An open letter to the Green Party: I was expecting more support
I’m not sure how I feel about the Green Party.
It’s an odd thing to think because for a long time I felt absolutely sure how I felt about the Green Party – my kind of people with my kind of values. A philosophical basis that is entirely modern. Not to mention the obvious: the party that speaks truthfully, with eyes open, about the greatest challenge of our day. I heard Larry Sanders on Radio 4 the other day and was reminded of why I am a member; but that reminder compelled me to write a little on why I had started to forget.
Over the last nine months I’ve worried about the party. Not, I hasten to add, its direction or ambition, but rather its structural ability, funding and the availability of resources to really keep building upon the progress made.
In May 2015 I was elected to the local council for my village, situated on the outskirts of the New Forest. I had stood primarily because I was the only active Green Party member in my village and agreed with the prevailing thought: that it was important for the party to have a presence on as many ballot papers as possible. I also stood for election to the district council, achieving nearly double the number of votes of the Labour candidate but nowhere near enough to beat the two winning Conservatives.
Now, I must word carefully what I am about to say, because I fear that I risk sounding like a spoiled child.
I think I was expecting more… support.
Being a local councillor is ultimately as time consuming as you let yourself be involved. Aside from an initial learning curve in figuring out how the meetings work and what your role fundamentally consists of, there is really little difficulty in the essentials. You turn up, learn as much as you can, occasionally give your opinion, and offer assistance where you feel you’re able. I was a trustee for my students’ union some years ago and the roles are in many ways similar.
But there’s something really fundamental missing. I stood as a candidate representing the Green Party. I never had high hopes that – should I be elected – my role as a councillor (local or district) would come with any real power as such; but there is a kind of value to the title now that I have it. It’s a value that I wonder if the party is really making good use of.
Perhaps my case is unique, perhaps not. Communication is a two-way thing and I admit that I have not been pro-active in contacting the party for support. Yet, whom would I contact?
What does it mean to be a Green councillor? Shouldn’t this all have been made clear from the beginning – even before May 2015? As time goes on it seems stranger and stranger to me that nobody outside of my local party has really been in touch. I’m not the only Green local councillor in this area now, but I can’t help but feel that I’m not really a ‘Green’ local councillor anyway, and I wonder if others feel the same.
I’m worried that if my case is not unique there is a great deal of political capital not being spent, and that this is capital that the party cannot really afford to waste. With dwindling attendance to local party meetings (often I too am unable to attend, my council commitments seem more pressing and I am unsure of the party line on priorities) it feels like all the progress and excitement that had been building before last year’s election is just fizzling away. I know that this isn’t true of all parts of the country, but here in Conservative heartlands it surely is.
Green and blue might both be primary, separate colours – but when mixed they still look blue. Without first a catalyst, then a clear purpose to engagement, we risk irrelevance. We risk looking just the same as everybody else. All devoted activists must surely be championed and supported so that they can inspire. To suggest that those of us who stand and are elected are anything less than devoted activists seems to disregard the kind of commitment we have made.
But we aren’t all natural politicians. In fact, many of us stood and try to represent our party and communities precisely for that reason. We aren’t looking for personal gains in status and power, far from it. We are looking to further that philosophical basis that underlines all our hopes as Green Party members: to spread the word. At least in my own case, it feels like a little direction from those higher up this organisation would go a long way.
As I say, perhaps I am alone in feeling this way. I’d really love to hear from other Green local councillors either way. Communication is a two-way thing, and though not all of us are so great at starting a conversation it doesn’t mean we have nothing to say.