The Green Party needs to go big or go home
In 2002, the German city of Dresden flooded. So suddenly, with such force, that 382 people died. Gerhard Schröder was chancellor at the head of a Green/Social Democrat coalition. They were trailing in the polls.
Schröder got stuck in with the clean-up. Polling swung in his favour, and the green left-wing triumphed.
Nineteen years later in England and Wales, the Greens are nowhere near power. To turn this around, we need to grow big, fast. Otherwise, we may as well prepare for the end of life on earth as we know it.
We must focus, laser-like, on getting Greens elected.
To those activists who think that we should abandon all electoral efforts – I’m sure Friends of the Earth would love your help instead. The P in GPEW stands for (political) party. We exist to get elected. And we need to stop telling people to vote for other parties.
While it’s easy to despair at our lack of power, a ‘perfect’ storm is coming. It is perfect in the sense that it will be the very last wake-up call. Society is unprepared. It will be shocking and fatal.
When that mother of all floods does come, voters will want one party to give them the answers. That has to be us.
If we want to speak directly to the hearts of millions, we need to earn that right.
How do we do that?
1. We need to know our future voters
We occupy a powerful political niche. We’re the only left wing party that can reach across political dividing lines.
It was delightful to watch our latest local election results come in. We ousted the tired old parties in the most unexpected places; left, right and centre (pun intended).
Labour are busy doing our work for us, with the Blairite retaking of Labour nearly complete, and activists leaving them in droves.
If you think this is a weird coalition to maintain – look at the SNP, who defeated the FPTP system we loathe so much. They enthused tartan Tories and disaffected lefties alike.
We don’t need – and indeed, we must not wait – for our voting system to change. If the SNP managed to sweep to power, so can we.
2. We need to deliver one simple message that rings true
“Take back control.” “Get Brexit done.”
That feeling you get when you read these? Contempt. This happens because you are all too familiar with these slogans.
Both came directly from the mouths of voters. You’ll notice they are both three words long. No word has more than seven letters. They sum up the gut feeling that millions of people had.
At the time, I rolled my eyes – and this was because I hadn’t spent enough time with voters outside cities. Now, full of regret, I know we need to listen better. And we need to test our messages with our future voters. Our winning message must resonate with them. And to ring true, it has to be backed up by past actions.
Then, yes, we repeat it until it’s a running joke.
3. Our next leader needs to embody our message
By this I mean that their life story must match it. Like Sadiq Khan being the son of a Pakistani bus driver. That showed he lived the issues of race and class – the ideal tonic for Zack Goldsmith’s aloof bigotry.
This path to winning power is what keeps me going. Let’s build our structures to respond – with dynamism – to what lies ahead. It’s time to go big, or go home.
Rachel Collinson is standing on a job share ticket with Kathryn Bristow for publications coordinator in this year’s Green Party of England and Wales Executive elections.
This article is part of a series from candidates seeking election to the Green Party 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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Image credit – Bristol Green Party