Selby: Reflections from the recent by-elections

Green World spoke to Arnold Warneken, Green Party candidate for Selby (Harrogate and District Green Party), about his takeaways and reflections from his campaign for the July by-elections.

Arnold Warneken Selby
Arnold Warneken Selby

The Selby canvassing team

Green World

Green World - Despite not winning, you succeeded in increasing the Greens' overall vote share. What do you see as the reason behind this increase?

Arnold Warneken - I see the increase as predominantly due to the impact of having a presence in the community as a county councillor, but also having had the financial resources to work on social media in the campaign. We were also able to get quality leaflets out without worrying about the expenses. Finally, we had a team of very passionate and committed members who were prepared to do as much as we possibly could do on canvassing, and we did major work with national and international media. 

What strategies or campaign details stood out as particularly useful?

Arnold Warneken and Natalie Bennett Selby
Natalie Bennett with Arnold out canvassing in Selby before the July by-election

The strategies that proved useful were that we had the three main messages we continued to thread throughout the campaign. We had evidence to show that we had been working on these issues – long before the by-election was called – which gave us an insight and an informed position, for example, to deal with water quality. All the main parties were campaigning against sewage in the rivers, but only the Greens had actually done something about it in the run-up to the by-election. 

The second strategy we used was to make sure we got our messaging out there in a simple and informed way, which was clear on social media and in our leaflets. I have to say, the quality of the information we put out – with the risk of sounding biased – was better than any other candidate. We had the funding to get a third round of leaflets out, but it was a huge ask to request people to help with this. 

What do you think the result of this by-election tells us about the upcoming general election – whenever it happens?

The by-election had 13 candidates, and we came third out of 13 – behind the Conservatives and Labour (who won). We are therefore currently the third party in Selby with the Liberal Democrats coming sixth. In a general election, usually, you'll find there aren’t as many candidates as there are in a by-election. So I think in reality, we would expect now to have the third position, if not better. 

All that comes down to having resources, which admittedly won’t be as easy to access because every constituency in the country will be running its own campaigns. We relied a lot on other people coming from other constituencies to help us which is unlikely to happen in a general election. In theory, we will get the leafleting out with Royal Mail and will also have an element of canvassing. I think one of the simple approaches we might adopt in a general election is to try and capture loads of people coming to us rather than us going to them by having some stalls in prominent positions within the constituency. 

It is a difficult one because the boundaries are going to be changing for a general election. Our final strategy will depend upon who the candidate is and our understanding of the new constituency boundaries. 

How does the Green Party intend on using this momentum to further engage with the electorate and potentially secure a win in the future?

We are an ambitious party locally. And we are also realistic. We intend to stand a suitable candidate at every opportunity in all Parish town elections and by-elections should they occur in our division. We want to build upon the fact that in our constituency we have a county councillor, town councillors and parish councillors with various roles and responsibilities within those organisations. We want to show that Greens are able to take positions of responsibility and make good decisions on behalf of the communities. For the General Election, we will harness our experience at all levels of governance to make the case that we should be elected.