Elections versus campaigns

A key concern for the Green Party has always been to make the most impact with limited resources. Some believe that focusing on electoral success is the way forward, while others argue that we must pursue national and local campaigns to build support for what the Greens stand for. Green World hears from both sides of the debate and takes a look at the experience of two local parties

Tom Chance, GPEx Management Coordinator, puts the elections case forward 

I’ve been a campaigner since my first non-violent direct action with Greenpeace when I was 17, but I was persuaded to join the Green Party to get a sympathetic voice on the inside, and I’ve always viewed that as our unique and primary contribution to progressive politics. 

There’s a place for joining marches through central London, and supporting campaigns on important issues like TTIP. But none of these sadly niche activities will swing a majority in a council ward or gain the 209,000 votes we won in the last London-wide proportional representation election. 

During my eight years as an officer, London’s regional party predominantly focused on elections to make tangible contributions to constituents’ lives. In the past 20 years, elected Greens in London have worked with campaigners to: fund the London Living Wage Unit and adopt the first ever Living Wage council policies; secure an insulation programme that reached almost 400,000 homes; turn cycling from a niche programme threatened by cuts into a mainstream £150-million-a-year transport priority; stop a council using bailiffs to evict vulnerable tenants; and much more. 

Our key focus should be on elections to get Greens in the room. 

 

Elisabeth Whitebread and Tamsin Omond, GPEx Campaigns Coordinators on the importance of Green campaigning 

As a political party, our primary purpose is to see Green policies adopted by government, be that through the election of Green politicians or through influencing the political landscape. Therefore, our issues-based campaigning is not an end in itself, but rather a means of achieving political change. 

Issues-based campaigns are one of our best tools for making the general public and the media aware of our policies. This attracts new members, increasing our funds, our profile, and our influence. From our leadership team to the activist on the doorstep, by campaigning on the same issues and using the same messages, we are much more likely to drive through political change. 

To make our campaigns as successful as possible, we are working to ensure that our campaigns and messaging strategies are fully aligned, and we now have a new process for developing national-level campaigns, which includes consultation with members and guidance from staff and our elected representatives. 

To get in touch, please contact us on campaigns@greenparty.org.uk 

 

Chris Ogden, Internal Communications Officer on Manchester Green Party’s approach to elections and campaigning 

For such a large local party, Manchester Greens have almost always been outside of local council affairs. We held our only seat on the city council from 2003-08 and election efforts since have been inconsistent while we focused on campaigning to pressure the Labour-dominated council into making changes. 

To combat our exclusion from Town Hall, though, there has been a recent drive to show our seriousness in elections, helped by new, ambitious campaigners gained through the Green Surge ahead of the 2015 general election. We led a focused local election campaign in 2016 (receiving our highest vote share in a Manchester ward since 2008), as well as making a difference to our local community with a campaign that pushed the council to introduce a community speedwatch team.  

We are now looking ahead to this year’s mayoral election and the 2018 council elections, with campaigning set to play a vital part in our strategy for both. 

 

Dee Searle, Co-Chair of Camden Green Party, describes her party’s experience and priorities 

Grassroots campaigning and elections work go hand in hand in Camden, where we’re focusing on keeping and adding to our one council seat, as well as making a practical difference for the local community and holding Camden Council to account. 

Unlike the big traditional parties, Greens earn every one of our votes. In Camden, we demonstrate Green politics in action by campaigning on issues from air pollution to saving a much- loved neighbourhood pub from redevelopment into ‘luxury apartments’. We hope these actions result in Green gains in the 2018 local elections but, just as importantly, we are protecting and improving the lives of Camden residents now. The approach is paying off, with Camden Council officers offering to work with us via the broad-based umbrella groups we’ve initiated. 

Finally, we publicise our activities through letters in local papers and ward newsletters, so that the big parties can’t undermine them or claim credit for our ideas and hard work.