Our votes were squeezed in the General Election with many voters indicating sympathy but feeling that they had to vote Labour or Lib Dem to keep out the Tories. Nonetheless we had a solid core of support registering around 1.5% in the three parliamentary constituencies. Barry Gardiner won Brent North with an increased vote, Sarah Teather just beat Dawn Butler in Brent Central and Glenda Jackson won Hampstead and Kilburn.
The Tories were swept aside in the Brent Council elections, reduced to only six seats but there were also many Lib Dem losses. The new council is Labour 40, Lib Dem 17 and Conservative 6. In several wards there is mixed party representation. Greens polled strongly in some wards giving us the foundation for further advances.
Labour activists were taken aback by the scale of their victory and were at a loss to explain why they polled so strongly despite the national picture. Some pointed to the impact of having a General Election and local election on the same day and felt the General Election had pulled in voters who would not have bothered to vote in a local election, with many just following on their General Election with a vote for the same party in the locals. Some people elected as Labour councillors were frank about their shock as they hadn't expected win and had stood on that basis. Now they suddenly find their lives changed with new and time consuming responsibilities.
Robert Wharton, the Lib Dem lead on Children, Families and Schools, who was responsible for the ARK Academy, lost his seat. However we will have to continue to battle on this front as it was the Labour Party whose votes, combined with those of the Lib Dems, enabled the Academy to go ahead in the face of Tory opposition. We will also continue to put forward the abolition of SATs against opposition from the other parties. It is really disapppointing that, despite the NUT and NAHT boycott, 53 out 55 Brent primary schools are going ahead with the SATs next week. The SATs are narrowing the curriculum, reducing teaching to exam preparation, and undermining the joy of learning. Year 6 pupils have been keen supporters of our policy!
We will also have to work hard with other local environmental groups to pressure the new Council to act decisively and radically on climate change. Labour councillors failed to turn up to a public meeting on this issue and have not been at the forefront of demands for action. We will also be looking to see the promised review of the Civic Centre proposal result in the scarpping of the project.
I would like to thank everyone who voted Green for their support. Please don't get down-hearted because we still have no elected councillors. We are a campaigning party, and as out last Newsletter showed we have achieved a lot without council representation. Any objective oberserver will recognise that a committed campaign can achieve more than a councillor who after an election disappears into obscurity.
We were congratulated by people from all parties at the count on Caroline Lucas's victory in Brighton Pavilion. It is great news but our policies are radical and she will be a incisive and passionate advocate of strategies that are sharply different from those of the 'old' parties. They will find her a formidable presence in the new House of Commons.