Barnsley Green Party member Kate Raynor, talks of her experience standing as a local candidate in last year’s elections.
I have lived in Penistone East for around 5 and a half years, having moved to Silkstone from Barnsley town centre. I stood in the local elections for Penistone East in May 2015 which was my first involvement with local politics. I’ve always lived in Barnsley and have a great affection for the area.
I work for a local company, volunteer for a charity which provides meals for the homeless, and help run the youth club at the village church. Silkstone has become our home and as a family we really enjoy village life and getting involved in the things that go on here.
When I first decided to stand in the local elections I had only been a Green party member for a matter of weeks. I hadn’t even attended a local meeting yet. I had joined on a bit of a whim but the values and ideology of the party struck a chord with me.
I had initially felt quite happy to pay my membership fee and assume someone else would take responsibility for the rest. A request was sent out looking for paper candidates to stand in as many areas as possible.
I’ve been so disillusioned with politics in recent years but feel strongly that democracy and women’s suffrage are really valuable. I knew that others, like me, would want to vote but may not feel represented in the options on their ballot paper. As no one else came forward to represent my ward, I decided to sign up, to allow myself to vote for a party I agreed with as much as anything else.
It was the first year that Barnsley had stood any candidates, in local or national elections. So the experience was new and daunting for all of us. As well as a number of local candidates, we had a national candidate who stood for Barnsley Central. He had political experience and it was quite motivating to hear him speak about Green Party politics.
I chose not to do any campaigning for myself. I work, have two children and several other commitments. I didn’t feel ready to actually BE a councillor yet. Efforts were also concentrated on the national candidate and I was quite happy to help with that and allow my nomination to slip quietly by.
The main hurdle, and the only real effort, was the paperwork. After a frantic night of form filling in the nominating officer’s living room, with some great support from regional officers who checked over everything to make sure we got it right, we did it!
It felt a little surreal, but quite exciting, to see my name on the ballot paper. Quite a few people I hadn’t expected to be green supporters were fairly enthusiastic when they told me they’d voted for me. It prompted some interesting discussions with people I would never normally discuss politics with.
I found it really encouraging that there was an interest and affinity towards Green Party opinion, especially because all the current councillors in my ward and most historically, are Conservative.
When the results came in that we had got 14% of the vote we were gobsmacked! The candidate we stood in nationals got a similar number of votes throughout the whole constituency and on the back of some fantastic public speaking and a lot of leafleting.
I can’t take any credit at all. Of course some people knew me locally, but there had been no publicity or press release to say who I was or what I would do as a councillor. I can only imagine it was a general appetite for change which led to 949 people to vote for me under the Green Party banner.
I think it’s really important that people have the chance to vote for someone they actually want. Instead of it being a case of choosing the best of a bad bunch. I don’t think the local party had anticipated Penistone East being of interest, but now, on the back of that result, it will be our target ward for the 2016 elections with Dale Turner standing this time.
We plan to put some work in, to talk to the residents, understand what their issues are and how we might be able to help. And hopefully build a bit more of a presence in the area; maybe even gain a Green councillor so we can really make more of a difference.
If anyone is considering standing I’d urge you to. You don’t need to do any campaigning or publicity. Although I’d been warned that I may be contacted by press or public, I only received a single email to ask my view on a traffic concern. The chances of being elected are slim, but you could be giving a voice to hundreds of people who want to say; we want something different. We don’t want politics as usual.