Andy MellenGreen Party Leader, Mid Suffolk District Council
Cllr Andy Mellen writes for Chamber on the Green Party’s victory in Mid Suffolk.
In the recent local elections, the Green Party achieved outright control of a local council for the first time. They won 57% of the vote in Mid Suffolk and took 24 of the 34 council seats, with the Conservatives retaining only six seats and the Liberal Democrats holding four. Why did this happen and what implications might it have for British politics more generally?
The first point to make is that this result did not happen overnight, nor was it simply a protest vote. The Green Party elected its first councillor here 20 years ago and has steadily been building its presence ever since. At the core of our popularity is that voters see us as sensible, practical people who are committed to getting things done – voters simply like having a Green councillor. But clearly, something else was responsible for the dramatic leap in our popularity this time around.
What we were seeing on the doorstep was a real appetite for change. People wanted to vote for a party they felt was actually going to do something. It wasn’t about ideology or even specific policies. I can’t claim that people were voting for us because there was a massive upsurge in concern about climate change or biodiversity but there was a widespread recognition that significant change needs to happen across the board, with climate change being just a part of this.
In relation to local issues, we sensed that the incumbent Conservative administration was seen as passive, unresponsive to community needs, and compliant to market forces – unable, or unwilling, to exert any sort of control and thus, a disempowering electoral choice. I believe this played into a wider picture where people are not necessarily disillusioned by politics, or even politicians, but are frustrated by the inability of the mainstream parties to offer more than a trickle of isolated policy announcements or a diet of soundbites. There was also significant pushback against the nationalist, populist culture wars agenda. If there is a culture war happening, it is certainly not supported by Conservative voters in Mid Suffolk.
People are not frightened of change, they know that change needs to happen – whether this is in response to global warming or fixing the economy or the public realm. If our experience here in Mid Suffolk is anything to go by, I think it demonstrates that people want politicians and political parties that are not afraid to be honest, that will treat them as adults and that will present them with sensible and coherent plans that address the obvious problems our country faces.