Opinion

Forget the Blue Wall and Red Wall, the local elections showed there's no barrier to voting Green

Green co-leader Adrian Ramsay reflects on a local election campaign that saw the Green Party make gains across the UK.

Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay

Green Party co-leaders Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay. Image: Green Party of England and Wales

Political pundits have talked about this year’s local elections in terms of Blue Walls and Red Walls. As Greens, we feel proud that in these elections we have broken down walls. We are the only Party that can genuinely claim to have reached out to all, winning seats equally from both Labour and the Tories.  

The Green Party recorded record-breaking results, achieving the highest percentage increase in seats of any party in England and Wales. Greens won a total of 124 seats, with 78 net gains – 40 from Labour and 35 from the Conservatives. Brick by brick we are demolishing preconceived ideas about the Green Party: “you can’t win here”; “this is a safe seat”; “only middle-class do-gooders vote Green”.

Greens now have a total of 545 Green councillors on 166 local authorities. We have built up high concentrations of councillors in both cosmopolitan cities – like Bristol, Sheffield and Brighton & Hove – and in rural counties such as Suffolk and Herefordshire. We are now making breakthroughs across the country in a wide variety of places.

This year we broke into 21 new councils including seven in Wales. There is no ‘typical’ about these breakthroughs. They include Newham in London – where we broke the Labour monopoly – to Runnymede, where Conservatives dominate. We also won four seats on the newly created North Yorkshire County Council.

In council after council, across England – and now Wales – we often begin with a single seat breakthrough. This is swiftly followed by multiple seat gains in future elections. That is because when hard-working Green councillors are elected, people like what they see and want more. So this year we witnessed Greens becoming the official opposition in Reading and the second largest party in Exeter, South Tyneside and St Helens – places where we had humble beginnings but are now a force to be reckoned with. This was how we paved the way for our first parliamentary seat in Brighton Pavillion, and it’s how we will do so again and send more amazing MPs like Caroline Lucas to Westminster. 

There really are no limits to where Greens are growing in support. Years ago, few would have predicted that we would win seats in former and current heavily industrialised areas. Yet this year we have made gains in the former industrial heartland of South Tyneside and in Neath Port Talbot, dominated by the Neath Port Talbot Steelworks. People in these areas are often let down by the two largest Parties. Abandoned by national governments and let down by local councillors who have for too long taken votes for granted, people see Green activists and would-be-councillors willing to stand up for them and their daily struggles. 

It is also the case that our Green vision of a ‘green industrial revolution’ offers the prospect of new jobs in the industrial sector; jobs in renewable energy technologies, home insulation and electric vehicles – from bikes to buses.   

It is also deeply patronising to suggest that environmental concerns are the preserve of the middle classes. People living in industrialised areas care just as much about the future of the planet and the lives of their children and grandchildren. Indeed, the impact of pollution is often felt hardest in more economically deprived areas and local Green councillors are standing up for better air quality, improved public transport and protecting our green spaces.

Forget about different coloured walls. These local elections have proved there really are no barriers to voting Green.

Adrian Ramsay is co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales

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