural issues.

Firstly, they are worried by Labour U-turns on key environmental pledges, like dropping a £28 billion investment in addressing the climate crisis. Rural voters aren’t seeing climate change as something in the future, we’re experiencing it here and now through flooding and damage to crops. And Labour has backtracked too on water quality. It is no longer Labour policy to put water companies into public hands, the key way to deal with the scandal of sewage pollution polluting our rivers while shareholders pocket the profits.

Secondly, when it comes to our struggling farmers whose financial support has been slashed under the Conservatives (so much for the  ‘Brexit promise’) and who urgently need billions of pounds of investment just to stay in business, never mind make that vital transition to nature friendly farming, Labour has committed fine words but zero extra funding. It’s a food security crisis in the making.

Thirdly, many  rural voters are deeply worried by the Labour version of ‘planning reform’, which is code for a free-for-all  the big developers, with ‘red tape’ protecting nature ripped up and with compulsory housing targets imposed on councils that force them to say yes to unsuitable development against local knowledge and wishes.

So it’s no wonder that voters are turning to Green candidates given the glaring Conservative track record of deep failure and the sense that Labour might just be that bit worse.

Emily O’Brien is a councillor for Lewes District and the Green Party of England and Wales’ Spokesperson for Food, Agriculture & Rural Welfare

Image credit: Jon Craig – Creative Commons