19 September 2017
September 7, 2017 will go down as a good day in Green Party annals with Greens winning two by-elections in Lewes and Cannock Chase.
In Lewes, where Greens have long held several town council seats and some of the District council seats covering Lewes town, Johnny Denis (top picture) made a breakthrough by winning a district council by-election in a rural area of the District, outside the town.
Johnny, who joined the Green Party when it was still known as the Ecology Party, and has been a member of the Association of Green Councillors for several years, has been a parish councillor in the area for seven years.
He sits on two of the five parish councils within the ward.
"My house is on the border of two parishes, so I can actually join two parish councils," he explained. "If we want to get ahead as a political party we need to occupy all the democratic spaces," he said. Which he why he volunteered for co-option onto both parish councils.
Not only that but he joined the Lewes District Assocation of Local Councils and then became a director of the East Sussex Assocation of Local Councils.
His campaign for the Ouse Valley and Ringmer ward - five villages in the East Sussex countryside to the North East, East and South East of Lewes town - effectively began in November when the local party decided to target the county division which is just slightly larger than the district ward.
He came a relatively close second in that election on May 4th this year, beaten by a Liberal Democrat by 107 votes. The Conservative was pushed into third place.
"I think one of the key things we got right was not being too anti-Tory. We want voters who normally vote Conservative to vote for us, so we concentrated on the positive things I was doing for the area. Our message all the way through has been 'Johnny gets things done'."
"Local people know that that's true because we told them in newsletters.
"Obviously the people we have been specifically helping know that already but the others don't know unless you tell them."
Johnny also puts a lot of his success down to the organisational abilities of his campaign manager Zoe Nicholson.
"She had been a member for some time and initially came on board just to organise volunteers to come and help, but she ended up organising the whole campaign and did a very good job."
Meanwhile in Staffordshire, Cannock Chase Green Party won its second seat on the district council - Stuart Crabtree (in the centre of the bottom picture) beat the Conservative candidate in the Hednesford South ward by 513 votes to 311.
He joins Paul Woodhead, (on the left in the bottom picture) founder of the local Green Party, on Cannock Chase council. Paul was elected to Hednesford South ward in May 2016 after a year-long campaign.
Stuart said: "I didn't know Paul at first, I just used to comment a lot on the Green Party Facebook page and he got in touch and asked me if I'd like to help leaflet and that sort of thing and I did. One thing just led to another."
Stuart works at the checkout in Lidl and said he recognises many of his fellow councillors from scanning in their groceries. Since becoming a councillor "some have been very friendly, others haven't made eye contact," he said.
Just as in Lewes, their victory did not come out of the blue and was the result of months of hard work, since both Stuart and Paul had fought hard to try to win the county council seat in the same area in the run up to county council elections on May 4th this year.
The county council seat was also up for grabs again in the by-election and Paul was the candidate for that, but they again narrowly failed to win it.