Labour say that the Green Party’s selection of their former leader, Natalie Bennett, for Sheffield Central is backfiring on her party at the doorstep, making it likely that the Green vote will fall in the General Election.
According to the Sheffield Central Constituency Labour Party, residents have complained at Bennett’s “carpet-bagging” and resent “her presumption to talk about ‘our city’ as if she had any genuine stake in Sheffield other than as a personal opportunity”.
They said: “[There is] confusion and irritation amongst voters who have voted Green in the past that Natalie Bennett has chosen to fight against a progressive Labour MP rather than a climate-denying, Brexit-supporting Tory in a Tory marginal – people have said they do not understand why the Greens are doing this and at the same time talking about a ‘progressive alliance’.”
Sheffield Central Labour suggested that there is anecdotal evidence of Green voters pledging to support Paul Blomfield instead on June 8th, but that this is only based on a small sample of conversations held with residents.
Bennett has previously defended her decision to run in the Sheffield seat by saying she believes in “progressive alliances, plural”, and she is said to be popular with local Green Party campaigners and staff.
The current chair of Sheffield Young Greens, James Hiley, felt that allegations of hypocrisy were wide of the mark.
He told South Yorkshire Briefing: “There was a democratic election to put Natalie in place as a candidate, so she wasn’t parachuted in. Despite there being another candidate, local members overwhelmingly gave their support to Natalie.
“In terms of progressive alliances – these are in place to stop the Tories getting in. In Sheffield Central, there is no risk of this happening. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to stand for election. The Labour Party are not entitled to votes, and they are not entitled to stand unopposed.”
However Anthony Phillips, a founding member and former publicity officer of Sheffield Young Greens, said: “In terms of parachuting into Sheffield, I think its a big mistake. The Greens have lost any momentum they had in Sheffield – they lost some councillors in 2016 – and the young green society is on its last legs with numerous members having defected to Labour.”
Mike Lewis, Secretary of Sheffield Central CLP said that Blomfield’s reputation as a campaigning MP who is strong on environmental issues was working in his favour.
Lewis continued: “However In Sheffield Central we believe every single vote for Paul has to be earned and deserved. We therefore are taking nothing for granted and regard all support from voters as conditional on their judgement of Paul Blomfield and his record of service since 2010.
“We believe Paul should be re-elected on his record and very obvious merits and will make the case to as many voters as we can contact.”