Some opinion polls have the Green Party only a couple of points behind the Lib Dems. For example, there was one from Opinium for The Observer over the weekend that had the Green Party at seven per cent, with the Lib Dems on nine per cent. Others. using different methodologies, have the Greens a bit lower. At any rate, when it comes to councillors the Lib Dems are still way ahead of them. The latest tally has 2,478 councillors in Britain giving their allegiance to the Lib Dems – with just 476 for the Green Party.
Despite this, we do have a couple of councils run by the Green Party, albeit with minority administrations – Lancaster and Brighton and Hove. Neither council is up for election this year. Cllr Steve Bell has chronicled for this site, the manifest failing and hypocrisies of the Green Party in Brighton and Hove. They will declare a “Climate Emergency” and hold debates on foreign policy. But when it comes to practical matters, such as recycling, their record is hopeless.
The Green Party nationally is extremely left wing. It wishes to overthrow the capitalist system and combines being “woke” with praise for Communist regimes with some decidedly non-woke policies. That should mean it is well placed to attract Corbynistas from the Labour Party disillusioned with Sir Keir Starmer. There will be an element of that. But the electoral impact is more complicated. Voters do not always behave in an ideologically coherent manner – hardly something politicians can complain about as they are scarcely impeccable in their consistency either. When the Green Party adopts a populist nimby stance it can win seats from the Conservatives.
Consider this account, last month, from the Rutland and Stamford Mercury:
“A new Green Party councillor who narrowly beat a Tory in a Rutland County Council by-election has spoken out against a proposed solar farm.
“Rick Wilson was announced as the winner of yesterday’s by-election for the Ryhall and Casterton ward and beat his Conservative opponent Richard Foster by just 13 votes. The seat was previously held by Tory Richard Coleman, who resigned in November.
“Coun Wilson said he was “shellshocked by the result” but believes his clear opposition to the proposed Mallard Pass solar farm development and to the proposal for 650 homes at Quarry Farm helped him to victory.”
With that sort of political dexterity they could go far.
The increase in energy bills will not have helped the Green Party though. Only last November, at COP 26 in Glasgow, climate alarmism was all the rage. The Prime Minister declared it was “one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock”. Now the mood is very different. So what could have been a chance for a dramatic breakthrough for the Green Party will probably just been solid but modest progress.
Sheffield will be an important set of results to look at. A third of the seats are being contested. Already the Green Party have 13 seats and are the junior partner in a coalition with the Labour Party. That does leave them vulnerable to anti-establishment attacks from the Lib Dems who declare they feel “protecting greenfield land in the Green Belt from development is very important. Unfortunately, the Green Party as part of the Labour/Green run Council disagree.”
Another important test for the Green Party will be the elections for the new unitary authority of Somerset. They have a smattering of representation on most of the existing councils.
Then we have London. Could Labour hegemony be challenged in some of the more hipster boroughs? I was surprised to see the Greens are only fielding a dozen candidates for the 53 seats on Camden Council. They have a couple of councillors there. Lambeth could be an opportunity for them. They already have five councillors, they are running a full slate of candidates and the Labour-run Council allows plenty of scope for complaint. There is a Green Party councillor in Islington and the Greens have a full slate of candidates. One can imagine there will be certain Labour divisions locally which might assist them in gaining a few more. They don’t have any councillors in Hackney but are running a full slate of candidates there.
But these are London boroughs with huge Labour majorities most unlikely to be overturned next month. The potential is for the Greens to build up opposition groups – half a dozen councillors here, a dozen there. They will be able to mount protests demanding vegan catering and fair trade coffee. That will suit them well to build up their electoral base. The difficulty they get into is when they find themselves in a position of power. That should not be too widespread a challenge for them just yet.