Caroline Lucas has been elected as the Green Party’s first MP. This was an
amazing victory in the face of media obsession with just three leaders, huge
donations to the big parties and an unfair voting system. The Green Party
campaigned for a “living wage” for all, investment in a million new jobs,
and protection of public services from cuts and privatisation. We can now
argue for these things from within parliament itself.
In Sheffield, in the local elections, more people than ever voted for the
Green candidates, with a total topping 15,000 for the first time. Despite
this we lost one of our three city councillors, but in a ‘hung council’ we
once again hold the balance of power along with an Independent.
Green Councillors wanted a coalition of all the parties in the Town Hall for
the benefit of our politically divided city. This would have required
everyone to work together to establish a Cabinet of ‘all the talents’ and
select a leader who was prepared to set aside personal ambition and party
politics. Sadly, there were never any three-way talks. We rejected a
proposal to form a coalition with just the Lib Dems, which would have been
dominated by them. As it is, we retain the freedom to campaign and vote on
an issue-by-issue basis.
There will be times when we stand alongside both Labour and the Lib Dems, as
for the City of Culture and World Cup bids. Sometimes they will take up our
initiatives such as introducing a living wage for Sheffield and opting into
the Sustainable Communities Act which now enables food-growing on unused
land. Sometimes we will disagree with both the large parties, for instance
when they favour multinational companies over locally owned businesses,
outsource council services or encourage school academies. And sometimes we
will side with one against the other, which is when the balance of power
comes into play. Potentially, we could join with Labour and the Independent
councillor to pass a motion of no confidence in the Lib Dem administration
or to vote down their budget next March.
High level talks sound exciting, but real cooperation is often less
dramatic. Council policy is developed during briefings from officers to
councillors, in working groups and Scrutiny Boards, which are similar to the
“select committees” in parliament. The public are consulted on big changes
(such as kerbside recycling or closing Abbeydale Grange School) and the
views of political parties can be included. If all these processes were used
to the full and respected by the ruling group, better decisions would be
made. Experience and ideas should be welcomed, not dismissed because they
come from a rival party.
The Green Party will stand up for fairness and sustainability. We are
against cuts to public services; indeed we are convinced that the only way
to protect the economy and the environment is to invest in jobs, paid for by
fairer taxes and cutting wasteful privatisation. By investing in what
really matters, we can have better public transport, affordable homes,
energy efficient housing, renewable energy, lasting jobs. We need strong,
cohesive communities supported by a vibrant local economy with local
businesses rather than multinationals running the show.
The Lib Dem Tory coalition is proposing a complicated fudge of a voting
system. The Green Party wants proper proportional representation so that
every voice counts. But change is not just about coalitions and voting
systems, it is about attitudes and behaviour. Let’s use the existing systems
to best advantage as well as campaigning to make them better.
Councillor Jillian Creasy