Content warning: discussion of sexual harrassment.

The Young Greens, the youth wing of the Green Party of England and Wales, held an online hustings on Monday for those running for the position of co-chair. Two co-chairs will be elected, one of who has to be a non-male. Voting has already opened and closes on Halloween. 

 

The six candidates started by introducing themselves:

George William Mueller Waite organises the Young Green group in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, and wants to show that the Young Greens aren’t just for people from the South.

Hannah Ellen Clare has been Young Green North co-convenor for two years and represented the Young Greens in Channel Four’s pre-election youth debate.

Paul Cohen is a former chair of the London Young Greens and used to be the international secretary of the national Young Greens.

Sophie Van Der Ham has been the Young Green’s equality and diversity officer.

Chris Jarvis has been the campaigns coordinator of the Young Greens. He wants the Young Greens to be a vehicle for political change, both at the ballot box and on the street.

Pete Kennedy was the chair of Doncaster Green Party for two years and stood against Ed Miliband in the last election.

 

What needs changing about the Young Greens and/or the Green Party in general?

Paul said the Green Party “needs to get a hell of a lot better” at inclusion. They were disappointed that trans and intersex inclusion were not discussed at conference. They added that, in the Green Party, issues with complaints and harassment needs to be changed and the Young Greens need to commit more funding and resources to events outside of the South-East.

Pete said the Young Greens need to get the Green Party to give them more funding and staff time. He added that the Young Greens need to get recently-joined, young, Green Party members active in the Young Greens. The key to that, he said, is political education, to show new members what the Green Party is about.

Sophie said that the Green Party needs to support the grassroots more by organising webinars, linking up established groups with less established groups and creating engaging training. Education on feminism and intersectionality is also important, she said.

Chris said Young Greens need to be clearer on its political priorities. He suggested that the three priorities should be benefit cuts, climate change and solidarity with migrants. He added that the Young Greens should change how it organises. “Change doesn’t just come from the ballot box, we need to get more involved in trade unions, student unions and grassroots movements,” he said.

George said that the Young Greens’ training needs to be more flexible. Instead of just having workshops at its national convention, there should be entertaining online training videos, he said. The party also needs to be clearer about what it stands for. Is it a socialist party or an environmentalist party? It’s both, he said.

Hannah said that communication needs to be improved, both between the Party and the Young Greens and within the Young Greens. “There are lots of skills in the membership which we need to be using and that’s a matter of communication,” she said. She added that workshops on how the Party and its youth wing can work together would reduce friction.

 

If elected, you will have a seat on the Green Party Executive (GPEx). What will you do to make sure the Green Party is as radical as the Young Greens and how will you make sure the relationship between the two is as constructive as possible?

Chris said he would work with existing allies on GPEx. There are great people there, doing great work. Opening GPEx up and making it more accountable will help make it more radical, as the grassroots is more radical than the leadership of the party. The Young Greens should not compromise on their campaigning and radicalism just to pacify older Greens.

George said that, in his area, Young and older Greens have a good relationship. However, he said, there should be an equal balance on all committees of young and older Greens, in order to ensure a balance of views.

Hannah said there is a lot of pent-up aggression between older and younger people in the party but that it’s unhelpful to see it as a battle between the two. She said the Young Greens should work with local parties to ensure that they can use Young Greens effectively. Young Greens are often just seen by local parties as leaflet deliverers but they’re great activists too.

Paul said that the Young Greens are always going to be a more radical wing of the Green Party and that it would be unrealistic to expect the Party to catch up overnight. Conflict has arisen, they said, partly because of unrealistic expectations of how quickly the party will change. Compromise is important.

Pete said that he is a Green Party member first and foremost, as well as a Young Green. The two are not mutually exclusive at all. He has been the chair of his local party, a candidate and a representative of Yorkshire and Humber Green Party. He said he has good relationships with many GPEx members and has been endorsed by Derek Wall, who sits on GPEx.

Sophie said there was a false assumption that Young Greens are more focused on social issues whereas the Green Party is more about the environment. The two issues are inter-connected though. She also said that she would find and work with allies on GPEx and that it’s not helpful to see them as a homogenous body. She added that the Green Party’s membership has supported the Young Greens. We can rely on grassroots democracy.
What is your understanding of sexual harassment and how would you work to support survivors?

Sophie was the Young Greens’ caseworker on sexual harassment. She said that sexual harassment is when someone judges that they have received unwanted advances. Harassers need to be held accountable, she said, by robust complaints procedures and a culture that is victim-centred.

Chris agreed that unwanted advances equalled sexual harassment. He said that the Young Greens effective safe space policy needs to be preserved, publicised and enforced. A survivor-focussed approach should be adopted, he added.

George said that he had been bullied, outside of the Green Party, for being bisexual and that sexual harassment should not be tolerated. He also said the safe space policy should be preserved and built upon and that survivors should be made to feel they can seek help or talk about it. Counselling should be available, he said.

Hannah said she was a survivor of sexual harassment from within the Green Party. Young Greens have been very supportive, she said, as have Green Party Women, but within the wider party it is a real issue. She reiterated that sexual harassment is defined by the victim and pointed out that it is illegal not to properly support victims. She added that there should be an advocacy role, for someone who can help survivors.

Paul also stressed that sexual harassment is defined by the victim and agreed with Hannah that advocacy is a great idea. They said that they want to help support Green liberation groups like LGBTQIA+ Young Greens, Young Greens of Colour and Young Green Women.

Pete said that the people in the Green Party responsible for making decisions on complaints of sexual harassment have failed. He added that victims of sexual harassment should be encouraged to take it to the police. After the hustings, Pete said that, instead of encouraging survivors to pursue certain courses of action, he would support them to take whatever course of action they felt most appropriate for themselves.

 

What experience do you have of time management?

Pete has experience of this from being a Green activist and in his job.

Sophie did a full-time job while organising training days for the Young Greens, setting up a mentoring scheme and writing and analysing a membership survey.

Chris is a sabbatical officer at the University of East Anglia, he also edits an online publication, the Norwich Radical and, like the others, he is a Green activist.

George organises his local Young Greens group which involves arranging the delivery of leaflets and fundraising reggae gigs.

When studying for her degree, Hannah worked three jobs, ran Liverpool Young Greens and the University debating society. The keys to time management, she said, are: making lists, prioritisation and being honest and realistic about what you have time to do.

Paul agreed with Hannah’s advice and added that, in June, they were the delegate to the European Green Party Council in Zagreb at the same time as they were doing their university exams.

 

Analysis

Of the candidates, four have been heavily involved in the national Young Greens and its committee before, while Pete Kennedy has been more focussed on local and regional Green Parties and George has been managing his local Young Green group in North Yorkshire.

The answers to what needs changing in the Young Greens and Green Party seemed to reveal the candidate’s priorities. Paul focussed on inclusion and making the group less London-centric. Pete and Sophie talked about education and supporting the grassroots. George wanted online training, Hannah talked about communication and Chris wanted a less electoral campaigning focus.

On the relationship, between older and Young Greens, there seemed to be a consensus. It’s not helpful to see the diversion of opinions, which most candidates acknowledged existed, as a battle. There is a variety of views, including radical ones, in the Green Party leadership and on GPEx and the Young Greens should work with natural allies. It should be diplomatic without compromising its values and radical campaigning. The grassroots of the party will support the Young Greens and radicalism. Of the candidates, Pete seemed to have the most positive view of the relationship between the two, perhaps as he has been more involved in the wider party than its youth wing.

On sexual harassment, there was also a consensus. Any unwanted advances are sexual harassment and what constitutes an unwanted advance is defined by the person receiving the advance. Safe spaces policies are important but there should be someone advocating for survivors/victims of sexual harassment. Of the candidates, Hannah, who has first-hand experience of sexual harassment from someone within the party, and Pete, who has witnessed the allegedly inadequate complaints procedure, were very critical of the way the issue is handled within the Green Party.

On diversity, the Young Greens, like the wider party, still seems to have a problem with being too white, although the number of LGBTQIA+ candidates remains healthy and gender diversity could be worse.

Joe Lo

About Joe Lo

Joe is a freelance journalist and a researcher at Campaign Against Arms Trade. His twitter is @joeloyo.