Readers, there were two local by-elections featuring Green candidates yesterday, in case you missed them. The results from said by-elections were as follows:
Epping Forest, Epping Hemnall: Liberal Democrat 607 (43.3%, +0.8%), Conservative 386 (27.6%, +6.5%), UKIP 339 (24.2%, -1.4%), Green 69 (4.9%, +0.6%).
Somerset County Council, Frome North: Conservative 1,111 (46.5%, +10.8%), Liberal Democrat 836 (35.0%, -2.3%),Labour 163 (6.8%, -3.9%), Green 139 (5.8%), Independent LD 139 (5.8%).
Although the Lovelace by-election in Guildford did not feature a Green candidate, I feel compelled to comment on it nevertheless, for this reason. There was a 45% swing from Conservative to Liberal Democrat in that ward, which is otherwise safely Conservative (with low potential for UKIP). The issue of potential housebuilding on greenbelt land, strongly prized by most Surrey voters, is believed to be the prime cause for the off-scale swing from Conservative to Liberal Democrat here, as well as the fact that Guildford's Conservative association was unwilling to support the candidate (who was selected by Mole Valley Conservatives).
The Liberal Democrat gain of Epping Hemnall ward is less surprising; they had won that ward in 2012 and 2013 and it was only in their great nadir of 2011 that they failed to win that ward. As UKIP were already doing well, there was precious little ground for them to gain which they had not already gained from the Conservatives. I was hoping that the Green Party would do better, with the absence of a Labour candidate and with a morale boost across the district from our first local win in Epping Forest earlier this year.
As for Frome North, after narrowly holding it in 2013, the Lib Dems lost it to the Conservatives due to two prominent factors. The first was the absence of a UKIP candidate this time-was the Conservative winner Eurosceptic and right-wing enough for the local UKIP branch? The second was a former Liberal Democrat councillor standing as an independent, which split the Liberal Democrat vote fatally, even if not by much. Meanwhile, we Greens did pretty well from a standing start, causing some damage to the already weak Labour vote in this division, and hopefully my colleagues in the Mendip District (which also includes the Wells constituency, another very tight Lib Dem-Conservative marginal) will have a Green PPC ready soon for Somerton and Frome, where former Newbury MP and Old Etonian David Rendel has apparently been selected for the Liberal Democrats.
Recently, there was a report on membership of significant parties within the United Kingdom, and some rather interesting statistics spring to light:
The Green Party has the highest proportion of members with a university degree (and also those who tried to get a university degree) at 60% of the membership; I, as a psychology graduate (which is better than being a PPE graduate in my opinion), proudly count myself amongst that. The Liberal Democrats, whose former supporters we Greens are winning a sizable number of votes from, especially in naturally liberal and progressive areas like Hampstead, come next with 50% of their membership having been to university at least.
Two important statistics in the same report need some seeing to by all major parties: ~20% of electors self-define as retired (normally due to old age), but 30% of political party members self-define as retired. It has often been quoted that the average age of Conservative Party members in particular is as high as 68, and the average age of UKIP members is probably at least 60. Also, two thirds of party members are male, and this is especially prominent amongst the three main parties. I hope we Greens can inspire more women to get involved in politics-after all, we are the only major party in the UK to currently have a female leader (Natalie Bennett) and speaking further on diversity, we are the only significant UK party to have any non-white deputy leaders (Shahrar Ali) amongst us. Since the Green Party now has over 19,000 members, and almost certainly will get 20,000 by the end of this year, I hope the British public can aspire further and further to real change for the better.