In one sense the Greens can walk away from these last local elections pleased. At the time of writing they had a steady net increase in councillors, including high profile seats such as the leader of Warwickshire’s Conservative group. But on the other hand they have once again failed to make significant gains despite so many circumstances falling in their favour.
Let us start with the positive though.
In the words of the party:
This is an achievement and should be celebrated. Once again, Greens are net winners at an election.
Equally, despite the current UKIP media hysteria, the Greens (at the time of writing) still have considerably more elected councillors than UKIP.
As Symon Hill tweeted earlier:
But hey, I guess slow and steady progess doesn’t make the headlines.
Just as this ‘slow and steady approach’ stands as a credit to the Greens though, so it also poses their biggest problem. In my home shire, Stroud (traditionally a Green epicentre) the Greens celebrated holding their one county council seat.
But in the election as a whole they saw just a 0.3% increase in the vote.
Something local Labour activists were more than happy to quickly point out:
Natalie Bennett, the Green Party leader, knows this to be a problem. During her recent leadership campaign she stated:
“A few new councillors every year may be better than moving backwards, but because we gear the party towards these modest increases we are deliberately limiting ourselves. Many party members are working extremely hard, but there’s a lack of clear national direction often leaving local party activists feeling isolated.”
In the context of a further Lib Dem and Conservative collapse (provisional figures suggest that both have dropped at least 8 points even in traditional safe areas) these modest gains have to be understood as a disappointment for the Greens.
I hope that Natalie has the confidence to welcome the few gains, congratulate those who have worked so hard but then to call these elections as they are – an overall disappointment for the Greens.