Lorraine Francis: Elected to tackle a spectrum of issues

In 2021, Greens made election breakthroughs across the country, in a variety of local authority demographics. Councillor Lorraine Francis describes her experience of campaigning and winning in one of Bristol’s inner city wards that has previously voted Labour

 

Cllr Lorraine Francis
Lorraine Francis

Describe the current political structure of your council.
Bristol City Council is fairly unusual in that it is a unitary authority with an elected Mayor who controls the executive function. There are 70 Councillors in total, comprised of 24 Greens, 24 Labour, 14 Conservatives and 8 Liberal Democrats. 

What was your experience of the election campaign?
The electoral campaign was simultaneously interesting and challenging! In my ward, Eastville, we experienced a lot of change with two selected candidates stepping down, and the final additional candidate being selected about six weeks before the elections. Therefore for me, there was a lot of change, uncertainty and to some degree, an element of fear that after two years of campaigning, I might not win.

 What campaigning did do was allow me to get to know the ward better than I had. Meeting and engaging in conversation with many different residents, who were overall warm, welcoming and willing to listen, was a great experience, and it was this that spurred me on and gave me a sense of hope. 

How did it feel to win?
Winning was the most fantastic feeling ever, after all the hard work – the door knocking, leaflets and being active before and amid a pandemic – finally paid off. For me, having stood as a parliamentary candidate and in Council elections previously, the elation of being selected by voters cannot be understated. Being a woman of colour and a Green candidate is extremely important to me – I wanted residents to see that being Black would not mean that I wouldn’t be able to be effective. I genuinely care about people and want to be a visible and approachable Councillor. I think that many residents noticed and responded to that.

What are the green issues affecting your local area?
Traffic and green spaces are important issues here – many of my residents care about the impact that car emissions, traffic and noise is having upon their health, and love their local parks and green spaces and want to preserve them. There are also issues with speeding and residential streets being used as ‘rat runs’. So whilst not all of the issues relate to open spaces and the environment, I believe that many voters wanted to see a hard-working Councillor who would listen to them and prioritise these issues and this was an important factor for voters who had traditionally voted Labour.

To what do you attribute the growing interest in Greens in your area?
As I already alluded to, the Green Party works really hard for all. I made no distinction between voters when campaigning, and I think many residents noticed that and felt listened to by Greens.

Voters across Bristol want politicians who are visible and willing to tackle both the climate issues and the social justice issues which we are affected by in Bristol, including gangs and violence. I have a wellbeing agenda because I feel that self-help is important and, alongside like-minded residents, fostering a culture of diversity, biodiversity and social change should be on every councillors agenda.