Reflections on the May 2021 Elections

It’s now over three weeks since the Green Party’s record results in the London elections, and we’ve been reflecting on what the gains mean for us as a party, and on the changing political landscape in our city.

Claire Sheppard, Green Party candidate celebrates election result

Green Party candidate for Lambeth & Southwark celebrates a game-changing result with GP Lambeth Councillor, Scott Ainslie.

First and foremost a massive thank you to Green Party campaigners and candidates across Southwark and London. These monumental efforts saw voters seize their chance to vote Green outside the usual first-past-the-post system, where Labour and Conservatives inevitably dominate. The London List vote in the Assembly elections is proportional, making a Green vote far more than a gesture of support. Greens came second on this ballot paper, ahead of the Tories and with more than double the votes of the Lib Dems. This helped to give us a third member on the London Assembly: Zack Polanski now joins Siân Berry and Caroline Russell at City Hall, where he’s hit the ground running, pushing mayor Sadiq Khan on proposals for a Citizens Assembly for London.

Even in the first-past-the-post constituency vote, the Green Party in Southwark and Lambeth secured brilliant results. Our candidate, Southwark Greens’ Claire Sheppard, gained 19.7% of the vote, overtaking the Conservatives, to come second to Labour. Ours was one of only two constituencies where the Labour-Tory stranglehold was broken, the other being North East London, where Caroline Russell was in second place to Labour.

Results of Constituency Vote 2012 - 2021 

% of votes for the Green Party Constituency Candidates in London and in S&L constituency, 2012 - 2021

 Results of List Vote 2012 - 2021

% votes for Green Party ('List Vote') in London and in S&L constituency, 2012 - 2021

The vote for mayor – under the supplementary vote system – consolidated the Greens’ position as London’s third party. Siân Berry received 11.5% of first-choice votes compared with 8.8% in 2016, and a massive 28% of second-preference votes – the most for any candidate, clearly indicating that Siân and the Green Party can and do get support from across the political spectrum.

Results of Mayor First Vote 2012 - 2021  

% of First Preference votes for Green Party Mayoral candidate in London and in S&L constituency, 2012 - 2021

Results of Mayor Second Vote 2012 - 2021

% of Second Preference votes for Green Party Mayoral candidate in London and in S&L constituency, 2012 - 2021

Our challenge to the two-party system wasn’t easy for some in the Labour Party to accept. On the London Assembly, Labour made the surprising decision not to take any committee chairs, which are shared on a proportional basis. This fuelled accusations that Greens and Lib Dems had formed a coalition with the Conservatives – clearly nonsense, as the Assembly is a scrutiny body, not an administration, and is made up of cross-party committees whose job is to hold the mayor to account. Local Labour MP Neil Coyle was among those on the attack, tweeting: “If you voted Green or Lib Dem in the London Assembly elections last week you may be surprised to know your representatives have chosen to work in a Tory coalition.

Writing in the Independent, Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley commented: “It was a great sadness to see these examples [in London and on Lancaster council] being portrayed as anti-Labour alliances. They weren’t. There is a major realignment of politics under way, not just in Britain but across the world – just look to Germany, where a Green Chancellor could be elected this year… If there is to be an end to Conservative rule, progressive parties must come together. When they do, they will need to win votes from people who have formerly voted Conservative. This is not ‘getting into bed with the Tories’.

We’re heartened that calls are growing for progressive-thinking people of all political shades to work together in opposition to Boris Johnson’s increasingly authoritarian and nationalist government. The Guardian last weekend published an opinion piece calling on Labour to back proportional representation at its September conference, jointly written by MPs Caroline Lucas for the Greens, the Lib Dems’ Layla Moran and Clive Lewis from Labour. They conclude: “We all come from one tribe or another – Labour, Green, liberal – for many different reasons. But only as open tribes, retaining our identities while working everywhere together for the common good, can we hope to create a new and good society.

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