There’s an article in the New Statesman this week about the election in Bristol West, which happens to be just where I live and am campaigning for the Greens. Predictably they use Banksy’s Mild Mild West toi illustrate it so I’m going to be lazy too…
It’s a pretty fair piece for the New Statesman which normally cheerleads for Labour, and it raises an important point in this election.
Labour’s candidate for this seat, the exquisitely named Thangam Debonnaire, is very dismissive of the Greens’ apparent success here.
“A three-way marginal? Well, that’s what the Greens will tell you,” she says, as we walk along a shaded footpath beside the railway line in Lawrence Hill, the poorest ward in the whole of the southwest. “I actually think it’s a four-way marginal, because the Tories could do well.”
Debonnaire says this area, which is Britain’s 52nd poorest ward, “typifies why we need a Labour government”. Its greying terraces and imposing tower blocks tell the story of a completely different city than the organic cooperatives and artistic affluence of Stokes Croft.
The way Lawrence Hill residents have been left behind by the progressively prosperous centre is one of the main reasons Debonnaire is a candidate: “The effects of not having a Labour government here are keenly felt.”
Now I don’t think a pure Labour government is going to help somewhere like Lawrence Hill, but there is a point that areas likes that are ignored in the greater debate going on in the constituency that focus’s far too much on the Gloucester Road/Stokes Croft/Clifton scene and not in those run down forgotten areas that aren’t wealthy, full of students and gentrified.
Bristol West contains some serious paradoxes in that it has some extraordinary wealth in the likes of Clifton, while less than a few miles away there’s areas in the sort of poverty that’s become generational. As someone supporting the Greens I never hear Green supporters discuss these areas as much as say, Stokes Croft or Clifton.and that would be an extraordinary pity if the Greens lost a chance of a second MP if these areas were lost. Not that Labour are going to get an easy ride as although somewhere like Lawrence Hill is forgotten about, Labour had 13 years in government to help those areas and didn’t as it chased the middle class vote.
As current polls look to show that no party looks set to win a total majority (though this bizarre poll in the Observer suggests a clear Labour majority which looks like it’s totally ignored the situation in Scotland) so the Greens aren’t going to win an election, but they could well be important as a junior partner in the alliance formed between themselves, The SNP and Plaid Cymru. There is a way for the Greens to expand and that’s to follow what the likes of Radical Independence did during the Scottish Independence referendum and get out in the streets in places like Lawrence Hill and not just hammer the streets of Clifton and Stokes Croft. Bring these areas back in and play up the fact the Greens are going to be alone but we’re hopefully moving into genuine multi-party politics so the Green voice needs to be heard and that can only be done if the people of Bristol West return a Green MP.
Later this month this parliament is dissolved and every single one of our MP’s are no longer MP’s, which includes Bristol West’s current Lib Dem MP, Stephen Williams. Come the 8th of May I hope we don’t have him returning to prop up a vile and corrupt Conservative Party that’s helped damage areas like Lawrence Hill.
I don’t think there’s ever been such a good chance to change the system and genuinely change things for the best, so this month is important as manifestos are released and the phoney war that’s been the campaign so far kicks into gear. The fight has just started in a seat that’s going to be bloody hard to predict……