The full results of the local elections from England and Northern Ireland are now in, and they are, across the board, wonderful. The Green Party has had the best results in its 47 year history, with a net gain of 194 councillors. The Liberal Democrats have also done exceptionally well, quite possibly their best night ever, with a net gain of 703 councillors. Locally focused independent councillors have made net gains of 662. Meanwhile the Tories had net losses of 1334, Labour of 82 and UKIP of 145.
Bizarrely many Labour and Tory politicians, and many of the media commentators, are interpreting this as the people ‘just wanting to get on with Brexit’. This seems to me to be utter nonsense. LibDems and Greens are the most strongly pro EU membership parties, and they both made historic gains, while all the parties advocating Brexit, from UKIP, to the Tories, Labour and the DUP all lost seats.
Of course in these local elections local factors played a key role, but so too did the national political chaos, and what I’d argue is perhaps equally important, the ecological and climate crisis. Greens, and to some extent, LibDems, are more internationalist, and also more locally focused: they are less consumed by the gossip inside the Westminster bubble, and more concerned with addressing the real issues facing humanity.
These election results provide dozens of really heartening examples of positive change, and none of them are being determined by those inside the Westminster bubble. Here in Herefordshire our local Green Party had a local alliance with a local party called ‘It’s Our County’ and with a number of Independents, and we all gained seats, as did the Lib Dems, all at the Tories expense. Thus the council has shifted from being Tory controlled to having no overall control, which I’d argue is good for democracy, and opens up the possibility of huge change. Our Green group slowly went from one councillor to four over the last 5 or 6 years. On 2nd May we added three more.
In my last blog I wrote about the nature of political change. Of course elections matter, but so too does non-violent protest and the two are ever so closely related. On the doorstep I had as many conversations about Extinction Rebellion and School Strikes for Climate as about Brexit. Many people are as inspired by the clear moral and factual leadership of Greta Thunberg as they are repulsed by lies and narcissism of the likes of Boris Johnson. The window of what is possible to talk about is shifting. Discussing radical action on the ecological and climate crisis is now permissible in a way in which it was not a year or two ago.
I’m looking forward to the Euro elections on 23rd May with glee! I’d expect the Greens and LibDems to have another excellent set of results. Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are both terrified of these elections, and may do a deal on Brexit just to avert having to fight them. To make such a huge and long term decision based on very short term and narrow party political considerations would be both insane, and typical of politics within the Westminster bubble.
Over the coming months there is so much I’d like to do. I hope to work with my seven Green Party councillors to see how we can continue to grow, and to work with our local Extinction Rebellion and School Strikes groups to plan our next steps after their extraordinary achievements of the last few weeks, and I plan to restart giving my talks and leading discussion evenings about envisioning a radically different and better future. Our local car sharing club will be getting a loan of a hydrogen fuel cell car, and hopefully also buying an electric car to replace one of our diesel cars. All these aspects of change, be they party political, non-violent protest, changing the technology we use, or leading discussion evenings, they are all so closely interrelated and part of the same necessary process of change. A better future is possible, but only if we make huge changes on multiple fronts simultaneously, rapidly and globally. Our political system seems incapable of rising to the climate and ecological crisis: therefore we need to change the political system, from within and from the streets, globally and rapidly.