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Surging Greens pitch to replace Lib Dems as England’s third party

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA</span>
Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

The co-leader of the Green party has said voters have finally come to accept his party as a credible electoral force as he marked gains from both Labour and the Conservatives in local elections.

Jonathan Bartley said the party’s strong performance in areas such as Bristol – where it is now the joint-largest party, forcing the Labour mayor Marvin Rees into a run-off vote – showed it could no longer be dismissed as a wasted vote.

“We’re moving from being the biggest small party to being one of the big parties,” he said. “We’ve been polling ahead of the Lib Dems and we’ve seen in this election that there are no no-go areas for the Greens.”

He said the Green party was gaining support from Labour voters who felt disillusioned with the “authoritarian Blairism” of Keir Starmer, and winning over Tory voters coming to the party through environmental concerns raised by the likes of David Attenborough.

In Bristol, the Greens more than doubled their seats on the city council. Both they and Labour won 24 seats: Labour was down from 33 and the Greens were up from 11, while the Conservatives remained on 14. One of the new Green councillors is 18-year-old Lily Fitzgibbon, a founding member of Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate, who helped organise the 2020 climate-emergency protest in the city which was attended by Greta Thunberg.

Bartley said: “Who does Labour represent any more? Who do the Conservative party represent any more? Neither of those two parties have a vision for the future. We want re-localised economies where people can work from home, we don’t want to shift hundreds of thousands of people a day on the daily commute.”

The party’s other co-leader, Siân Berry, finished a distant third as a candidate in the London mayoral election, but once again increased her vote share. The party was also pleased to win 12% of the capital-wide vote for the London Assembly.

Although their overall elected representation remains small, by Sunday evening the Greens had gained 82 councillors in England, giving them new representation in traditionally Labour-voting urban areas such as Sheffield as well as on rural Tory-dominated councils such as Suffolk.

Caroline Lucas has been the party’s only Westminster MP since winning Brighton Pavilion in 2010. The Greens now hope that Bristol West, held by Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire with a 28,219 majority, could show they are more than a one-city party.

Bartley dismissed the suggestion that the party should revive its 2019 electoral pacts with the Liberal Democrats, saying that related to the single issue of attempting to force a new EU referendum: “We’re a very different party to the Lib Dems.”

Instead, in an approach similar to traditional Lib Dem campaign tactics, the party will take advantage of the expected lull before the next general election by hiring campaign coordinators to target a handful of Westminster constituencies by promoting candidates as local champions. Breakthrough seats could include Bury St Edmunds and Sheffield Central.

The party once again failed to win any seats in the Welsh Senedd election, however, where it has traditionally struggled.

The Scottish Greens, which is a separate organisation from its counterpart in England and Wales, celebrated after winning a record eight seats in the Scottish parliament where it is likely to exert substantial power over the SNP after Nicola Sturgeon’s party fell short of a majority.