By Rupert Read

It wasn’t a surprise that the most heartfelt responses to my Bright Green blog-post (the responses by Jane Watkinson & Tom Chance) have been about what we believe in, and what our philosophical underpinnings may be. The Green Party’s heart and soul are what brought us into the fold, and we are all keen to espouse its virtues and stay true to its more-essential-than-ever ecological vision.

Where I think we need to take care and pay attention, however, is on matters beyond our values, and onto the ways in which we make our values matter in society at large. In other words: onto questions of how the Party organises so as to actually work, and work well. Comments of mine on those matters seem to have been a little less examined, which is why I am returning to them. We have grown enormously, yet I detect less of a sense of change in our ambitions than that growth should imply.

Let’s take on board that we have a hard time at national elections, and we need to grow like Brighton and Norwich before we can realistically hope to take many more seats in general elections. AV will help, but it alone will not propel us into many 3rd places, which is where one needs to be if one is to have a chance of winning with others’ redistributed preferences.

Let’s assume therefore, that growth of council groups is by far the most important part of our political strategy. Let’s also bear in mind that fortunes can swing with external factors, as in London this year, when vast numbers of Labour voters beat back Greens and Liberal Democrats across the city in a national vote to hold the Tories back.

We can also agree that both Greens and Liberal Democrats suffer from a lack of national presence that can be strongly countered in local politics, as we in Norwich can testify.

Since local factors can build towards national success, our party should be pushing this very hard. And we do know that we have had some success, gaining 120-plus councillors. But is this the sort of level of success we should be able to expect?

Let’s take a look at how many members the other parties have, compared with the numbers of councillors they gain:

Party  Cllrs   Members   Ratio
Lab    4,831 177,000      1:37
Cons  9,405 290,000    1:31
LD     3,921  60,000       1:15

Green 120     11,000        1:91

For every 30 or 40 members Labour or Tories gain they have one councillor. The Lib Dems – with lower profile and lower membership and smaller resources – do twice as well. The Greens, on the other hand, seem to have a lot of unrealized potential. If we had a similar ratio of members to councillors to the Lib Dems, we might expect to have nearer 500 councillors. (We in Eastern Region already have 39 Councillors, on 13 different Principal Authorities, and we have concrete plans to double that number in the next few years. And so we should, according to the inference I am drawing from the little table above.)

So, do we have a national target, a strategy, a training and capacity-building programme that will take us to 500 councillors? Do we feel – as Lib Dems clearly do – hungry for every council seat, with a formula to deliver every person into a Council that wants to get elected? In short, are we programmed, as a political party, to expect, plan and build success, or are we still sometimes too ready to leave everyone to their own devices, blame lack of resources and accept failure?

I am opening this debate to ask what our ambitions are, and then how we realise them. This is such a serious question: our ideas are only as good as our ability to put them into practice, either through the pressure of debate, or actually putting policy into place ourselves. Either way, we need electoral success, and the evidence is we could be have the potential to be doing better, especially at local level.

I would so love to see that happen. So, I bet, would you. So, how do we make it so?

Let’s talk about this, and get ourselves in the GPEW into the best possible position to make changes at Conference this year which will put us on track for the future that we deserve – and that our descendants and our living planet deserve, too.