Southwest Green History

Welcome to the South West Green History Archive

This area of the Southwest Green Party website is being developed as a repository for material relating to the early years of the movement which became the Ecology Party and then the Green Party in the Southwest.

Reunion 2012

2012 The 40 Year reunion - some founders of the movement - Tony & Lesley Whittaker, David Taylor, Clive Lord, Freda Sanders, Michael Benfield

In 1972 there was a growing awareness of issues around ecology, pollution and population which led to the formation of the PEOPLE movement. Many of the early pioneers came to live in the SW and the region was at the forefront of the organistion from the start. PEOPLE merged with the Movement for Survival and stood candidates in the 1974 elections and then renamed itself to The Ecology Party and started to contest local elections and stood over 50 candidates in the 1979 election.

Many of the young early pioneers are no longer in circulation. Oral history is a precious resource and the articles here will attempt to capture some of the stories for the new generation of Greens.

This area is initially organised into four sections:

  • Articles: history, thoughts and opinions written in 2016 and later reflecting on the early years.
  • Memories: reminiscences by those involved through self penned articles and interviews
  • Individuals: biographies and obituaries of people who were involved
  • Resources: pdfs scans of original documents and images including photos and posters

You can also find details of previous Local, General and European Elections in the Elections area of this site


Background

From the outset it was always conceived that this was a Movement firstly, and a Political Party second. A major reason for the creation of the movement was disatisfaction with the current way that politics was done. Disgust at the tribalism and inward looking nature of the political class and the desire to find a new more open and inclusive way of doing politics.

A lot of effort was put in to trying to build alliances and make common cause with other groups that had emerged - Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace were also both founded in the early 1970s. It was only later that the focus shifted to being a political party firstly and expecting other ecologically aware groups to support the party rather than participate in it.


 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.

The Early History page gives some basic background on the formation of the National Party, more detail can be found by searching on Wikipedia and elsewhere.

The party's first ever County Councillor was Jeremy Faull who represented Withel near Bodmin in Cornwall from 1977 until 1985. Jeremy was a pioneer in (re-)introducing sustainable farming in Cornwall and up until a year before his death in 2011 ran the Bookshop in Wadebridge. Read more here

David Taylor, who later became Principal Speaker (the Green Party rejected the conventional Party Leader designation) was present and involved with PEOPLE from 1974, living in Cornwall, Dorset, Bath and later, Somerset has contributed memories of those early days. Read his recollections here.

Were you inolved in the Ecology or Green Party in the 70's, 80's or 90's. Send your remininsences or comments to Roger CO - rogerco AT riseup DOT net to help build these pages. Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

Do you have copies of the SW Area Newsletter pre Dec 1988 or from March 1990 to September 2001 to fill gaps in the archive? We will be posting images of these online as we get them and find time to scan them.

History

The History area of this site has five main sections

ChangeLog: check here for details of latest additions and updates

Necessarily there is considerable overlap and cross referencing between items. Unfortuantely this website does not have good tagging, indexing or searching facilities needed for an archive - it is hoped to introduce a much more extensive Eco-Green History site in due course.