County ‘winnable for Greens’ councillor says

By Gavin McEwan   |   Local Democracy Reporter   |
Monday 6th June 2022 10:00 am
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Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer (left) and local party leader Ellie Chowns in Hereford ()

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The Green Party can build on its recent election successes when Herefordshire comes to vote next May, and could even elect an MP in the county.

This was its local and national leaders’ claim ahead of a meeting of activists in Hereford last night.

“Here in Herefordshire we can win substantially more seats, and accelerate change,” according to Carla Denyer, who took over as co-leader of the England and Wales party last October.

The party is currently buoyed up by its performance on May 5, when it upped its tally of councillors in England by 78, and gave itself a decisive role in formerly Tory-held Worcester.

“We won seats equally from Labour and the Conservatives, in rural and urban areas, and took our first seats in 23 authorities,” Ms Denyer said.

“We are now on 550 councils across England and Wales. Just having one Green in the room can change councils’ agendas.”

Herefordshire party leader Councillor Ellie Chowns already holds the economy and environment portfolio in the current council administration, in which the Greens are a junior partner with the Independents for Herefordshire.

“I am all for collaborative politics – it has worked effectively here, and thousands of households are better off as a result,” she said.

“But we want time to drive other policies forward. Zero-carbon council houses, help to insulate existing homes and overcoming the building moratorium due to river pollution – these need long-term attention. Herefordshire has one of the worst house price-to-earnings ratios in the country.”

She has, meanwhile, been sharing ideas with other Green councillors – they meet up in a “Greens in Power” WhatsApp group, and are about to meet up at an “away weekend” to talk strategy.

The Greens “will coordinate” their campaign with their Herefordshire coalition partners in the run-up to next May, Cllr Chowns added. “Fifty-three seats is a lot, so we will have to focus our energies, as our partners will.”

The party has the foot soldiers for a big ground campaign though, with “an amazing number” doing a recent leaflet drop in Leominster, already with next May in mind, and a recent meeting in Kington drawing about 60, she said..

The party also believes it has a shout at winning the North Herefordshire parliamentary constituency, currently held by Sir Bill Wiggin, when the next general election is called in less than three years’ time.

Cllr Chowns has already stood twice against Sir Bill, though her share of the vote was below 10 per cent both times. She was also briefly an MEP for the West Midlands in the European Parliament before Brexit ended the role.

“We now have a great chance to break through at national level,” Ms Denyer said, having herself taken a quarter of the votes in Bristol West at the 2019 general election.

“Where we already have a lot of councillors, people who wouldn’t otherwise vote Green see how hard we work and are more likely to trust us. They don’t see the current opposition providing a robust alternative.”

Pointing to the “Greenslide” in this month’s elections in Australia, where the Greens surged, a trend also recently seen in Canada and Europe, she said: “Ellie has a great local profile, and North Herefordshire is winnable.”

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