Sunday, June 20

‘Bristol does things differently’: Green Party emerges as the city’s rising force | Bristol board


Four days after one of the most striking results in England’s local council elections, Yassin Mohamud, Green’s newest member for the Lawrence Hill neighborhood in Bristol city center, still has to stop every few minutes to accept congratulations from residents, neighbors, merchants and taxi drivers as he walks to the shops.

“It’s very exciting,” Mohamud said. “I can’t wait to get on with the work. This area has been neglected for too long. There is so much garbage, drugs, air pollution, antisocial behavior. Things must change. “

Mohamud, a 49-year-old administrator who came to the UK from Somalia 16 years ago, used to vote for Labor, but began knocking on the doors of the Green Party in November 2018. “Labor was not doing anything for this area.” , He said. saying. “People wanted a change and they realized that we wanted to hear from them.”

The Greens participated in the elections with 11 of the Bristol city council seats and finished with 24, making them the largest party along with Labor, which fell from 37.

Green candidates won not only in the leafy areas of Bristol, but also took seats in what were thought to be Labor strongholds, such as Eastville and Lockleaze in the north, Bedminster in the south and Lawrence Hill, one of the most disadvantaged districts of south-west England, in the east.

Jon Eccles, who simply couldn’t win a second seat for the Greens at Lawrence Hill, said much of the match’s success in Bristol was due to hard work. He said that when he joined the Greens he was impressed by their “method.” Candidates were not required to adhere to a certain ideology, he said, but they were expected to commit to a certain amount of work.

“Working means knocking on residents’ doors, finding out what they think, putting what they tell you about in brochures. They see that you are paying attention. Then when you talk to them about the weather, they are more likely to listen to you. “

At 18, Lily fitzgibbon becomes the youngest councilor in the city of Bristol. She was a founding member of Bristol Youth Strike 4, who played a key role in the campaign against the Bristol airport expansion and helped organize a climate emergency protest in Bristol attended by Greta Thunberg.

Fitzgibbon, who works at a produce store on Bristol’s fiercely independent Gloucester Road, said he believed the party’s success was due to its approach not only to global and national issues, but also to local ones.

So people in their neighborhood, Bishopston and Ashley Down, spoke at the door about the climate emergency, the Bristol Black Lives Matter protest last summer that ended with the statue of slave trader Edward Colston being thrown into the harbor and chain This year’s demonstrations of “kill the bill” in the city.

But they also talked about local traffic, air quality and the plight of a 120-year-old oak tree in the neighborhood that had been in danger of being cut down.

“Bristol is such a socially and environmentally conscious place,” Fitzgibbon said. “It is a place of protest culture and I think people have realized that there are options outside of the two main parties.”

Carla denyer, one of the most prominent councilors of the Green group, insisted that this was not a flash in the pan. “This has been build, build, build,” he said.

“People have flocked to the Greens because there is frustration in the way the Labor administration has run the city, not acting fast enough on the climate emergency,” he said.

But, he says, he’s also worked hard on local issues in his Clifton Down neighborhood: garbage collection, recycling, the city’s shortage of affordable housing.

“When people get green elected representatives, they like it, we work very hard. Many people told us that they had not voted green before, but they have seen that we are genuine, really. “

Denyer believes that the council elections bode well for the Greens’ aspiration to win a UK parliamentary seat: Bristol West.

In the 2019 election for that seat, Denyer came in second, well behind Labor’s Thangam Debbonaire. But the Greens now have councilors in nine of the ten districts in the Bristol West constituency. “We are the second party in Bristol now, but arguably the first in Bristol West,” he said.

Labor takes some comfort in the victory in the election of Marvin Rees for mayor of Bristol. He remains by far the most powerful political figure in the city. The election of former UK Labor Minister Dan Norris as Mayor of the West of England also stabilized the ship.

But the results in neighborhoods like Easton, where Rees lives, were a severe blow. The Greens held both seats, including that of respected Labor cabinet member Afzal Shah, who was the only councilor of Pakistani origin.

Areas like Easton have become magnets for people in London and the South East looking for an alternative lifestyle and for the many university students who stay after finishing their courses.

Shah, who was a member of the cabinet for climate, ecology and sustainable growth, highlighted the environmental achievements of the city, from its climate emergency action plan to your tree planting efforts. He said the demographics in his neighborhood had changed and that this time there had been a problem mobilizing the black, Asian and ethnic minority vote, and it didn’t help that the elections fell in Ramadan.

Mayor Rees expressed concern about the lack of diversity in the new council, saying he was disappointed that “middle-class white councilors were jumping for joy” at defeating Shah.

He added: “We have to ask questions about race and class. You have an area like Easton that has traditionally been very heterogeneous, very working class, where house prices are now over £ 400,000. Is it gentrification that supports the progress of the Green Party in racially diverse areas? “

Rees, who in 2016 became the first mayor of black African descent in a major European city, noted that he was the only mayoral candidate this time out of the four major parties not attending private school. “But race and class were never discussed.”

On working with the Greens, Rees said: “If you want to work with me, tell me what you are going to do for the city and then tell me what you need from me to do it. I am interested in talking to people who want to do things. This is how it will work. “

George Ferguson, who was Bristol’s first directly elected mayor (as an independent) said he thought the success of the Greens was a “great moment” for politics in Bristol, and more broadly.

“Bristol is an important city. These results should be taken very seriously as a potential springboard for the Greens, ”he said. “I love the way Bristol does things differently.”

But Bristol can be exceptional. After all, it’s home to street artist Banksy, protest and rebellion, underground music scenes, and campaign organizations like the Soil Association and the walking and biking charity Sustrans.

Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent, said the Greens are “potentially in a very interesting space in British politics.” “They could quite easily sideline liberal graduates, young Zoomers and middle-class Labor professionals, as we are seeing in other European democracies, especially Germany and the Netherlands. If they play their cards right, the sky is the limit. “

Professor of English Literature at the University of Bristol Tom sperlinger He said he thought it was worth watching to see if Labor and Greens could work together.

“I think Bristol will be an interesting experiment in the next few years,” he said. “It is clear that now there is a large progressive majority in the city and people are very motivated by the ecological crisis and inequality.

“Can a pluralist left show what it can achieve in association or will it descend into a political party dispute? I think the national parties would do well to see the city as an experiment in how to build a larger coalition of the left.


www.theguardian.com

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