In recent years we’ve seen growing support for the Green Party: beating the Lib Dems in the 2012 Mayoral elections, repeating that feat in the 2014 European elections and gaining an extra MEP, an explosion in membership figures ahead of the this year’s election followed by the best ever vote-share for the Green Party in a general election.
In some ways it could be argued the Green Party had an easy ride over the past five years. With the Lib-Dems tainted by the failures and compromises of a disastrous coalition with the Tories and a Miliband-led Labour failing to inspire and easily dismissed as “austerity-lite” it was hardly the most difficult task for the Green Party to scoop up disaffected voters from both parties.
But left-of-centre politics has changed dramatically in the last couple of months. It is fair to say that some people who were successfully wooed by the Green Party only a few months ago could well now be looking enthusiastically at Jeremy Corbyn.
So where does that leave the Green Party? There’s plenty of differences between the Greens and a Corbyn-led Labour Party (and a Tim Farron-led Lib Dem party, for that matter, should Labour’s move to the left lead to a revival in opportunities for the traditional centre-party).
In the new political climate not being Labour and not being the Lib Dems is not good enough: the Green Party needs to really focus on articulating what its unique contribution to British politics is in clear and simple language.
That means co-operating with other progressive forces when we can, whether that’s on issues like rail nationalistion, or public spending cuts or council house building.
But also, on the issues like airport expansion and roadbuilding or growth and consumerism, spelling out where we differ and why sustainability needs to be at the heart of politics 24/7, 365 days a year not just when it’s politically convenient or flavour of the month.
The London Mayor and Assembly elections next May will be a crucial test for Greens and a major opportunity. Now I’ve always been pretty realistic in acknowledging that the chances of the Greens sweeping to the London mayoralty are quite a long shot, to say the least.
But something that’s been proved time and time again is that a strong and energetic mayoral campaign can reap dividends in the London Assembly elections on the same day. And Sian Berry, the Green Party’s mayoral candidate, is in a strong position to do that.
Having gained experience as mayoral candidate back in 2008, as well as standing for Mayor again Sian is in the Number 1 slot of Green candidates for the London Assembly and thus almost certain to get elected.
A long background in transport campaigning, a passion for tackling London’s growing inequality and completely broken housing market together with a real interest in helping giving a voice to grassroots campaigning movements, Sian is well-placed to articulate a genuinely inspiring vision of a different kind of London.
Greens have proved to be a vital and distinctive force in City Hall over the past fifteen years and although the Assembly is not exactly blessed with decision-making powers I’m proud of what we’ve been able to achieve. As myself and Jenny Jones prepare to step down after a sixteen-year stint, I am feeling hugely optimistic about an increased Green presence at City Hall next May.
And even if you’re an enthusiastic Corbynista who wants to see Jeremy in Number 10 in five year’s time, if you genuinely want a new direction in British politics you’d be foolish to pass up the chance to elect a strong group of Greens to City Hall next May.
As Sian, herself says, “There is a thread running through all the ways we can solve our problems in London. We don’t want to win a Green Mayor and Assembly Members to take power for ourselves.
Greens will give London back to Londoners, bringing the voices of its amazing campaigns and citizens into our campaign and then into City Hall. London is at the heart of the crises we face and it will be at the vanguard of how they are solved.”
Darren Johnson represents the Green Party on the London Assembly.