Phew. What a week and a bit.
Election day last week was frantic and exhausting, which is how they are supposed to be. We put on a huge operation across the city to ensure we were visible at as many polling stations as possible. It was very noticeable that barely any activists from other parties were visible, we heard reports of one LibDem and two Tories across the whole city.
Then for a few days we had to wait, with the small respite of some good Green council election results in other regions. Finally Sunday evening came and as a candidate I went to Southampton to be at the regional count held in St Mary's football stadium. The atmosphere was a strange one with no 'real' counting happening there, we were waiting for local authorities to send us their results. The mood wasn't helped by the computers crashing rather too often (I'll blog more on that soon) and all the BNP crowd hanging around in suits and rosettes.
The result came in very late, after 1am if I recall despite the returning officer promising it would all be over by 11am! We did very well, with our regional vote share up about 4 percentage points in the South East and nearly 100,000 more votes being cast for us.
The two biggest cheers of the night were when we heard the Oxford and Brighton results where we beat all the other parties to top place across those cities. In Brighton & Hove we won 31.4% of the vote and 26.1% in Oxford, 11.5 and 6.4 percentage points up respectively in each of those cities!
However despite all the growth of the Green vote across the UK, we sadly did not win any more seats. While I'm delighted and relieved that our two existing MEPs Caroline Lucas and Jean Lambert have been re-elected to their third terms with increased margins, it's disappointing that all this growth didn't see more Green MEPs returned, especially when we came so close in a number of regions.
I calculate that in the South East we needed about 29,500 more votes to beat the LibDems for that last seat. Not beyond the realm of possibility, especially if No2EU hadn't been there. I respect and support the diversity of parties a more proportional electoral system brings. However the UK Euros are counted by probably the worst form of PR which means people need to be realists.
I don't think anyone in No2EU would be able to disagree with our key policies. Their website says No2EU wanted to oppose the Euro-Gravy-Train, EU militarisation, privatisation and champion civil liberties… the Green Party already offers those things and is established in the European Parliament. Of course you can't count on votes transferring between parties, new parties may well mobilise people who wouldn't otherwise have voted. But in the North West region No2EU won more than enough votes to, if they had been Green votes instead, stop the BNP and elect a Green. Again in the Eastern region No2EU and Animals Count votes, if Green votes, would have been enough to get a Green MEP there. Green MEPs are totally committed to workers and animal rights issues, and have a clear track record. Despite obvious good intentions, splitting the vote sets back our common cause much more than any publicity gains these tiny parties campaigns will have had.
The speeches from successful candidates in Southampton were pretty dire, and completely empty of any policy other than Caroline Lucas and a smidgeon from Nigel Farage. I couldn't help myself from heckling Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan as he smugly attacked Brown and proclaimed the new Tory dawn was upon us (or something to that effect). I shouted “Clear out your moat. Get back to your duck house,” to hearty guffaws all around. I know Daniel is one of the better Tory MEPs but it infuriates me that they are attaching themselves to a message of change… They are part of the establishment which maintains the status quo. Many Tory MPs were very noticeably implicated in the expenses scandal — the Tories should be judged on that, not given an easy ride.
Monday saw me back on the campaign trail. Yes, no rest for me despite having only got home from Southampton at 3am. You see on election day a Tory Councillor Paul Lainchbury submitted his resignation. Odd timing until you remember that Labour ministers were resigning one after the other during that election week. It must have been something in the air.
So we have a council by-election in Goldsmid ward which is a strong target for us Greens and we have a good candidate in Alex Phillips. If Greens win the seat from the Tories then we'll be in a stronger position to push through our policy priorities as the Tories won't be able to win votes without some form of cross-party support. So it's an important by-election and we're going to be working very hard to win it.
I am going on holiday in August so once the by-election is over on 23rd July I know I will be looking forward to a serious break. Until then it is rosette to the ready, here I come Goldsmid!