The Green Party has won a tight by-election race in Bristol becoming the largest party on the city council with 25 councillors. Patrick McAllister was elected the new councillor for Hotwells and Harbourside in the by-election held on Thursday, February 2.
Greens took the seat from the Liberal Democrats in a fiercely fought battle, which could prove a good indicator of how national and local elections in Bristol might turn out next year. The next local elections will be held in May 2024, which could see the Greens take control of Bristol City Council.
The result was very close, with the Greens beating the Liberal Democrats by only 26 votes. Coincidentally, at the last council elections in 2021, the Liberal Democrats beat the Greens also by 26 votes. 24-year-old Cllr McAllister, who works in legal services, said his party was now preparing to take power in Bristol.
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He said: “Successive Conservative-led governments and our Labour-run council have left our residents feeling frustrated — whether it’s through botched consultations on new developments, repair works to public throughways going on for years, the cladding crisis, or even threatening to take away our library.
“There’s never been a more vital time to speak up for our communities, and that is exactly what I’m going to do from now on. The Green Party is now the biggest group in the council, with 25 councillors, and I recognise the weight of that responsibility. As a team we are putting together our programme so we are ready to run this city from next year.
“In the meantime, I think that the city council’s current leadership has a responsibility as well — they have to now recognise the mandate that the Green Party has. I’m really looking forward to getting on with the job and representing this amazing community with the commitment and enthusiasm that it deserves.”
The vote was sparked in December after the previous councillor, Liberal Democrat Alex Hartley, resigned for mental health reasons. The results will most likely not change the balance of power in the council, with Labour Mayor Marvin Rees still in charge until May 2024.
The by-election result also boosts the Greens’ morale ahead of the next general election, expected either in spring or autumn next year. Councillor Carla Denyer, co-leader of the Green Party in England and Wales, is the parliamentary candidate for Bristol West.
Cllr Denyer said: “I’m really delighted to have Patrick joining our group of experienced and dedicated Green councillors on Bristol City Council. It means that in the parliamentary constituency of Bristol West, where I’m standing to be MP in the next general election, we now have at least one Green councillor in every single ward in the constituency.
“It’s fantastic to see that the people of Hotwells and Harbourside, and more broadly the people of Bristol, want to see more Green politics in the city and are ready to trust us with power.”
The result is an embarrassing loss for the Liberal Democrats, who have held the seat since its creation. They have now gone from having six councillors in the city council to just five. Their candidate, Stephen Williams, was a former councillor for the area, MP and government minister.
In third place was Labour candidate Eileen Means, a former councillor for Brislington, social worker, and campaigner on housing safety having been personally affected by the flammable cladding scandal. Conservative candidate Eliana Barbosa was a “paper candidate” and did not attend the hustings or election count.
Local journalist Martin Booth, editor of Bristol 24/7, initially ran as an independent candidate, before deciding halfway through the race to withdraw due to the potential of a perceived conflict of interest if he won.
Greens now have 25 councillors, while Labour has 24, Conservatives have 14, Liberal Democrats have five, and the Knowle Community Party has two. Labour will still hold political power however, with the mayor unlikely to give any Greens new cabinet positions.
The turnout was higher than expected, with 32.4% of the electorate in the ward voting. Of 3,860 eligible voters, 1,251 cast a ballot. The ward is only represented by one councillor.
The full results are:
- Patrick McAllister, Green, 537 votes
- Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat, 511 votes
- Eileen Means, Labour, 153 votes
- Eliana Barbosa, Conservative, 34 votes
- Martin Booth, independent, 14 votes
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