The Green Party is the latest threat to the Tories
Their gains in the local elections bode ill for Conservative MPs in the south
Rishi Sunak is lucky. The local election results were so bad for his party that they could have put the skids under his leadership. But the Coronation weekend intervened — and so, instead of angry Tories calling for the Prime Minister’s head, the nation united to watch Penny Mordaunt holding a sword.
Nevertheless, the Conservatives will soon be waking up with a delayed hangover. They’ll be conscious that something awful happened last week — the loss of over a thousand councillors, in this case — and yet some rather important details could be obscured in the recollection.
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Not least among these is the impressive performance of the Green Party. While the Labour Party did well and the Lib Dems very well, the Greens grew exponentially — doubling their council seats from 240 to 481.
The party now has its first council majority, Mid-Suffolk District Council, where it holds 24 out of 34 seats. It is the largest party on a further seven councils — and has a substantial presence on many others. This is much better than anything achieved in local government by UKIP at its peak, and the Green accomplishment deserves a lot more media recognition than it has so far received.
What’s more, most of these gains have been made in the Tory heartlands. The image of the Greens as the natural home of students and geriatric hippies is out of date. The party is now a powerful force in rural areas and market towns across the south of England.
Back in October 2021, I wrote an article warning the Tories of what was coming. Looking at a hundred council by-elections that year, I pointed out that six were Green victories at Conservative expense.
Something was clearly up: the Greens had found a way of matching radicalism with some small-c conservative instincts and presenting the package in reassuringly middle-class terms. As a result, they were now “knocking bricks out of the Blue Wall”. Needless to say, there was no sign of Tory HQ taking this threat seriously.
Now that hundreds of Conservative councillors have lost their seats to a party that’s well to the Left of Labour on many issues, there’s no ignoring the Greens. But what can the Tories actually do?
For a start, they shouldn’t even think about becoming the anti-environmentalist party. UnHerd polling shows that UK voters are decisively in favour of Net Zero and other green policies — and that includes Red Wall and 2019 Tory voters.
Starting with our green monarch, we are a country, broadly speaking, that cares about the climate, about nature and about the places where we live. To reconnect with the public, the Conservatives need to re-embrace environmentalism — as they did during the “vote blue, go green” phase of David Cameron’s leadership.
Sunak should reshuffle his ministers at the Environment and Energy departments — neither Thérèse Coffey nor Grant Shapps inspire confidence. Over at the Housing department, Michael Gove must deliver on the work of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission. Too many new developments are still an eyesore — allowing the Greens and Lib Dems to weaponise Nimbyism. We also need an immediate crackdown on the water companies: no more pumping sewage into British waters.
Of course, the Conservatives should expose the more extremist elements of the Green Party where they find them — not to mention their ineptitude in local government. But to be effectively anti-Green, the Tories must be credibly pro-green.
The Green Party and the other rag-bag eco-fanatics are threat to us all, not just the Tories.
Quite so. And hence there is a natural ceiling to the support which they might expect to filch from the right. Their natural hunting grounds are the squalid slums of socialism or the stinking marshes of the centre. On the clean Savannahs of the right they are hunted down themselves. Indeed, the only thing which might provoke a conservative to support them is a self-destructive wish to bring about the forthcoming collapse more quickly, if only to end the tortures of anticipation.
Watermelons. Green on the outside only.
Disagree. They are totally naive, through and through. The red bit in the middle is a blush of embarrassment, not socialism.
The BBC, newspapers, celebrities, internet search engines, etc., are fixed to make us think that we need to follow the Green agenda. Schools teach the ideas as fact – no questions allowed. The UK has signed treaties which are legally binding (whatever that means today). We are trapped.
Of course, people don’t realise how lives are going to become very dreary, with no choices. Except in the big conurbations with fabulous transport services, it won’t be easy to go out for the day on the spur of the moment. Electric cars won’t be affordable for ordinary people. We will either have pylons everywhere or there won’t be electricity; there are just no other choices. International travel will become prohibitively expensive so only our government officials and Ant and Dec will be able to fly. Gary Lineker will have left the country for ever.
“But surely our nice government won’t let that happen to us? Surely, they will see sense?” It will be too late!!!
Hmm .. not convinced by the underlying conclusion. Never heard of a protest vote that has limited real political impact then? I actually find this commentary and the seemingly general conclusion that Labour are a shoe-in at the next election quite low on real analysis. No focus on voter turnout, who actually bothered to vote and reason for their choice. Clearly there was always going to be a significant swing away from the Conservatives, any political party in power over the last few years would suffered the same, notwithstanding some of the mess that the Conservatives has brought on themselves. But what is interesting is the large swing not only towards Labour but a significant vote for other smaller parties that voters would almost certainly not vote for in a general election. I would say that Labour have to be looking at these results just as much as the Conservatives, and any reaction to these results (as with anything on twitter) should always be made with care.
Everybody is in favour of net zero and other green policies. Everybody is also in favour of affordable heating, mobility and travel, and general prosperity. But we’re all cakeists at heart. I wondered if perhaps this winter’s gas emergency would change perspectives on green issues but a dose of realism will have to come along sooner or later.
Everybody – 1
The party now has its first council majority, Mid-Suffolk District Council, where it holds 24 out of 34 seats.
Yet their local policies are a complete mystery. They don’t appear to even have any.
They’ve relied on two things – the protest vote, also, people had two votes in this election, and I suspect they picked up lots of second votes.
I thought Brighton was the first Green council.
‘UnHerd polling shows that UK voters are decisively in favour of Net Zero and other green policies — and that includes Red Wall and 2019 Tory voters.”
Really! I don’t believe that for a second. Particularly when voters find out how much it will hit them in the pocket. This article is clearly by a Liberal Democrat.
Could we please have access to the sample, the questionnaire and the analysis? Just to be sure this polling was not designed to produce a particular result. It has been known.
The Green success at the local elections wasn’t mirrored here in Brighton & Hove where they have controlled the city council for four years. They lost 13 of their 20 seats. It seems that the better an electorate know the Greens the less they like them.
I think this is nonsense. As much nonsense as Net Zero itself.
UnHerd polling may show public support for Net Zero. But wait until people really understand the cost/benefit balance of these policies.
At some point, you have to demonstrate leadership and get ahead of the media narrative. You do actually have to win the intellectual argument and do so in public so that people notice and learn. Margaret Thatcher understood this. Peter Franklin seems to believe that such arguments can be won by stealth. He’s wrong.
A further critical point is that it isn’t necessary that a realistic energy and environmental policy enjoy majority support in UnHerd surveys. Let’s suppose the current breakdown is 60:40 in favour of the “Green”/pro Net Zero/etc position. That 60% group is split across all current parties. The 40% group has nowhere to go. Any party that can harvest the 40% can still win under the UK electoral system.
If inflation falls below wage growth and the new legislation/Rwanda scheme Stops the Boats, then the Tories will win the GE. If not, they won’t.
Not sure Greens will be quite the same threat in a GE, unless public really buys into some serious tactical voting especially in the South. That said Tories and the Right in general made such a mess one can agree it’s odds are at an all time high.
The Author counsels Tories against adopting an anti-environmentalist stance. It’s just one of the contradictions Tories have struggled to square, so watch for a continuation of the incongruity. It may also be that some implications of the environmental agenda insufficiently understood by the electorate but that doesn’t mean the zeitgeist will rapidly reverse. I mean the Right got a majority to vote for the nonsense shambles that has been Brexit so they ought to know emotion can outweigh logic.
You use a lot of words that don’t say anything. Since you’re driven by such expansive knowledge devoid of emotional baggage…explain how digging up significantly more natural resources that are less abundant than hydrocarbons and letting China, Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia control the fossil fuel market will stimulate economic growth across the west and promote a “cleaner environment.”
The Brexit vote transcended traditional left/right lines. Nice try implicitly blaming it on the “right” (assuming there is “blame” to be assigned). But simply not true.
I will certainly feel indebted to the robust common sense of the voters in places like Sunderland for a long time. Which is something that tells me that people will see through just how destructive and counterproductive Net Zero is. There are far more practical and less harmful policies that will do more for the environment.
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