Stephen Gray: A Question of Strategy

Stephen Gray blogs at Green Christian and is a member of Coventry and West Midlands Green Parties.


One of the key questions for both leadership and GPEx elections is what strategy we should pursue to take the party forwards. This year’s local election results were nothing to write home about. Nationally, we made a net gain of only five seats. It’s a gain, but for a result across the entirety of England and Wales, it really does feel like we’re simply standing still. If we are to make an impact on the political direction of the UK, we need to be doing a lot better.

Fortunately, there’s one part of the country where things feel very different to the national picture. In the West Midlands region, we’ve gone from three councillors across two councils to thirteen councillors across seven councils in the space of just two elections. And we have the confidence and drive to increase that even more. Anybody looking for a national strategy to take us forward could do a lot worse than try to replicate what’s happened here across the rest of England and Wales.

So what is the key to the West Midlands Strategy? Firstly, we have a regional executive whose primary focus is on equipping local parties to be successful, rather than seeing themselves as just there for the Euro elections. There have been plenty of training events for those from across the region. We have a regional targetting strategy, making full use of the principles of target to win. Activists from one local party frequently help out others nearby to campaign in winnable council wards. Even social and fundraising events for
one local party often see people from other local parties there in substantial numbers. In short, the region functions as one big team, rather than a collection of independent local parties.

Another major factor is the fact that we have employed a regional support worker. His job is to help out local parties, developing them to the point where they are able to run effective election campaigns. He is funded by donations to the regional party, and that probably helps. When you give money to something, you are – to some degree – emotionally invested in whatever it is you are giving to. Because we believe that a support worker is valuable enough to invest our money in, we are eager to make use of him.

This strategy has clearly paid dividends – this year we won every one of our regional target wards. We’ve seen that what we are doing works in areas as diverse as the small town of Leominster and the strongly working class estate of Chelmsley Wood in Solihull. We are looking forward to winning even more seats in the next few elections, and building several party power bases in the region.

Now, I wouldn’t suggest that every aspect of our strategy can be replicated in every region. Our region is relatively easy to get around, with Birmingham a very convenient hub for regional training events. And in most years of the cycle there are active local parties in our region who do not have local elections, and hence can donate more effort to helping their neighbours. In some regions electoral geography and transport infrastructure are a lot less helpful for parties trying to work together.

If we are to move forward nationally, finding ways to resource local parties to break through onto new councils is absolutely vital. Regional support workers and teamwork across local party boundaries have proven to be a success where I am. Doing similar things across the rest of the country may well be the key to a successful national strategy.

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  1. Would love to speak to you guys about your strategy- on phone or in person. I’m sure London could learn a lot. Brilliant results- well done!

  2. Hi Caroline,

    If you want to chat in person, there will be plenty of us around at conference in September. I’ll certainly keep an eye out for you. If phone would be better, contact details for the regional team and the contact people for each local party are available on the West Midlands party website. James Burn (regional co-ordinator) and Chris Williams (local party support officer) will be able to give you the most in-depth information about our strategy, but you’ll have to e-mail them to get their phone numbers.

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