So over a week has passed since the election, and I’m beginning to catch up on my missed sleep. The result was that I was fourth in a three member ward. Across the city Greens increased their vote taking 3 new seats and topping the poll in two wards. I’m very grateful to everyone who voted for me in the election, and all those who campaigned for me over the past 4 years. I’m just sorry that we couldn’t find that last handful of votes to allow us to serve Craigmillar and Portobello on Edinburgh City Council.
In Leith Walk, where I was also campaign coordinator, Maggie Chapman became the first and only Green Councillor elected on first preferences. A real achievement given the huge resources Labour and the SNP put into ousting her – this was the only ward with a strong Green presence targeted by both of the larger parties. To win 20% of the vote was a fantastic achievement and demonstrates how effective Greens can be when they reach beyond the middle-class comfort zone as Maggie has done so effectively since 2007.
Edinburgh now has the administration that most people voted for: Labour-SNP. It will be interesting to see how this works out. The policy differences are minimal, and Labour has been making the right noises with its cooperative council idea. I hope this cooperation moves beyond the mechanics of the Council and into the relationship between the Council and the city, which urgently needs to be renewed. Edinburgh has had enough of the ‘we know best’ Council. It’s time to rebuild trust with Edinburgh’s citizens.
I hope the new administration will be open to pursuing some of the shared policy goals. This would mean implementing the Green idea of a living wage of £7.20 not just for Council employees, but for all workers delivering Council services. It will mean a fairness commission and opening up the Council so Edinburgh’s citizens know how decisions are made.
The Liberal Democrats reaped what they have sowed, first in Edinburgh, then nationally. Having pioneered ‘fiscal responsibility’ in Edinburgh by cutting services to the most vulnerable even before the Westminster coalition was formed Edinburgh Liberal Democrats made it clear that they were much less interested in social justice than their communications sometimes suggested. It’s clear that the people of Edinburgh don’t want a cuts-first administration and I hope that the new administration learns this lesson.
In Craigmillar and Portobello there are some important lessons to learn. Given that Greens have won 22 Council elections under STV and only 4 have been in 3 member wards, it was always going to be a tall order. That tall order was made more difficult by the importance of the school and park issue – something many Greens struggled with. We’d almost certainly have won this election if it had been in a 4-member ward. But to beat the Conservatives (who finished third last time) on first preference votes and the second SNP candidate on transfers shows how well we can do with a strong local campaign based on knowing the area and knowing the issues. It was always a battle for the third seat, and we just lost out to a Labour surge. With two strong returning Councillors, it’s a pity we couldn’t have provided that third voice.
Over the next 5 years we need to build our engagement across the ward. That’ll give us the real opportunity to help transform Craigmillar/Portobello and to help transform the city.