The one thing we can be absolutely certain about from the General Election is the fact that every single party lost. Brown lost seats and lost the popular vote, Clegg lost seats and failed to capitalise on the post-Leaders Debate momentum and Cameron failed to get an overall majority. Only three parties gained seats on the night, the Conservatives, the Alliance Party (who took Belfast East from Peter Robinson and the DUP) and, of course, the Green Party, who took the seat of Brighton Pavilion.
This is an historic first for the Greens. These are uncharted waters made even more complicated by the fact that we have a hung Parliament. However, Caroline is used to firsts and will have no trouble getting to grips with the intricacies of Westminster politics.
But, and this is perhaps the most important thing of all, despite the squeeze felt in London and elsewhere, the Greens have momentum.
For the Green Party in Brighton, this momentum could be translated into another historic first in a year’s time – the first ever Green council. Critics might point out that across Brighton and Hove, the combined vote put the Greens in fourth place, behind the Lib Dems. I don’t dispute this but, and critics need to know this, we were also fourth across Brighton and Hove following the 2005 election, only to then turn the momentum into 12 council seats (13 since last year’s epic win in the Goldsmid by-election).
So, how can this come to be? Where can the Greens possibly take seats? Well, whilst I haven’t yet had a chance to look at the returns from Thursday night’s count, I believe there are several seats in play come next May.
The Greens need 27 seats to take the council and secure a majority, a big ask but, the Greens have a habit of doubling their council numbers in Brighton and Hove. Let’s see what they can take.
The Greens already have one seat in Preston Park (the always brilliant Amy Kennedy) and should be able to bag the other two this time round.
Following on from Alex Phillips’ win in the Goldsmid by-election last summer, the Greens can target the remaining two seats in the ward.
Another opportunity for the Greens in Hove, might be the ward of Central Hove. Currently Tory, but bordering Goldsmid, Central Hove is a vulnerable seat that may succumb to a Green surge across the city.
Also up for the grabs is the Lib Dem ward of Brunswick and Adelaide. The Lib Dems will be throwing everything they’ve got at trying to hold it but, Lib Dem voters might be swayed into going Green at the prospect of the Greens taking majority control of the council.
Coming back to the Pavilion constituency, all the remaining seats should be Green targets. The Conservative vote has proven to have flatlined across the constituency, including the “heartlands” of Patcham and Withdean. The Greens have every chance to take a seat (or more) in both.
Going after Labour seats, Hollingdean and Stanmer Park could easily fall to the Greens who can now bank on the student vote making a strong showing. With enough work, and careful targeting of their key demographic, the Greens could potentially take all three seats from Labour.
Likewise in Moulscoomb and Bevendean. Currently a mixed ward of two Labour councillors and one Tory, the Greens can force Labour onto the back foot. Considered “safe”, the Tories pinching a seat in 2007 is a sign that this is far more vulnerable than previously assumed.
The final ward which, to some, will seem laughable is, Rottingdean Coastal. Probably the longest shot for the Greens, this “safe” Tory ward has probably been taken for granted, with new voters from the urban city centre moving out to the village over the past three years, the Greens might be able to take at least one seat off the Tories. Don’t rule it out.
So, if I was to work out the numbers on this, the Greens would need to take the two seats in Brunswick and Adelaide, at least one in Central Hove, the remaining two in Goldsmid, all three in Hollingdean and Stanmer, at least one in Moulscoomb and Bevendean, two in Patcham (yes, I am that optimistic), two more in Preston Park, one in Rottingdean (wait and see) and one in Withdean (maybe two). Thus bringing a net gain of 15 new Green councillors. Combining this with the 13 existing councillors (with no losses), the Greens would have a grand total of 28 councillors and a majority administration.
I would not rule out the possibility of the Greens taking majority control. Critics will detract from this but, they will not have factored in the “Lucas effect”, nor the Greens “big mo.”
It is no easy task, far from it, it is a colossal challenge. However, with the current leftwards trajectory, the fact that the Greens are ideologically identifiable as a left-wing party committed to social justice, fairness and protection of public services, makes it far more likely for the Greens to attract idealistic and progressive voters to the party and our positive politics.
In the meantime, the Greens need to get on the ground, to continue campaigning, to further improve our links with trade unionists and the labour movement, to work with community groups, taking on casework from those outside of the wards (and constituency) we currently represent and to make the case for a Green, progressive Brighton in 2011.