Adrian Ramsay and Carla Denyer

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” When Carla Denyer repeated that quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Green Party’s national leadership hustings on Monday, something clicked for me. That line sums up why I am so excited that Carla and Adrian Ramsay are standing to be the Green Party’s next leaders. Carla and Adrian are standing on a pitch of being the professional candidates, the co-leaders who will build the Green Party into a serious electoral force. What I want to show is why Carla and Adrian are the candidates who can fight for the things that Greens care about, and support our movement to do that, in a way that will lead others to join.

Listening as the core of Green values

It starts with listening. It struck me, watching the leadership hustings, that Carla was the only candidate who I heard talking about listening to others in her answers (Carla was representing Adrian as well, as co-leader candidates). “Listening” is often a political platitude, but it is essential for the Green Party’s vision. It is easy to stand on a platform, preach about the climate emergency, and ignore what anyone else says. By contrast, when the candidates were asked at the hustings how they would convince trades unions about the benefits of an energy transition, Carla talked about listening to the concerns of union members, both the big, traditional unions and younger community unions such as ACORN.

Housing. Health. A secure and meaningful job and decent working conditions. Those are the things that union members are fighting for. They are of course integrally linked with action on the climate emergency, but trying to convince people of that without first listening to them is not only arrogant, it runs counter to the Green Party’s commitment to listen to the evidence, by brushing over the experience of people’s lives.

Carla and Adrian, I know, have the ability to listen first and foremost, and then to fight for the things they care about. I’ve seen that in action in Carla’s work supporting unions and helping to secure housing for survivors of domestic abuse. As for Adrian, I still come across residents when knocking on doors in Norwich who talk about how much he helped them when he was their Councillor, how much he cared.

And then there is the role of listening within the Green Party. Carla and Adrian have committed to working with the Green Party’s liberation groups such as Greens of Colour and LGBTIQA+ Greens to create spaces where people can learn, engage, and understand one another, while being clear that there is no place for discrimination within the Green Party. It is significant that Carla and Adrian have placed compassion as one of the key pillars of their vision for the Green Party – compassion towards other party members as well as to communities and to the natural world.

A strategy to win

Listening, in a strategic sense, is also a key part of winning elections. In that respect, Adrian is a bit of a legend. Where I am, in Norwich, Adrian became the Green Party’s then-youngest Councillor when he was elected aged 21. He transformed the local party and led it to win the largest Green group of Councillors anywhere in the country at the time, with 15 seats on the 39-seat council. Years later, activists (including from other parties who witnessed the rise of the Greens) still talk in slightly awe-struck terms about the strategist and tireless campaigner who achieved such a feat. In fact, Adrian seems to be a bit of a legend everywhere he’s worked – just look at that endorsement from Caroline Lucas, whom Adrian helped to get elected as the first Green MP. Combine Adrian’s strategising skills with Carla’s place as the leading Councillor and campaigner who inspired hundreds of councils to declare a Climate Emergency and who managed to win the highest number of votes any Green candidate has won in a general election outside of Brighton and you have a team that will surely get the Green Party at least its second MP.

A lot of the election success that Adrian has overseen is down to the Target To Win strategy, which he co-wrote the manual for. But I think it also comes down to being able to understand and reflect the concerns of people who might not traditionally think of themselves as Green voters. Carla and Adrian have demonstrated that in their role as exemplar Councillors, working with and across a wide range of communities to achieve meaningful change. I am not saying that being a Councillor is a pre-requisite for being a Green Party leader, or that only Councillors know how to reach out to a wide range of people. What I am saying is that Carla and Adrian have proven their ability to do that, and in a way that has inspired many others (including myself – I don’t think I would have been elected as a Green Councillor if it weren’t for Adrian’s work building the local party, and Carla’s inspirational Climate Emergency declaration in 2018).

While other leadership contenders bring excellent qualities, Carla and Adrian are, in my view, the leaders who would be able to speak beyond the confines of the Green Party or activists who are already broadly on board with the Green Party’s message. To come back to that line from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we need leaders who can not only fight but do so in a way that leads others to join.

Champions for a Green vision

To be very clear, reaching audiences beyond the usual Green voters does not mean compromising on principles. Just the opposite – finding a way to advance a truly radical Green vision is what we need now more than ever. We need leaders who are motivated by a deep sense of urgency on the climate and ecological emergencies and horrific inequality. They must be champions, in the media and as campaigners, of the key policies that define the Green Party: a Universal Basic Income, a Green New Deal, freedom from discrimination and injustice. Yet there is also a further, crucial question: which set of candidates gives the Green Party the best chance of putting those policies into action?

I believe that Carla and Adrian can offer the Green Party everything that we need a leadership team to bring to the table – vision, the ability to mobilise activists, tireless hard work – with the added benefit of being the best candidates to get more Greens elected, in every corner of England and Wales. I believe that is, amongst other factors, down to their ability to listen, to understand the concerns of voters and of activists, and to communicate, clearly and with compassion, beyond the base of the usual Green Party voters. With Carla and Adrian as leaders, the Green Party can build a radical movement, win elections, and use that platform of electoral success to transform society.

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