Did voters care about the environment?

In a local election year that saw Labour suffer heavy losses and achieve its lowest share of the vote since the 1960s, edie took to the streets of South London on election day to find out whether the electorate was interested in environmental issues or were there more pressing concerns?


On the tough inner city streets, environmental safeguards were seen as a luxury, rather than a priority by most of those questioned. While they may not have been vote-swaying issues, however, the public was still interested in improvements to the local environment – reducing pollution and tackling litter and fly-tipping were the most commonly mentioned problems.

  • Mandy Christoforou: “I’m more concerned about crime. I don’t think most politicians care about the environment, it’s just for the election. They’re just doing what their party tells them and following other countries.”
  • Helen Mudford said green issues did register for her, but were eclipsed by more immediate problems: “Crime is a more important issue, and young people not having enough to do in the evenings. Also, for me personally, first time buyers not being able to afford a flat in the place where they were born is something I’d like to see politicians looking at. Being green does come into it but I think they’ve over-estimated how important it is to people because it’s been so much in the public eye.”
  • Saul Harrold: “I’d like to see more done about traffic pollution and more cycle lanes, but trying to do the bigger things on our own is pointless. Londoners already do our fair share, like the congestion charge. Certainly more than in a lot of developed countries like America. We can’t do much more on our own – the environment is important but we all need to go forward on it together.”


  • In the sprawling suburbs of Croydon, there seemed to be a concern for the wider environment with some interviewees quite passionate on the subject. But again, keeping the wolf from the door, fear of crime and a lack of facilities to stop teenagers becoming bored and destructive was seen by most as more important.
  • Sally Wunsche said: “I do think they’re right to campaign on the environment, it’s very important. I made three green votes [for mayor, London Assembly and local elections]. I know they won’t get in but it makes whoever does get in greener. I don’t think [the Green Party] could necessarily govern properly but it does make whoever gets in, Labour or Conservative, think about it. The way the London Assembly is done [proportional representation] means the Greens will at least have some voice.”
  • Noreen Day said things would have to get worse before the general public saw the environment as a key voting issue – but acknowledged that change might be just round the corner: “The environment won’t influence my vote at the moment,” she said. She saw big environmental issues like climate change, renewable energy sources and sustainable waste management as tomorrow’s problems. “They’ll be important in the future but for the meantime we do need more green spaces and more open spaces,” she said.
  • Clive Salisbury said: “I would say that a candidate’s environmental policies would influence my decision, but other things matter as well. It’s hard to tell if they’re just jumping on the bandwagon though, or if their concern is genuine – you can’t really know until they get in. I think we should be doing more though, we’re trailing behind most countries in Europe and it doesn’t have to be expensive – it’s just about good civic behaviour, like doing your recycling, using public transport and making sure your home is insulated. Yes, the politicians could encourage us to do more of that.”


    It was a mixed bag in Wandsworth, where some voters were flying the flag for the Green Party and others thought there were much bigger issues at stake. For those thinking about environmental issues as they headed to the ballot box, climate change and waste were top of the agenda.

  • Luke Coughlan said there were more important areas that he felt London’s politicians should be tackling. “I’m much more concerned about improvements to public transport than environmental issues,” he said. “I’d like to see improvements to the tube, such as more frequent and bigger trains. Animals going to slaughter travel in better conditions.”
  • Charlie Pickering said the environment had played some part in his decision. “I just see the world getting a bit worse these days so any little helps, although I know one vote isn’t going to make a big difference. The whole plastics issue – the amount of carrier bags we are using – and waste is what concerns me.”
  • Maggie Hoany said: “The environment did play a role in how I voted. Mainly, I’m worried about recycling issues and waste management.”
  • On his way to the polls, Jim Francis said: “It will have a big impact on the way I vote because we are going to die if we don’t do something about climate change. Things need to change.”
  • Maryan Hamyd said that although the environment was important, she had been mulling over other issues when she cast her vote. “I’m worried about the environment,” she said. “But it’s not really a part of my politics.”
  • Dan French said: “Well I voted Green Party for all three choices [for Mayor, London Assembly and local elections]. I think it’s important if only to show the other politicians that green issues matter to some of us. Maybe it will make them think more about their own policies as I’m not sure the greens have much chance of getting in.”

    Voters went to the polls in local elections in 159 council areas across England and Wales, as well as elections for the London Assembly and London Mayor on May 1.

    The final results revealed the Conservatives had made huge gains at the expense of Labour.

    The Tories had 44% of the vote and gained 256 more councillors, while labour had a net loss of 331 seats and just 24% of the vote, leaving them in third place.

    The Liberal Democrats under new leader Nick Clegg were in second place with 25% of the vote and the party gained 34 councillors.

    But one of the biggest headlines of this year’s election was Boris Johnson’s victory against Ken Livingstone in the London Mayoral elections, announced shortly before midnight on May 2.

    Boris romped home with 1,168,738 votes to Ken’s 1,028,966, while the third-placed candidate, the Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick, had 878,097 votes.

    Prior to the elections, the four main candidates for the Mayoralty told
    edie what they would do for the environment and environmental industries if they got in. Read what they had to say here.

    Sam Bond and Kate Martin

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