Greens in town are recognised for ‘inspirational vote campaign’

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The accolade was in recognition of their outstanding result in Judd ward in Tonbridge at the local elections in May, where they turned a 13 per cent vote share in 2015 into 79 per cent.
The landslide saw the appointment in the town of the first two Green councillors in West Kent, April Clark and Mark Hood.
“We are delighted that the hard work of all our members and supporters has been recognised by our party nationally,” said Cllr Hood.
“We have worked extremely hard to break into the virtual one-party state that was Tonbridge & Malling and now we are the biggest opposition party in Tonbridge.”
Although their campaign represented a major breakthrough, part of the reason for their success was the fact that they are well known in the neighbourhood.
Cllr Clark said: “Mark and I have both been actively volunteering and campaigning for a number of years now in Tonbridge, and so we are familiar faces and already known for standing up for local residents.
“Issues like the council trying to sell off our park at River Lawn would have slipped by without people noticing what was happening until it was too late if it wasn’t for Greens raising awareness.
“Also, we worked really hard for a long time before the campaign – we were knocking on doors, introducing ourselves and asking people how we could help for over a year before the election, while the other parties waited until the last minute.”
She added that there was an element of a protest vote because of the Conservative stronghold on the council.
“I think people simply weren’t aware of how much of a one-party affair our council has been for a long time. Until this May, 48 out of 54 councillors were Conservative.
“Some who might not have thought of themselves as Green voters actually gave us their vote, as they wanted a more balanced council that would be held to account.”
She said the reaction of residents had been ‘overwhelmingly positive’ but added: “Not everyone seemed happy to see us in the Council Chamber.”
“However, our approach is to try and work with everyone as best as we possibly can. We are still only two councillors out of 54, so collaboration and teamwork is the only way we can get things done.”
With a General Election seemingly around the corner, Cllr Clark has been reselected as the prospective Parliamentary candidate for the Green Party in the borough.
She believes support for the Greens is growing nationally – they currently have one MP, party leader Caroline Lucas in Brighton.
The last 12 months have seen a sea change in the public response to issues such as climate change, and more than 200 councils across the UK have pledged to aim for zero emissions by 2050 – or, in the case of Tonbridge & Malling, as early as 2030.
Cllr Clark said: “Awareness of the climate emergency has grown hugely and polls show that the environment is consistently in the top three biggest issues that people in Britain are concerned about – after Brexit and health.  
“More and more people are connecting the dots and recognising that the environment is at the core of everything.
“All other threats to our economic and social well-being are part of the same problem, and we cannot solve them without solving the climate crisis.”
 The ‘greenwash’ in May – they more than doubled their council seats in the UK to 362 – and the simultaneous rise of the Brexit Party showed there is a backlash against the traditional three-party political landscape.
“People can see that the old way of doing politics just doesn’t work,” said Cllr Clark. “In particular, the first-past-the-post voting system is failing us terribly.
“It rewards competitive instead of collaborative behaviour. And it results in mediocrity by encouraging ‘safe’ centre-ground policies that won’t lose votes – or financial backers – instead of the bold, innovative solutions we need.”
The public’s disenchantment over Parliament’s Brexit impasse is a prime example – and Cllr Clark says other parties are catching up with the Greens’ original position.
Since the referendum three years ago, they have maintained that when a deal is reached, it should be put back to the public in a follow-up referendum along with the option to Remain.
“It is only now that we know enough about what Brexit will actually mean in practice and how it will impact our lives that we can truly make this decision.
“On an issue like this, which is going to impact everyone for generations, we need as much democracy as we can get – that is truly ‘taking back control’!”

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