Green Party can 'win anywhere' following South Tyneside surge on night of local elections disappointment for Labour

New Green Party councillors in South Tyneside have set out their priorities following the party’s recent success at the ballot box.

By Chris Binding
Friday, 6th May 2022, 2:08 pm

Since the local authority’s first Green councillor David Francis was elected in 2019, the party’s popularity has surged, with two new councillors elected in 2021 and another three this week.

New councillors include Sarah McKeown, who was elected to Beacon and Bents ward with a 498-vote majority over Labour rival Fay Cunningham.

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Left to right, Green Party councillors David Herbert, David Francis and Andrew Guy.

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Cllr McKeown, a former Green Party parliamentary candidate for South Shields, previously said many residents had felt “taken for granted or sidelined by other parties in South Shields”.

“We’re there to listen to residents and to talk to residents and they’re at the heart of everything we do,” she added.

Elsewhere, Andrew Guy became the second Green Party councillor in the West Park ward, following the election of Peter Bristow in 2021, intends to focus on planning, housing and transport matters.

Green Party leader Carla Denyer (left) visited South Shields ahead of local elections, pictured with local party leader Cllr David Francis.

He said: “This was the first campaign [in West Park] where both parties were running heavy public campaigns.

“Last year Labour were quite relaxed, this year they have thrown everything at it, we have had the police and crime commissioner and the MP and it’s an amazing result for the Greens.

“It’s given me a mandate and a real sense of how much the residents trust me and, more importantly, it has reminded me that there’s over a thousand people out there that now expect me to work very very hard.”

David Herbert, who almost claimed victory in the Cleadon and East Boldon by-election last year, secured the seat this time, promising to maintain the identity of the ward’s villages and protect green spaces.

Sarah McKeown, Green Party

On gaining a seat from the Conservative Party in Cleadon and East Boldon, Cllr Herbert added the result showed the Green Party could “win anywhere”.

The Green Party’s success in South Tyneside has previously caught the eye of party leadership, with senior figures visiting the borough on a number of occasions.

Green Group leader Cllr David Francis said the South Tyneside branch of the party had been inspired by successes elsewhere in the country, making it a “credible alternative” for voters in South Tyneside.

Cllr Francis said: “The things that I have been told on the doorstep time and time again over the last few years is people feel like things are done to them rather than with them and by them.

“One resident said to me this week, that he felt Labour had had a stranglehold on the town for too long and that ‘they do as they please, not what we need’.

“I have heard some version of that said hundreds of times over the years so I think part of it is Labour becoming a bit detached from the electorate and not listening enough and not working with the community enough.”

Following polling day, South Tyneside Council’s overall make-up is now 41 Labour councillors, six independents, six Greens and one Conservative, although whether the Greens will be able to take up the formal mantle of main opposition will become clearer at the local authority’s annual meeting later this month.