Saturday, 26 March 2016

Alan's Green Thoughts' guide to upcoming elections in 2016

We are nearly there, everyone (for those of you in the UK)-2016 elections for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly, London Assembly and Mayor, Police & Crime Commissioners, and also for local councils (depending on area) will take place in just six weeks.

Scottish Parliament:

Despite the fact that the SNP will continue to remain a dominant force in Scottish politics for the time being, the Scottish Green Party is set to make strong gains in this election. Patrick Harvie and Maggie Chapman, the leaders of the SGP, are lead candidates for Glasgow and North East Scotland (Aberdeenshire, the city of Dundee, and the surrounding counties, in essence). Other lead SGP candidates are Sarah Beattie-Smith (South Scotland), Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland & Fife region), John Finnie (Highlands & Islands), Alison Johnstone (Lothians), and Kirsten Robb (West Scotland). There is also a possibility of a Green gain in the Glasgow Kelvin constituency, where Patrick Harvie is standing.

Welsh Assembly:

With the possibility of the Liberal Democrats being eliminated from the Welsh Assembly altogether, it will be important for Wales Green Party to make a breakthrough so that a progressive voice can be heard in the Assembly from areas where Plaid Cymru lack support. Alice Hooker-Stroud, Wales Green Party's leader, and Amelia Womack, Green Party Deputy Leader, have been working hard for a gain of Green seats in Mid & West Wales (Dyfed & Powys, with Merionethshire from Gwynedd added), and South Wales Central (Cardiff and surrounding areas of eastern Glamorgan) respectively.  Interestingly, there appear to be no minor party lists fielded for the Welsh Assembly elections yet despite the fact that nominations have to be submitted less than two weeks from now.

Northern Irish Assembly:

Amidst all the usual sectarianism, there will be a full slate of Green Party candidates for the Northern Ireland Assembly election for the first time ever. Steven Agnew MLA is standing again in North Down, and Northern Irish voters can also vote for Clare Bailey (Belfast South), Ross Brown (Belfast East), Malachai O'Hara (Belfast North), Ellen Murray (Belfast West), Georgia Grainger (Strangford), Tanya Jones (Fermanagh & South Tyrone), Dawn Patterson (East Antrim), Helen Farley (South Antrim), Jennifer Breslin (North Antrim), Amber Hamill (East Londonderry), Mary Hassan (Foyle), Dan Barrios-O'Neill (Lagan Valley), Ciaran McClean (West Tyrone), Simon Lee (Upper Bann), Michael Watters (Newry & Armagh), John Hardy (South Down), and Stefan Taylor (Mid Ulster). Clare has a strong chance of gaining NI Green Party a second seat in the Assembly via the hotly contested and diverse Belfast South seat (the one to watch), which at Westminster level saw the highest ever Green vote in Northern Ireland last year and also the record for lowest ever winning percentage by a candidate (24.5%!). Ellen, meanwhile, is the first ever transgender candidate to stand in Northern Ireland.

London Assembly:

Can the Green Party gain a third seat in the London Assembly? In spite of UKIP being likely to re-enter the London Assembly, I believe they can especially if the Liberal Democrats fail to recover from 2015 and end up exiting the London Assembly altogether, which is a possibility given their lack of national exposure. Even if Sian Berry does not become the next Mayor of London (very unlikely due to the tight contest between Labour's Sadiq Khan and the Conservatives' Zac Goldsmith), her performance will likely ensure the Green Party retains the £10,000 mayoral deposit for the first time since the first Mayor of London election in 2000. Also, as UKIP could potentially implode following the EU referendum result on 23rd June, this will be an excellent chance for the Green Party to establish themselves as at least the third and alternative party in British politics.

Police & Crime Commissioners:

In these elections, Britain should hopefully see an average turnout of much greater than 15%, and no repeat of the situation in South Wales where some polling stations saw no voters come in at all for the PCC election there. Some police areas will also have Green Party candidates to vote for this time; so far they are Avon & Somerset (Chris Britton), Hertfordshire (Alex Longmore), Staffordshire (Paul Woodhead), and Sussex (James Doyle). More community policing, an emphasis on restorative justice when possible, greater police accountability, and environmentally efficient use of police resources are what Britain needs. 

Council elections:

In addition to many 'by-thirds' council elections, there will also be all-out elections in Bristol, Exeter, Elmbridge, Watford, Welwyn Hatfield, Colchester, Sheffield, Knowsley, Rotherham,  Peterborough, Warrington, Cherwell, Gloucester, Lincoln, Rochford, Stroud, Winchester, and Woking. Keep an eye out for Green gains in Bristol, Sheffield, Stroud, and Rochford in particular, and the Green Party also has a chance to win their first seats in both Exeter and Colchester and regain seats in Watford.

What of the other political parties?

Labour are likely to suffer some significant losses, given that 2012 (the last time those seats were up for election) was their best election year throughout the 2010-15 Parliament and that they will continue to lose their footing in the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. UKIP is stronger now than in 2012 and the divisive 2016 Budget will put a damper on Conservative hopes. This will also be a test for the Liberal Democrats-and since they are in opposition, these elections could either help them survive or push them towards a lingering demise.

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