We need to be ruthlessly focused on getting Greens elected
I’m standing in the GPEX election because I think we need to review how our local groups operate and support them in making the changes needed to improve our electoral prospects.
The party has undoubtedly made progress over the last few years, but the trajectory of ourselves and our society is nowhere near fast enough to get through the fast-closing window that is our one opportunity to avoid catastrophic climate change.
There are many ways of advocating and campaigning for the transformation we all wish to see, and I don’t think anyone can predict the optimum mix of actions and strategies; be it acts of rebellion and defiance, artistic endeavours or working inside the system. The USP of the Green Party in all this is to get people elected, and to do it as quickly as possible with the aim of securing not just influence (we’ve been working on that for decades) but power. Local groups are not just useful – they are essential. Indeed, they are the only vehicle we have to win local elections. It is only by running local Councils we can demonstrate the credibility and competence we need to get people to vote Green in national elections.
We are living in challenging and difficult times, and I think we have reached a point when the Green Party needs to bring a lot more clarity and focus to the purpose and organisations of its local parties. I appreciate that this may seem to some to be not how the Party has thought of its groups, but we will not be serving the interests of our groups, members or of our society if we are not willing to review and re-assess everything we do. Doing the same thing over and over again in the belief that the outcomes will be different is not a sensible, or responsible, path.
This means providing a lot more practical support to local groups on tactics such as Target to Win, along with canvassing software and training, but it also means being willing to evaluate and act as a critical friend to challenge (yes, I did say challenge) local groups that are under-performing and then direct resources, time and effort into activities which will bring as electoral success.
Having been a party activist for ten years (I was precluded from political activity before this as I was a senior manager then chief executive of a Local Authority) I feel I have seen both the strengths and the weakness of local groups and how they interact with the party regionally and nationally. I have held every position in local parties and worked with others to resurrect at least one hibernating group. Having also become the first Green Councillor elected in the Counties of Derbyshire and the Shropshire and having gone from being the only Green Councillor on Oswestry Town Council to holding 12 out of the 18 seats (all won against Tory opponents) I think I also realise the issues that will arise for the party if we move from being a minor party of committed environmentalists to a major party. Our group on Oswestry Town Council includes former members of all the other three main parties and has secured success in Owen Paterson’s back yard, a constituency with the longest history of Tory victory.
In short, and I realise that my view is challenging, the times we live in demand that we focus all our energies on winning elections. That requires a clear strategy for every branch, in rural areas that might well start at the Parish Council level. It might have implications for the geographical composition of groups where the principle of subsidiarity may come into conflict with the desirability of organising on a basis that is co-terminus with the target local authority. We will need a dialogue that encourages each branch to evaluate its own performance and in the light of the knowledge that we will not get to where we need to be quickly enough without change, what proposals they have to increase the number of elected representatives we have.
We have a huge responsibility, but we have a fantastic resource in the energies, motivations and knowledge of our members, our task is to be bold and radical enough to review how local groups and the party centrally operate and to ensure that we are ruthless in our focus on getting greens elected and avoid the other parties using greenwash to hoodwink the public.
This article is part of a series from candidates seeking election to the Green Party of England and Wales Executive. Other articles in the series, as well as wider coverage of the elections can be found here. Members will be balloted for these elections in August.
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