Interview with Benjamin Smith and Ashley Routh – Co-Chair candidates for GPEx
Throughout August, members of the Green Party for England & Wales will be voting to elect members of the next Green Party Executive (GPEx). In all, members will vote to determine which representatives will carry out eleven different roles – including that of leader and deputy leader. There is also a ballot to determine who will be the party’s third member in the House of Lords should the party be asked to put forward another peer.
On May 28, Ashley Routh (Green-party & Trans rights activist from Sheffield) and Benjamin Smith (former deputy leader of the Green Party in Wales) announced that they would jointly stand for the position of Chair. They are set to stand against South West Green Party coordinator Ewan Jones, Green Party Regional Council secretary Adrian Spurrell, and current GPEx chair Liz Reason.
We invited all candidates for GPEx chair to answer a series of questions on their candidacy. Here are their responses:
What do you think are the main challenges currently facing the Green Party, and how would you work to overcome them?
We absolutely need to broaden our membership base and increase representation in the party leadership. Getting electoral reform on the table for national elections is also likely to be a crucial step towards advancing as a political party. We also have to move away from the middle class, middle-aged image that the party has suffered from in recent years. We are unquestionably the party that should best represent the working class, but many people in working class towns and cities would not say that they see us as the party for them. This has to be corrected as a matter of urgency.
What skills do you have that would make you an effective member of the executive?
I’m able to communicate clearly, chair effectively and fairly, and ensure that all voices are heard. I work hard to elevate the voices of others, and work one to one to find pragmatic solutions where problems exist.
Through my work, pragmatism and assured, confident communication are vital. I regularly have to communicate with stakeholders at a variety of levels to ensure a successful production. I care deeply about ensuring marginalised voices are heard, and will work tirelessly to ensure all people are heard and respected in our party.
What experience do you have of working collaboratively with conflicting viewpoints and drawing consensus from groups?
I’ve worked within a parish council, the NUS, student representative groups, and my local parties, and I’ve always been able to find the middle ground on sticking point issues. I’ve also brought about a number of majority votes in favour of issues where people were bitterly divided by taking the time to understand every position, and ensure that everybody involved has all of the relevant facts to hand.
I have worked with a number of student representative groups, drawing people toward positive conclusions within meetings. As part of my working life, dealing with big personalities in production meetings and unifying them to a single cause is part of my everyday working life.
How would you develop and oversee the party’s organisational strategy?
We’d like to see a greater integration between GPEx and representative groups within the party, ensuring that they all feel that they’re being given an appropriate platform to raise their issues within the party, particularly to decision making bodies. We are too divided into camps right now and it creates a fractured party, at least nationally. We need to give regions greater decision-making powers – members across the country feel like too many decisions are made in London and they don’t really understand what happens. We want to ensure full modernisation of the party and its processes is achieved.
How would you support other members of GPEx in their roles?
We’d like to spend as much one to one time as is necessary with each member of GPEx to ensure that we understand the issues that they have and how they most need our support, if at all. Our door would always be open, it’s best to have dialogue and conversation at the forefront of how we run our internal politics.
Keep your eyes peeled as we continue to find out the aspirations and experiences of this year’s GPEx candidates.
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