Tamsin Omond and Amelia Womack

Voting has opened in the Green Party of England and Wales leadership election. We are nearly halfway through the current Parliament, with the country limping under the combined strain of an incompetently handled pandemic and an incompetently handled Brexit. In the background, the climate crisis deepens, increasingly pushing itself into the foreground. Floods in Germany, wildfires all over the world, and now extreme weather in New York.

I can’t help but feel that this is a threshold moment for the Greens in the UK. The Scottish Greens have just agreed a powershare deal with the SNP that will see Greens in government for the first time in the UK. Here in Bristol, the Green group is equal largest on Council, and our Mayoral candidate came second. Electoral logic places us as the main opposition in Bristol, with the next election set to coincide with the General Election in 2024.

What’s more, in the Bristol West constituency, 16 out of the 19 Council seats are now Green, making it ripe for taking from Starmer’s vapidly centrist Labour. With the right leadership, bold and inspiring, we are the upstart party that can offer a change to politics as usual, and use the urgency of every wildfire, every flood, every freak weather event to sear into the electorate’s consciousness that the climate crisis is real, it’s here, and there is a party poised to not just tackle it, but to make everyone’s lives better in the process.

But to do this, we need the right leaders for our time. This is why I’m supporting Amelia and Tamsin as first preference.

The climate crisis fills me with a deep existential dread. There are days when I feel utterly defeated by it, days when I see no possibility of breaking the iron grip of the oligarchs who prevent meaningful action. I turned 41 today, and in the decades I have remaining to me I will see impacts of climate change that not so long ago were predicted for the end of the century. I think of my son growing up, and the world he will grow old in. Suppose he has kids? They will see the 22nd century; what hellscape awaits them there?

What I’m saying is, it gets bleak for me sometimes.

But when I hear Amelia and Tamsin speak, something lifts in my chest. Not just hope that something can be done, but a call to arms, “we can do this, we have to do this, now is the time”. They speak in a language that neither minimises the scale of the climate crisis nor leaves people paralysed with a sense of doom. They speak instead with the urgency and clarity of people who see the danger and have a lucid sense of what needs to be done.

And they don’t just speak about what they can achieve, but what we can achieve. For me, this is the essence of Green leadership; building and empowering communities.

I joined the Green Party in 2011 and have seen it grow in size, confidence, and tenacity. The Green Surge in 2015 was a significant levelling up, and we need that kind of levelling up to happen again if we’re going to build effectively on the momentum of our 2021 local election gains. In my view, it is only Amelia and Tamsin who have a vision for how to do that; by building a Green movement.

How did the Labour Party go from not existing to government in such a short space of time electorally speaking? By being the political wing of the labour movement that created it. How do the Conservatives maintain such an iron grip on power when poll after poll shows that the public prefer left wing policies to the ones of the party in charge? By being the political wing of capital. Why have the Lib Dems failed so spectacularly to recover from their coalition mistakes? Because they are a party of political opportunists with no movement behind them invested in building them back up.

Amelia and Tamsin are best positioned to make the Green Party the political wing of the environmental movement, and to grow that movement into a significant electoral force. That’s the levelling up we need, and it doesn’t mean ditching the election winning strategies we’ve become so adept at deploying. I see Amelia and Tamsin as representing the logical next step: Movement Enhanced Target To Win.

Not either/or, but both. We can have leaders generating mass appeal, using their infectious enthusiasm to build our movement, and continue the hard work of targeting, building solid campaigns rooted in local issues, year round door knocking and the like. In many ways, our current practice is already a form of movement building, just in the highly targeted way necessary to win elections in our messed up voting system. We simply can’t build on our gains without more people, and that means attracting and retaining engaged members who want to put time into getting Greens elected. That takes inspirational leadership.

There are a couple of big problems we repeatedly hit: existing environmental campaigners often don’t trust us, and our biggest support base is least likely to turn up to vote. Amelia and Tamsin are best placed to tackle both those issues.

On the former, they speak in the language of campaigners. What motivates people to campaign? Passion, belief, a bigger picture either seen clearly or vaguely felt. Campaigners distrust politicians because the language of political compromise takes the bright figures of people’s hopes and dreams and replaces them with the cold logic of electoral calculus.

Amelia and Tamsin don’t speak in those terms. I trust them to actually sell our policies, to do the hard political work of convincing people that our polices are what the country needs. As Amelia put it, “the strength of the Green Party is that our policies don’t change with our leaders. We are clear and consistent election after election. Some people would call our policies radical but at this point in time, quite frankly, they’re just rational.”

On the latter, why is it that younger demographics are so unlikely to turn out to vote? It’s not a mystery, the answer is the same every electoral cycle: what’s the point? We know that younger people are more likely to vote in national elections than local elections. Why? Because national elections matter in a more obvious way than local elections. Local elections get very little media coverage, and the vast majority of Council wards do not see significant election campaigns.

Amelia and Tamsin speak in a language that will engage and motivate the younger demographics who already want to vote for us but just don’t turn up. It is easier to get someone who already supports you to turn out to vote than it is to get another Party’s voter to switch. Voter turnout is low when the political choices are unappealing. One of the things we repeatedly see in successful Green target campaigns is people turning out to vote because we promise them a break from politics as usual. A major reason for us winning in seats that don’t “look Green” is because we motivate different people into turning out.

If we listen to the voices in the Party that concern themselves with appealing to moderate Labour & Conservative voters, the energy and potential of both the environmental movement and our latent support among younger demographics will stay closed to us and we will fail to make significant enough gains at a fast enough rate.

For the political situation we are in now, the Green Party needs vibrant, inspirational leadership that is prepared to put us at the head of a mass movement, and to channel that movement’s energy into electoral gains. In my view, Amelia and Tamsin are the only ticket that is willing and able to make the bold moves we need.

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This article was first published on Simon’s blog.