Interview with Ewan Jones – 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 co-ordinator of the South West Green Party, Ewan Jones, is set to stand for the role of Chair, and will face Adrian Spurrell, Liz Reason, and the job share team of Ashley Routh & Benjamin Smith, in the running for the role.
We asked each of the candidates five questions on their background and what they would seek to achieve on GPEx. Here are Ewan’s responses.
What do you think are the main challenges currently facing the Green Party, and how would you work to overcome them?
We must work faster, and smarter, to lead UK politics towards climate safety by 2030. Recent research, both within and outside our Party, has shown that so many are desperate for a strong and effective Green Party, but frustrated by our lack of political impact. “Where are you?” they ask.
To succeed the Green Party only needs to do two things: First, to be heard, we must tell a consistent, clear, story that attracts. Green Recovery is a great, positive, British, opening chapter. One we must keep telling, and developing, consistently, to cut through.
Secondly, we must rapidly learn the flexibility to localise our Green story within people’s real lives and communities. “Fridays for Future” school strikers, Extinction Rebellion, and now Coronavirus mutual aid groups and Black Lives Matter have shown that the energy for political action is there within all of our communities. Local Green Parties must go out into their communities to genuinely include communities, rather than people to come to them.
To deliver these two things, we must stop wasting our energy on internal battles – instead freeing our spokespeople to speak clearly and confidently; and provide the stability and support local Greens need to maximise our positive political impact, across all regions of England & Wales.
I am standing for Chair of the Green Party Executive (GPEx) because we no longer have time to waste.
What skills do you bring that would make you an effective member of the executive?
I have been a student environmental activist, Senior Partner in a global Strategy Consultancy, social entrepreneur and the founder of a successful start-up Energy Saving Co-operative. Currently, I am the Chair and Co-ordinator of South West Green Party (for the past five years), Chair of Bruton Town Council, and Mayor of Bruton (for the past eighteen months).
In all organisations, I have built collegiate cultures through leadership, and gained copious line-management experience with people of diverse personalities. As GPEx Chair, I will ensure that our Chief Executive and her Staff team receive the stability and support that they need to maximise the Green Party’s political impact over the coming years.
What experience do you have of working collaboratively with conflicting viewpoints and drawing consensus within groups?
I am a professional strategist. The role of a strategy consultant is to help groups of powerful and intelligent people reach a consensus. I practised this successfully for 12 years, advising corporate, NGO and charity clients, in the UK and globally.
Chairing my Town Council is the perfect example. We are a politically diverse group: ranging from three Green Party Members, to my predecessor as Chair and Mayor (who is on the extreme right of the Conservative Party). Yet, he and I do share common ground on how essential local decision-making is. Finding common ground is key.
We keep national politics outside the room. All Councillors work co-operatively together to make decisions for the good of our town. Almost all are made by consensus. For example, last March we declared Bruton’s Climate & Ecological Emergency in my first meeting as Chair – unanimously. Conservative and Liberal Councillors strengthened this motion, accelerating the implementation of our Carbon Neutral Bruton 2030 Plan last September. We are now working to strengthen Somerset’s Climate Emergency Strategy, as our County Council lacks the grassroots political ambition of its towns & parishes.
Conflict is often a symptom of poor communication, and hence lack of time taken to listen. One key is to ensure that all voices are heard, and feel that they have been heard.
How would you develop and oversee the party’s organisational strategy?
Our first requirement is an up-to-date operational strategy. We shot through the 2018 version’s 300 Councillor target in May 2019, so a refresh has been overdue since then.
Green Party Regional Council (GPRC) is responsible for advising GPEx on political strategy, so must lead on this. A wide range of internal and external interviews have recently been undertaken, which revealed some challenging insights into perceptions of our party. I hope that GPRC will be able to synthesize these into some ambitious and credible political strategy options that will be brought to Autumn Conference.
In parallel, GPEx has recently revived the Elections Committee to lead on developing an Elections Strategy up to the 2024 General Election. As GPEx Chair, I will work with our Chief Executive to ensure that we develop an up-to-date operational strategy, which is driven by both our political and elections strategies. This is essential for a political party with a constitutional imperative to “win seats at all levels of Government”.
I will ensure that all of those elected to GPEx posts will be actively involved in the development of the sections of the operational strategy that are relevant to their specific responsibilities.
How would you support other members of GPEx in their roles?
The first priority is human and collegiate chairing to ensure that all voices feel heard, regardless of their age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity or country of birth.
Secondly, I will ensure that all members of GPEx feel empowered and trusted to perform the roles into which they have been elected. Representing our Green Party Members on GPEx brings great responsibilities. My first GPEx meeting as Chair will therefore include a training workshop on the role and responsibilities of a Co-operative Director, which sadly has not been provided to recent GPEx cohorts.
The Chair’s responsibilities include ensuring the smooth and effective administration of GPEx, with timely production and publication of agendas, papers and minutes. It is only fair and respectful to GPEx Members that all papers and Committee Minutes are distributed early enough to provide everyone with sufficient time to read them in advance, and to ask clarifying questions where necessary. Those members experienced as Councillors will understand that items cannot be discussed at GPEx Meetings if the papers have not been provided a sufficient time in advance.
Committees aid smooth and effective functioning of GPEx when our Committees are trusted, and vice versa. This includes trusting GPEx members to read Committee Minutes and papers in good time in advance of GPEx meetings. Moreover, I will ensure that GPEx Committees are convened regularly by GPEx members responsible. The Elections Committee has recently been revived, but the Campaign Communication Committee (CAMCOM) has sadly not been called during the entirety of the current GPEx.
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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