Although the aftermath of the general election is still dominating the thoughts of many Greens, by winning 11 council seats in May (the Greens were the only party besides the Conservatives to gain seats in the local elections), the party is already making a difference on the ground. This now takes the number of local government seats held by the Green Party to 40 (out of the seats that were up for election in the last round of elections).
Most of the Green gains were from Conservatives, and most of the losses to Labour. It is always going to be easier to win seats from the party that is in Government, than the one that is the main opposition. The fact that Theresa May called a general election halfway through the local election campaign did us no favours, since it raised both the Conservative vote in Tory areas and the Labour vote in urban ones.
We have broken new ground in many parts of the country and will surely be able to advance further in future local elections. Emily Durrant is our first ever Green councillor in Wales, Michael Lilley is our first on the Isle of Wight, while Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw and myself in Suffolk have increased the number of Greens there from two to three, despite the loss of one seat.
In Gloucestershire, Eva Ward and Rachel Smith’s election means Green councillor numbers have doubled. Furthermore, Greens now ‘own’ the cosmopolitan, transition Somerset town of Frome, with John Clarke and Martin Dimery holding both the Frome seats on the county council. All the gains made in these local elections show that Greens can continue to make progress and provide a great platform for next time round to provide the strong and challenging voice for local people around the UK.
Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw, Suffolk County Councillor:
On 5 May, with considerable support from Waveney Green Party and months of campaigning, I was elected to Suffolk County Council, responsible for Beccles, Worlingham and Barby. I share the area with Cllr Mark Bee (Conservative) and I have found him to be welcoming and eager to work together when we can.
Perhaps the most important thing about campaigning and winning local elections is that it creates a platform to speak up for what we believe in. It is my opinion that the Green Party needs to prove itself as a powerful and challenging voice for the positive future of this country. We have a duty to be part of the dialogue because we have so much to offer. The holistic nature of our manifesto is inspiring, our policies do not change with rising and falling political fashions and success in local elections creates a strong base for future successes.
Julian Dean, Shropshire County Councillor:
I’ve been on a steep learning curve. I’m both the only Green councillor on a unitary authority and town council, and I’m new to these roles. Luckily, the councils provide good training and the Association of Green Councillors has been a useful source of advice.
I am growing in confidence now that I have some clear short-term personal aims. These are: to be a prompt, friendly and efficient advocate to individual residents with concerns; to challenge and question existing council priorities and approaches in such a way that I am acknowledged as ‘knowing what I’m talking about’ (this means reading the reports to committees properly, but also staying in touch with the external campaigns); and to not disappear from the campaigning scene locally under a mass of bureaucracy.
Emily Durrant, Powys County Councillor:
On becoming elected, I threw myself into the role the following Monday morning and my feet are yet to hit the ground. There is a great desire for change, and I am doing everything I can to ensure that this change is for the common good, for generations to come. The council has been very welcoming, and I have seen great success in obtaining the committee seats that I desired, including two vice chair positions and an appointment to the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority.
Whilst I have much to learn, as Powys’ first Green councillor and the only Green county councillor in Wales I am already making headway on issues that really matter to people in my area. It is surprising how much can be done with a little graft and persuasion. I highly recommend the job!