Interview with Joe Levy & Laurie Needham – Elections Co-ordinator 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.
Current Leicestershire councillor, Laurie Needham, and Exeter-based Green party activist, Joe Levy, are set to stand for the role of elections co-ordinator as a job share team. In August they will face Louis Williams (Green party activist), Zoe Nicholson (current GPEx management coordinator), and the job share team of Kai Taylor (councillor in Knowsley) & Claire Stephenson (journalist & Green party activist in Lancashire).
What do you think are the main challenges currently facing the Green Party, and how would you work to overcome them?
We believe there are two really big challenges that the Green Party faces. Firstly, our electoral system. It is difficult for us to cut into the national conversation under first-past-the-post. But we know that we can win local elections across the country with effective campaigning, and we can take advantage of the more proportional systems in London and Wales. If we continue to grow our number of elected Greens at these elections, we can demonstrate that we can win at a general election level.
The second challenge, the COVID-19 pandemic, has caused huge changes to the political landscape. Ideas such as “build back better”, Green New Deal and universal basic income have not only moved into the mainstream but are popular with voters. This gives us a chance to showcase our policies and values at a time when people are thinking differently about the way our country works, and the future they want to see.
What skills do you bring that would make you an effective member of the executive?
Our strength is in our job share. We both have significant experience in running campaigns, but in very different parts of the country.
Laurie is an elected councillor so understands the need to listen to a broad range of views & evidence, and work collaboratively with people to ensure the best outcomes.
Joe has worked effectively to mobilise large numbers of volunteers to campaign in elections, and has run training sessions on volunteer engagement at both regional and national conferences.
We work incredibly well together and we make decisions through discussion, careful consideration and evidence.
We want to work collaboratively on GPEx, which means taking a professional and good natured approach to discussions, while also being prepared to stand up for our convictions and put the work in to demonstrate this.
We also have strong connections with local parties and Regions across England and Wales, so we really listen and understand the different levels of resources and training needed to equip our activists to win elections.
What experiences of election campaigning could you bring to the executive?
We’ve both been party members for six years, and active in campaigns for most of that time, and we understand the pressures placed on both candidates and campaigners.
Laurie is based in the East Midlands and coordinates campaigns in Conservative, rural strongholds. She turned her local party from never having run a campaign, to being elected in 2019 with a 60% majority. Laurie regularly supports other local parties to run ‘Target To Win’ campaigns and has achieved record results in recent by-elections.
Joe has helped run election campaigns in Exeter since 2015 and in 2019 was the campaign organiser for the inner city St David’s ward, where the Green Party took a seat from Labour with 55% of the vote. Joe then helped manage Exeter’s European election campaign, where the Green Party achieved 27% of the vote and 300 votes off first place. Also, Joe has stood as a candidate at city council, county council and parliamentary level.
We understand that winning elections is not “one size fits all” – some local parties will only just be embarking on ‘Target To Win’ strategy, while some might be on the cusp of taking control of their council.
What do you think should be the Green Party’s primary electoral objectives for the next five years?
Building strong bridges between all levels of the party so that local activists, regions and the national party are communicating effectively with each other on election strategy. Some of these bridges have been built through fantastic programmes such as Campaign School, which is supporting local activists to hone their skills and become the most effective election campaigners possible, and pass this knowledge on to their local parties.
A big part of what we’d like to see happen over the next five years is continued and improved funding and resources going directly to fighting and winning elections. Elections should be a priority when it comes to funding.
Local elections are key to us becoming stronger and more successful as a party. The more seats we can get at local and regional levels, as well as in Senedd in Wales, the more we can establish ourselves in voters minds as a party who can and does win.
Having a strong presence in local government helps us to have greater national prominence.
What do you see as the biggest flaws in the Green Party’s current election strategy?
There is a big disconnect between our local and general election strategies.
All of us feel the frustration of not returning more MPs. This is partly because of strategy and partly because of an unfair voting system. It’s always going to be difficult for us to break through.
The party has proven success in local elections and we’d like to think about how this could be applied at a constituency level. We should review how we select national targets, what has or hasn’t worked in the past and how local election success feeds into that.
To succeed at a parliamentary level, we need to have developed long term roots in an area at local level, and begin developing parliamentary targets years in advance. We have been disadvantaged by the frequency of general elections in recent years, but we now need to be identifying our key seats for 5-10 years in the future, so that the local parties are given the time and resources they need.
As a party we should be able to adapt to political and social changes and find effective ways of connecting with a broad range of voters.
This interview is part of a series with each of the candidates in this year’s GPEx elections. You can find Bright Green’s full coverage of the elections here.
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