As discussed in Part One, the Greens have gained impressive local council bases the last couple of years and are targetting three new seats at the 2024 election to try and grow their Parliamentary presence. However, while the Greens are clearly ascendant in their new target seats, albeit not to great heights in North Herefordshire, the same is not true in Brighton Pavilion.
Since winning the seat in 2010, Caroline Lucas has built a formidable majority which now stands at almost 20,000 votes. However, she is standing down and leaves big shoes to fill. The only Green politician with a truly national profile, Lucas might be one of only a handful of incumbent MPs with a genuine personal vote of many thousands.
To replace Lucas the Greens have parachuted in Sian Berry, their repeat London Mayoral candidate and member of the London Assembly. Berry is probably the closest thing the party has to Lucas in terms of profile (with Denyer also developing some of late), but is clearly a big step down. Her lack of local roots may also be an issue, with her profile being primarily London-based.
The Cost of Governing
To win Brighton in the first place the Greens followed a playbook honed by the Lib Dems – spending years wining as many councillors as they could in the seat before targetting it heavily at the Westminster level. This has the triple benefit of getting your target voters used to the idea of voting for you (and seeing you win), giving you a local record to run on (even if it is things you stopped being built), and creating some local champions who may develop a profile enabling them to better run for the constituency (though in the end Lucas was dropping in due to her national profile).
However there is a potential downside to this, and it proves that there really is such a thing as bad publicity. When you run the council and rubbish piles up on the streets you certainly develop a record, but one which is a liability rather than an asset. Residents also complained about the impact on pavements of weed growth after the council banned various forms of weedkillers. And for the only Green council in Britain the persistently below-average recycling rates were an endless embarrassment.
As a result, in May this year the party’s council base got smashed and they now hold just seven council seats of 54 (though all are in the constituency). Though Lucas personally distanced herself from the Council frequently it is bound to have an effect on the party’s support.
Labour are absolutely gunning for the seat, and will have no lack of activists in the area. The Greens also have plenty of boots on the ground, and local residents have doubtless already noticed that despite the 2019 result both parties think they live in a marginal now.
Realistically the Greens could win 0, 1, or 2 MPs at the next election. Barring a deeply shocking election night Waveney Valley is going to prove a bridge too far, though if the Tories do have an absolute meltdown and end with under 100 MPs then anything’s possible.
Both Brighton and Bristol could go either way, and there are competing dynamics of local support bases and national trends which we don’t have much experience of when the Greens are involved. We’ve seen the Lib Dems struggle to turn local surges into Westminster MPs, but also over the years times where the party has found a way to overcome those challenges. Time will tell if the Greens can crack the code at their first real opportunity. I suspect the Greens will get swamped by the Labour surge and come up short in both primary targets – as well as being too far back to win in Waveney and Herefordshire.
From a betting perspective you can bet on their seat total, with the Over/Under being 1.5 MPs. The odds on under are short, 2/9 at William Hill, which I think might be a smidge of value but isn’t enough for me to add to my position taken some time ago at somewhat longer odds. Over is 3/1.
I will be keeping a close eye on all four of these seats when constituency odds are published closer to polling day. I suspect enthusiastic Greens might push their price too short, especially in the long-shot targets, and value will open up in backing the major parties to disappoint the Greens once again.
Pip Moss posts on Political Betting as Quincel. He has bets on the Greens winning under 1.5 MPs at 1/3. You can follow him on Twitter at @PipsFunFacts or BlueSky at @Quincel.Bsky.Social