Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Jenny Jones on the Green leader debate

An excellent article by Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones in the Independent today. Jenny lays out some of the key Green Empowerment messages and responds to last week's pro-single leader article by Caroline Lucas. This is part of the debate prior to the referendum to be held in November on whether the Green Party of England and Wales will drop its traditional collective leadership and Principal Speakers model in favour of a more conventional leader and deputy, or "worst of both worlds" co-leader option.

As someone very much on the Green Empowerment side of the debate and against a single leader and cults of personality I welcome Jenny's contribution and would urge all like-minded Greens to visit the Green Empowerment Site and sign up to the petition if they have not already done so.

The Green Party of England and Wales - punching well above its' weight in terms of numbers of members - is a great example of how progress can be made with collective leadership and empowerment rather than the cult of personality and top-down, hierarchical structures. The Party can certainly be improved - particularly by moves to increase membership figures, but imitating the Grey parties is not the way to do it.

Labels: , ,


At 7:04 pm, Blogger Peter said...

The Greens are not punching well above their weight in terms of numbers or anything else.

We do not control a single council in the UK, do not have a single MP, and have only about 100 councillors nationwide. We're making very little progress - in some places where we have strong support, our support levels appear to have peaked. This is pathetic.

The only effect we currently have on political life is that our existence forces other parties to pay attention to the environment.

Are you happy with that? - is that punching above our weight?

The Greens have the potential to be a major political force. It is completely squandered because of stupid things like insisting on having principal speakers - which most people cannot even spell, never mind know what it is supposed to mean.

At 7:55 pm, Blogger greenman said...

For a radical party with radical policies, yes we do punch above our weight! Of course we might have more councillors in the short term if we attempted to be the Liberal Democrats by another name (i.e. all things to all men with a bland "safe" leader), but what would be the point of that? Why not just join the Liberals? After all, their "green" policies are designed to be completely big-business friendly and no danger to the viciously unequal status quo. The Green Party has always been about more than painting corporatism light green.

"Only" 100 councillors? - Name me another radical, left-wing party that has had such success in Britain in the last 40 years - and that has been able to start introducing parts of its' programme at a local level even before achieving a majority anywhere.

Rather than our leadership arrangements, a more important barrier to not having more success (without watering down our politics) is the class and ethnic composition and profile of the party - we are still far too middle class and white. I am not slagging off average white folks - I am one myself - but having a (probably white, middle class) leader rather than a more diverse platform of spokespeople will compound that problem and be another barrier to growth. Add to that the lack of gender balance with one leader and you make us appear less inclusive to even more people.

I will give you the point that Principal Speakers is a bit too jargonistic a description - I would prefer national spokesman and national spokeswoman or simply spokespersons.

The attempts by the big three parties to steal green policies are welcome, and an achievement of the party in themselves, as you seem to grudgingly acknowledge. The more we can move the political debate in our direction, rather than being dragged towards greyness, the better.

I am interested in what you mean by "major political force". I certainly would like to see a larger and more inclusive Green Party with more elected representatives. But there is not the time to wait for a "Green Government", (Even if we thought it likely that a meaningfully radical Green Party would be allowed near the levers of power at national level by the powers that be without major extra parliamentary back-up) the crisis is too pressing. The Green Party must be part of a movement for social, economic and environmental change that stretches far beyond current or even a much larger future membership. Without such links to a broader movement the Greens in Britain are likely to go the way of some other continental Green parties that through "professionalisation" and seeking to be reactionary-media-friendly have become little more that ecologically minded apologists for neo-liberalism.

A movement is required that can be broad and strong enough to stand up to the reactionary and fascistic elements that will be unleashed should it look as though the privileges and power of the elite are threatened. As Mark Ballard recently remarked, (in relation to the Scottish GP lack of success in the recent elections), the requisite movement, and the growth of the Green Party itself will not be on the basis of environmentalism alone - our concerns must encompass those of the ordinary person in the street, and we must ally with those fighting on these issues.

I think you do the party a disservice by slagging it off. The main barriers to growing the party where I am, a largely working class town in the Midlands is the "middle class" party image and (unfairly) perceived lack of concern for issues that day-to-day concern ordinary working people (education, public services, health, crime and anti-social behaviour) , not the lack of a white middle class leader figure.

At 4:33 pm, Blogger Peter said...


I understand what you mean when you compare the Green Party to organisations like the Socialist Party, Respect etc. and conclude that the GP is more successful by miles, has a lot more recognition, and much higher levels of support.
And clearly you're right about that. But this is setting such a low bar for success.
I want to see an election where members of other parties turn white because they're losing so many seats to the Greens.

As for movements - I entirely agree that the Green Party will only achieve change if it is supported by a larger movement. Where I disagree is that I do believe it would be easier to attract this support if we had an elected leader to be a recognisable human face for the party.

This is because I believe that many of the beardy-weirdy perceptions people have about us would disappear if we could present a decent human face as a leadership figure. Most social movements have figures who are seen as leaders - there's nothing wrong with that, and there's nothing wrong (especially in the context of a political party) with making sure they are properly elected.

Although it's being portrayed otherwise, many in the Green Yes campaign have a lot of faith in participatory politics. Our contention is that having a leader (or co-leaders) does not change the way we do politics. It is mostly about effective communication.

At 7:20 pm, Blogger greenman said...

Peter, are you suggesting our Principal Speakers aren't human? ;)

Seriously, though, We already have national speakers, and I am open to a name change, but not to "leader" or "co-leaders". YOU may see having a leader as simply a useful rebranding, the public and the media have a completely different understanding of the word. They see it as representing someone who has *authority over* their party. There will be intense pressure on a leader to behave in this established fashion or be labelled "weak", and unfortunately some of this pressure will come from *some* members of the "Yes" camp whose politics are not as sophisticated or nuanced as yours. The language of some of the Yes Camp on Facebook and e-lists etc gives the lie to the argument that this is about "simple rebranding and PR". Significant elements of the Yes Camp really do not like the Green Party as it stands or many of its activists, and see the roll of a "leader" as slapping the party about and "disciplining" these unruly activists. So Green Empowerment activists are justified in being suspicious and seeing this referendum as the thin end of a very nasty wedge.....

On the beardy weirdy argument, who is to say the members will not vote for someone at some stage who reinforces rather than diffuses that stereotype? (Anyone remember David Icke - I am sure he would have been up for leader if such a position had existed in his day, before his "ascent to divinity" and giant lizard obsession)

Far better to have a diverse team of spokespeople emphasising our diversity and speaking with confidence on the topics of the day.

I think the honest members of the Yes Camp who see this as all about effective communication and PR need to see what they will be unleashing if they are successful, and they also need to ask themselves if there are not other ways in which we can improve external and internal communication besides aping the top down structures of the grey parties.

I would hope that the honest members of the Yes Camp could work with Green Empowerment supporters after the vote to improve internal and external communication regardless of the leadership position. They may also need to join together to oppose any further moves to centralise or de-radicalise the Party.

At 9:55 am, Blogger Armand Rousso said...

Not the fact that green party should get more vote but the actual leading political party should have a green vision and make plan according to the environment.

Armand Rousso


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home