Interview with Adrian Spurrell – Chair candidate 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.
Current Green Party council regional secretary, Adrian Spurrell, will be standing for the position of Chair. He is set to face Ewan Jones (South West Green Party coordinator), the job share team of Ashley Routh (Green Party & Trans rights activist) & Benjamin Smith (former deputy leader of the Wales Green Party), and Liz Reason (current GPEx chair).
What do you think are the main challenges currently facing the Green Party, and how would you work to overcome them?
Where to start! We need a robust infrastructure – IT systems and working processes, constitution and funding. The culture in the Party, certainly in the governance groups and other committees, also isn’t right. Finally we don’t yet have a narrative and a plan, or the credibility, to address the public, who will ultimately deliver the level of change we need. Some of this work has already started: Our incredibly talented Director of Development is running Project Together, which everyone will hear about soon and be able to participate in. This brings together many groups in the Party, including GPRC which is how I am involved, to create an outline plan for the decade. The political strategy that will guide what we choose to do and how we focus our resources will emerge from it. The project will also lead to the creation of our core messaging. This will be flexible to meet local needs, but whatever it is, it needs to feature in all that we do. It was notable that Johnson in the last election answered every question with “Get Brexit Done” and we need to provide the electorate with similar clarity. It will also help us unlock the funding we need.
I am currently also leading a cross governance group that is addressing the new constitution and getting that resolved and implemented. That’s what I have started and it needs finishing. I can do more to facilitate that as Chair of GPEx than I can currently in GPRC. Specifically, I will be able to drive the work needed to shift the party’s culture and start to bring us all together. We don’t have the time or resources to spend so much time fighting amongst ourselves. Democratic and fierce debate yes, but not infighting. That can only be done by engaging with each other and talking. That is the work I will do. Already in starting to develop the political strategy, I have engaged with all the affiliated groups and regions, and will be coming out to consult with members soon. And then of course there are all the other Party processes that need improving and bringing up to date!
What skills do you bring that would make you an effective member of the executive?
I run my own for-profit and not-for-profit businesses. I am Chair of a local charity, a director of another, and a trustee of a third. I have worked with some of the largest business in the world to help their leaders run them better, and worked with national and local charities to do the same. I am a qualified banker and am financially literate and understand how to manage budgets and cashflow. Colleagues both in and out of the Party will tell you I am calm and determined. I am not easily flustered nor prone to great shows of emotion, but I will push relentlessly to ensure the Party changes and becomes what the country needs us to become. Neither ambiguity nor complexity fluster me. I’m able to lead others through the uncertainty they create, bringing people together to agree on sensible next steps, which enable us to understand better our circumstances and what will work best.
What experience do you have of working collaboratively with conflicting viewpoints and drawing consensus from groups?
I’ve been working in Leadership and Organisation Development for over 20 years and have facilitated many meetings where the participants weren’t in agreement. I have also run formal consensus-building activities for clients. I have found that by working together I have been able to lead people to good outcomes. It’s not always easy, but it can be done. The issue is not preventing disagreement, but ensuring it remains problem-focussed and isn’t personal. In fact, the best teams do argue, and argue with passion, getting all the issues out. It’s important that we learn how to do that in GPEx, so everyone commits to the course of action agreed and we don’t end up chopping and changing between different strategies. We will only be able to do that, if we start building trust within GPEx and between governance bodies. By reminding ourselves what we are working in service of – the Green Party and delivering a fair and just transition to a net zero carbon economy and society. That is why we are all members of the Party and what we all care about. As long as we remember that – the rest will follow.
How would you develop and oversee the party’s organisational strategy?
I’m currently doing it! At present, GPRC sets the political strategy and GPEx sets the operational strategy. These have to come together with the funding strategy. Without funding we cannot translate our intentions into actions. Project Together will produce the funding, operational and political strategies. The operational strategy will build on the work Mary Clegg, as CEO, has started, to detail the specific practical steps needed to translate the political strategy into action. Writing the strategy will be the easy part. Until funds do come in, GPEx members, activist and volunteers everywhere, will need to commit to doing everything they can to implement the strategy. Our staff are amazing, but they are stretched and we need to understand their capacity and not go too fast too soon. That will be frustrating at times, but although we need a great result in 2021 local elections, that isn’t our end game. We need to balance our short-term goals with our longer ambitions. That will be hard – maximising our impact in each and every local election, and at the same time continuing to build our credibility, capability and the public’s trust in us as a Party.
How would you support other members of GPEx in their roles?
By being there for them, and by listening. Like everyone else I am a volunteer and have commitments outside the Party. We need to recognise that all of us give what we can, if not more. That means creating a culture where everyone can be honest about what they can realistically commit to. It also means being there to support each other when things go wrong, as they will. Life gets in the way. That means being compassionate to ourselves and to each other.
Keep your eyes peeled as we continue to find out the aspirations and experiences of this year’s GPEx candidates.
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