The really sad part about the local election results declared in Sefton Borough yesterday was the very firm rejection of candidates standing on environmental agendas.
In my own case during my 35 years as a local political activist (30 of those as a local councillor) I have become more and more concerned about our local environment, global warming, protecting high grade agricultural land from development etc. etc. Sadly, it seems that those who vote have moved towards being less concerned about such matters.
In 1998, as the Lib Dem Leader of Maghull Town Council, I led the successful campaign to stop Sefton Council from allowing a massive slice of land to the east of Maghull from being developed. The people of Maghull (of all political colours) were fully behind that campaign and it was a celebration of both environmentalism and community action. In 2014/15, fighting the same battle once again, I felt like I was pushing a huge bolder up a hill with only a significant minority of the local population joining in. The battle was unsurprisingly lost as the majority of local borough councillors (now Labour) were battling against me and the environmental cause by voting to develop that very same piece of land.
In the elections of last Thursday Bruce Hubbard and I as Lib Dem candidates, standing on a very firm environmental ticket, were massively rejected as were the independent candidates in our wards (Park & Sudell) who were standing on a very similar ticket. Indeed, if you add together the votes of the Lib Dem and Independent candidates standing against development of high grade agricultural land in these two wards it still does not equate to enough votes to beat the Labour candidates from a Party that is openly voting for the development of this land.
Over in Formby where Sefton’s new environmental movement was reborn in the past few of years the Independent FRAGOFF group were unable to repeat their electoral success of the last round of elections as again they were beaten, if only narrowly, by Labour candidates.
So why were those who went to vote this May seeming less interested in environmental matters and in saving high grade agricultural land from development than they were last year or indeed back in 1998? Has the ‘green’ cause taken a big step backwards because the eye of the electorate is on other matters – the economy, austerity, immigration etc? Are we awaiting an environmental disaster, which affects the Borough of Sefton, before we remember how important the environment that supports us really is?
The other interesting thing is the poor performance of the Green Party in Sefton. They have hardly been the leading the charge over the kind of environmental issues I am raising in this posting and the votes they gained across the Borough reflect that. I could not be a Green Party member because their socialist instincts are illiberal to me but it does puzzle me why their voice on issues such as building on high grade agricultural land is not heard.
Only 2% of the land in England is of the same high quality as that to the east of Maghull which Labour-run Sefton Council wants to have built on. It is the land that grows the food we eat! To my mind Sefton Council needed to be fought all the way yet the majority of those who went out to vote last Thursday clearly did not agree.
For whatever reasons the cause of environmentalism has sadly taken a back seat in the electorate’s mind.