This is an exciting time to be a Green, particularly in the North West, with great results in last week’s local elections that saw us break onto three councils in Cumbria for the first time, and take a crucial position in two councils, Wirral and Lancashire, that now have no single dominant party. And we also broke through in Trafford and increased our representation on Tameside.
Many new Greens will be stepping into roles that are very familiar to me. When you add it up, I’ve spent a cumulative total of 14 years as a councillor, eight as a Lancaster city councillor and six on Lancashire County Council.
That means sitting in meetings, negotiating progress in pensions, ensuring that residents’ concerns about everything from road safety to bins are announced. It means navigating systems often not designed the way that we as Greens would want, creating change from the inside.
But it has also meant standing up to the system, joining so many local campaigners, and those from around the country, at the roadside at the Preston New Road fracking site, making sure Westminster hears loud and clear that ‘Lancashire said no’ to fracking and is determined to resist it.
That also meant getting arrested there in a peaceful protest in 2017 – we know as Greens that when the political system is broken, as ours so clearly is, non-violent direct action is sometimes essential to represent the views of the people, to create change.
There’s a long tradition of radical politics in the North West, and I’m proud to be part of that. It is what I want to take to Brussels as an MEP, and why I’m the lead candidate on the Green Party list for our region.
Our problems stem from Westminster, not Brussels
I understand the anger and frustration that drove so many to vote for Brexit in 2016, but I passionately believe in membership of the EU.
Our problems stem from Westminster not Brussels. We need to take back control in Westminster, with a fair voting system and a modern constitution, and we need to take back control from Westminster, to make decisions about our communities in our communities.
We need massive change in the UK, but that’s best achieved by remaining an EU member, keeping for our young people the wonderful opportunities of freedom of movement, as well as the environmental and workers’ rights protections that so many in the North West have helped fight for.
If you vote Green in the North West, and around the country, you’re getting three things.
First, you get unwavering support for EU membership, and the only democratic way forward from where we are today – the people having the final say about how to get out of this Brexit chaos. We started calling for a ‘People’s Vote’ before it even had that name (though I’ll admit ratification referendum was less catchy).
Green politics understands this fragile planet is at its limits
Second, you get solid, principled, consistent politics – Green politics that understands this fragile planet is at its limits, with climate change, the collapse of the natural world, air pollution and plastic waste threatening all of our futures. Further, we understand the urgent necessity of change is an opportunity to build a different kind of society, one where everyone can be secure in their lives, not fearing hunger or homelessness, with warm, stable homes and hope for the future.
And third, with your vote you have a great chance to send me to Brussels. There are a lot of claims being made about the likely prospects for this vote, but one thing is certain and clear: we got a great vote in the last European Parliament elections, in 2014, and just missed out on a seat. Across England, we won three seats in the Parliament, while the Liberal Democrats won just one.
Some parties might be just getting their heads back above water after being punished, rightly, by voters for their actions and choices. Some are barely getting started. But as Greens we are riding the wave from these local elections, winning the support of huge numbers of new voters who are tired of the old political games and want a new way of doing things.
Across England, our number of councillors doubled in just this one election. That’s historic – no major party has done anything like that in modern times.
On 23 May, you’ll have a chance to build the fast-growing Green representation across our region, and across Europe.
Gina Dowding is the lead Green candidate for the North West in the European elections. She is currently a councillor on Lancashire County Council.