Fighting elections for the Green Party is not something one goes into lightly. There isn’t even a verb that captures the spirit of what’s at stake for us – and I don’t just mean because we are a party of peace: to fight, to contest, to win, to hold, to defeat? Even at the declaration, the lead candidates for Labour and Conservative, respectively, seemed more to relish their personal achievements than what it meant for pursuing the collective goals of their parties’ manifestos. Yet for the Greens, politics is a vocation, not a career.
No, our Jean, despite entering her fourth term in office, was visibly humbled by the affair. She did not take the will of the London electorate for granted, just as she hadn’t prepared a speech. Behind her was a determined campaign of candidates and campaigners. A few were able to witness events as they unfolded in City Hall that night. Across London, and the UK, Greens were following the news on both the mainstream media and social media. I received a text from a friend to say that my newborn at the count had been mentioned on the BBC news! Greens on twitter started to amuse themselves on how baby and knitting (the other novelty of the night) were doubling Green airtime, after the continued frustration of being denied proper representation on the telly – equal to our vote share or number of MEPs:
— James Caspell (@jjcaspell) May 26, 2014
— Election Leeks (@GPconfLeeks) May 26, 2014
Natalie Bennett finally got the opportunity to rectify this a little. Maybe it was true that to fight for some things was an appropriate verb in such context. But our true aims were always going to be long-termist and non-egoistic. We were the party dismayed about denial and inaction on climate change and determined to reverse that trend. We were the party proactive on exposing international trade agreements that risked adding to the further ruin of public services and diminution of workers’ rights. We were the party talking about future generations and non-human animals beyond the next electoral cycle. Would the electorate get it? They nearly got it in Eastern region and North West – though I was very disappointed for Rupert Read and Peter Cranie that they didn’t quite make the breakthrough (big commiserations). They did get it in South West region – Molly Scott Cato providing our first success of the early hours – and they continued to get it in the South East – Keith Taylor – and now London.
I had adopted perhaps an unscientific attitude towards our changes that night – despite having back-of-the envelope predictions waved in front of me (bless our number crunchers). I said I knew we would do it. Just because I turned out to be right, doesn’t mean I knew it any more than the next person. We could have been cheated of the seat for a whole set of reasons, like the presence of the Animal Welfare party on the ballot paper for the first time – they could have eaten away at one of our core constituencies of support. But I had faith. I had faith that baby needed a better future to grow into and that we were a family of like-minded individuals whose collective task was too big to be able to fail. But this wasn’t banking or the banks, this was the preservation of our planetary ecosystem itself. And the family was the Green party. We were right to have faith in the Londoners, this time, again.
When the result finally came, party agents (and also candidates) were supposed to be called into a quiet room to be debriefed before the official declaration in the chamber and to the waiting world. In the event, Tower-Hamlets-style chaos ensued, with some agents handed a piece of paper and others (including our own Laura Davenport, dedicated to the last) denied it. I used all the power of diplomacy (hardly) to ask the Labour agent holding his paper to tell me what had happened to Jean’s position. He confirmed the good news and I shouted it to the nearby Green team. They dared not to believe it until they saw it with their own eyes, so I even took a picture of the paper and zoomed in on the critical information on my camera! Hugs all round ensued.
Here’s the full result for London region. You’d think this would be easy to get hold of, either on the electoral commission website or the european parliament. No such luck, yet it is precisely a reckoning of the figures which can contribute to voter understanding, and ultimately motivation.
Lab 806,959 (36.67%, +15.39%)
C 495,639 (22.52%, -4.83%)
UKIP 371,133 (16.87%, +6.10%)
Green 196,419 (8.93%, -1.96%)
LD 148,013 (6.73%, -6.99%)
Freedoms 28,014 (1.27%)
Independence 26,675 (1.21%)
CPA 23,702 (1.08%)
NHS Action 23,253 (1.06%)
AWP 21,092 (0.96%)
BNP 19,246 (0.87%, -4.06%)
Europeans 10,712 (0.49%)
EDP 10,142 (0.46%, -0.94%)
Communities UP 6,951 (0.32%)
Nat Lib 6,736 (0.31%)
NO2EU 3,804 (0.17%, -0.84%)
Harmony 1,985 (0.09%)
Lab maj 311,320 (14.15%)
10.11% swing C to Lab
Electorate 5,490,248; Turnout 2,200,475 (40.08%, +6.78%)
The number of votes rejected was 25,207 and the following candidates were duly elected for the London Region (in that order):
1. Claude Moraes, Labour Party
2. Syed Salah Kamall, Conservative Party
3. Mary Honeyball, Labour Party
4. Gerard Joseph Batten, UK Independence Party (UKIP)
5. Lucy Anderson, Labour Party
6. Timothy Charles Ayrton Tannock, Conservative Party
7. Seb Dance, Labour Party
8. Jean Denise Lambert, Green Party