Analysis: Who should lead the Green Party?
As voting for the Green Party’s leadership team opens on 25 July, Bright Green sent all the candidates some questions to answer and you can see their responses here.
Below, Joe Lo gives his view on what the candidates’ responses suggest about their leadership bids, although more will become clear as the contest goes on.
When asked about his experience, David Williams highlights his impressive thirty years as a local councillor and leader of the Greens on Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council. When asked why he wants to run though, he mentions stimulating debate and scrutinising candidates. This suggests that he’s not in the contest to win it. Scrutinising candidates also strikes me as the job of membership, not other candidates.
His answers to other questions are standard, sensible mainstream Green responses. He wants to work together with Labour on social justice but examine any alliance very carefully; he wants a referendum on any final withdrawal from the EU and to campaign to rejoin it. When asked what separates him from other candidates, he mentions his experience in public office and “active role in real, practical politics”. Of the other candidates, Lucas is the only one to have held public office as far as I’m aware. However, the other candidates would likely claim to also have taken an active role in real, practical politics. Likewise, his desire to tackle issues that matter to working-class people outside of London and the South-East is (presumably) shared by other candidates. Is a man from Oxford the right person to act on this desire though? Or should it be Lord or Malone, the two candidates from outside the South-East, or simply the best candidate? (Update: I’ve been informed that Williams was born in Salford and lived in Manchester for 40 years and so has a better link to the North than I first thought)
You can watch Williams in action, outlining why people should vote Green in 2012 here.
David Malone comes across as a smart guy who knows about both finance and science. As you can see here, he’s an informed and accomplished public speaker when talking about the topics he knows about. Does this mean he has what it takes to be a political party leader though? Does writing a book and being an expert prepare you for a hostile interview with John Humphries or Laura Kuenssburg? Does it mean you can inspire a local party and make voters like you? If he has experience dealing with the media, strategizing and organising elections, he doesn’t mention it (although we did have a strict word limit).
Several of his answers make a lot of sense. As he rightly points out, “if we wish to be electable then people must stop thinking we are nice people who save whales. They must think, the Green Party is the party that understands what is rotten in our economic and financial system, knows how to fix it.” However, he doesn’t explain why he’s the man to change voters’ minds on the Green Party. Laudibly too, he opposes having another vote on EU membership because “we cannot pick and choose which democratic decisions we will honour and which we won’t”.
When asked what separates him from other candidates, he says he’s from the North, near Scarborough to be precise. This does separate him from Caroline Lucas, Jonathan Bartley and David Williams although Clive Lord lives in Yorkshire and Simon Cross is from Sheffield (although he now lives in Southend). It also separates him from the current leadership team, which consists of the London-based Natalie Bennet, Shahrar Ali and Amelia Womack. The party does certainly need more Northern voices but whether this is enough to vote for Malone is another question.
Clive Lord comes across as an unashamedly old-school deep Green offering “to bring the party back to its original raison d’etre – stopping ecological destruction”. While he’s been fighting the good fight for over 40 years, I have doubts over whether his strategy to “recruit the 2.3million who voted Green in the 1989 European election” will work. Although this post-Chernobyl 1989 result was impressive, many of those voters have now passed away and the world and British voters have changed significantly in the 27 years since. I also don’t think voters will take kindly to his assertion that “we need to tell the places which voted ‘Leave’ that their plight is due to this government, not Europe”. Voters tend to dislike being “told” things by politicians and they will also dislike his suggestion of a “Brexit re-match”. If you want to see Lord speak, you can watch this 2012 video of him debating whether ‘green growth’ is an oxymoron (17 minutes in).
As with Williams, Cross’s answers suggest he’s not fighting to win this election but “because [he] believes the grassroots of the party should be represented [in the election]”. Again, like Williams, his answers are mainstream and sensible. Although he’s not been a councillor, he has run in local and national elections and claims to be the first Green candidate to save a deposit in the area. He doesn’t want a re-run of the Brexit referendum and says rightly that voters used Brexit to “demand the ear of their politicians”. When asked what separates him from the other candidates, he says he is “straight talking and a listener”. Is straight talking what we want though? Or are ‘straight talkers’ often just unpolished, gaffe-making media performers? If he has experience dealing with hostile national media, he doesn’t mention it. While being a listener is good, is it enough to be leader?
Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley
We know all know all about Caroline Lucas’s abilities but Jonathan Bartley also has strong media experience from his role as the party’s Work and Pensions spokesperson. In particular, he took on Iain Duncan Smith and Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics, which you can see 14 minutes and 28 minutes into this video.
As he points out, he’s also been a major part of the Green Party’s improving electoral fortunes in the South London borough of Lambeth. He was the campaign manager in a recent by-election where the Greens quadrupled their vote.
The main concrete pledge the pair offer is to establish an Equalities Commission to increase diversity and inclusivity. The 150 words we gave them isn’t enough to flesh out this idea but we hope to find out the details of this Commission shortly.