Southwest Green History
This is a version of material originally published on the Southwest Green Party website. Most pre 1990 history material originally posted on that site has been migrated here aside from detailed SW election results and the SW Newsletter archive.
A timeline for the South West Green Party
1972 Eco-pioneer intellectuals move to Cornwall and for 20 years edit the magazine ‘The Ecologist’ from there.
1975 PEOPLE founders Tony & Lesley Whittaker move to Devon
1976 David Taylor, living in Dorset, appointed the party’s first regional co-ordinator, for the south west region.
1977 The Ecology Party’s first-ever county councillor, Jeremy Faull, elected in Withiel, Cornwall.
1977 SW Region of Ecology Party formally constituted in Exeter
1979 The SW contributes 18 out of 52 Ecology Party candidates in that year’s General Election, considerably more than any other region (Leeds, Yorkshire was the next most active area with about 9 of the 52 candidates).
1989 The SW Green Party gains 21% of the vote in that year’s European Election
1999 The SW Green Party wins highest regional vote in euro-elections, 8.3% compared with 7.7% in London and 7.4% in the South East. Both of those regions elected Green MEPs but the South West did not due to the vaguaries of the d'Hondt PR electoral system used.
Following the 1999 election of the first two Green MEPs, the South East and London won a string of local election seats and became the party’s strongest regions.
The south west region was, arguably, the party’s strongest region during its early years. It is interesting to reflect on whether the strength of the different regions affected the party’s character and priorities before and after 1999.
Edward (Teddy) Goldsmith launched the Movement for Survival (known as Movement), the first political ecology movement in the world, in Cornwall in January 1972. It later merged with PEOPLE which in turn became the Ecology Party. Teddy lived in Withiel near Bodmin from where he edited the Ecologist magazine and published the Blueprint for Survival (known as Blueprint) which was used in place of a manifesto for PEOPLE’s General Election candidates in February 1974 and which provided the basis for the Values Party ‘Blueprint for New Zealand’ manifesto in 1972, PEOPLE’s Manifesto for Survival in October 1974 and, from there, other ecology manifestoes around the world.
In 1976 he and David Taylor travelled to Walsall North to campaign for Jonathan Tyler in a parliamentary by-election. In 1977 he stood as a Cornwall County Council Ecology Party candidate for Wadebridge. In that election Jeremy Faul was elected in the adjacent division Withiel near Bodmin in Cornwall. In 1979 Teddy represented the Ecology Party in Cornwall for that year’s European Election, winning 3% of the vote.Teddy died in 2009 and further details of his life can be found in his obituary.
Tony Whittaker was one of the founders, the original Gang of Four (which is how they came to be known and which journalists re-used for the founding of the SDP later), which also included his wife Lesley, who still lives in Devon, together with Michael Benfield and Freda Sanders. Tony for many years lived and worked in the South West as a green activist. He stood against Jeremy Thorpe for the North Devon constituency in 1979 when the Ecology Party (our name then) put up 52 candidates nationally - just enough to qualify for an election broadcast. 18 of the 52 candidates were for constituencies in the South West, driven by Tony's enthusiasm. Sadly Tony died on 1st April 2016 and you can read an appreciation of his work here.