What the Green Party needs in its next deputy leader
Thank you to all who asked me to run for deputy leader of the Green Party of England and Wales. After some encouragement I have given it serious consideration. The Young Greens have a strong track record of electing fantastic deputy leaders, and succeeding Amelia Womack would be an incredible honour.
Amelia has been, in every sense of the word, the perfect deputy leader to serve for the past 8 years. There could not have been a more dedicated servant of our great movement. Amelia never fails to jump to fight for social justice wherever the opportunity presents itself. I have yet to meet a more selfless person. The decision on who to replace her is one of the most important decisions our party has ever faced.
We need somebody who isn’t afraid to make the role their own. It won’t come as any surprise to those who know me that I truly believe the best candidate for deputy leader would have been Amelia Womack. She understandably wants to step away, but we can’t settle for second best. Our next deputy needs to shape the role around the skills they bring to the table.
Every person who has served as deputy leader has done something different with the role. We shouldn’t be asking ourselves who is the next best Amelia Womack. It’s important that we ask ourselves not just who we want to serve as deputy leader, but what we want the role to do altogether. We need a rigorous debate on what the role is for.
We are running out of time to stop devastating and irreparable runaway climate change. It is in that desperate context all decisions our party faces must be considered. The stakes could not be higher.
I strongly believe the UK needs a moral compass right now, one who will fight for social, racial, economic, and yes, climate justice. Our country needs a party who understands that there can be no climate justice without social justice. I am delighted the Green Party’s current leadership team is united on this. Amelia’s successor must fight for this too.
The Green Party is the UK’s youngest political party and the Young Greens are the lifeblood of our activism. We need a deputy leader who will champion civic engagement with our country’s young people, and who will empower Young Greens to succeed at every level in our party.
Not just that, we need a deputy leader who will fight against the very economic system which is oppressing young people right across England and Wales – from low wages to poor quality and debilitatingly expensive housing. One who is not afraid to call themselves an eco-socialist, who recognises capitalism as at fault.
We need a deputy leader who isn’t afraid to place a stake in the ground on trans rights – to signal where our party stands. That we are not a party for social conservatives, but for social justice. We need a deputy leader who is willing to lead on educating our local parties across England and Wales during their travels from local party to local party.
We have a leadership with an unprecedented but justified, and necessary, focus on winning more parliamentary seats. They rightly call for a ‘Brighton Pavilion’ spirit for Bristol West (my words, not theirs), and the imperativeness of getting Carla Denyer onto those Green benches cannot be overstated.
We need somebody who isn’t afraid to lead when the party needs leading. In a party which has historically been sceptical of leaders, this isn’t a small ask, but it is a vital one. There is too much to be done and our party is too important for any hesitation here. We need a deputy leader with the confidence to stand up at Conference and tell some in our party some hard truths – in aid of the party many of us are working incredibly hard to build.
We can never again see conference motions which seek to liberate some of the most oppressed in our society go without explicit, and loud, support from our leadership. Motions which seek to further that oppression, or to roll back our inclusive policies must be robustly challenged.
None of this is a criticism of our current leadership. It is a genuinely difficult balance to strike between allowing the democratic processes of the party to play out without undue influence from leadership, vs leading the party towards the mandate our leadership has been elected on. Over 70% of members at the last leadership election voted for pro-social justice pro-trans rights candidates. Our next deputy leader needs strong instincts on this.
As the next General Election approaches, and our co-leaders need to spend more and more time in their own constituencies, it is going to take time and energy to heal this rift internally that our current leadership team don’t necessarily have. It is naturally going to fall to our deputy leader to do a lot of that grassroots work. Our next deputy leader needs to show they are prepared to do this.
I have been really thankful for the level of support I have received from across the party during the election, in my role as a councillor since, and at various events I have spoken at both within and outside of the Green Party. To see the values of social and climate justice I have been fighting for so universally supported across our party has been so encouraging. I would really value the opportunity to do more of this across our fantastic party as our deputy leader.
I have always argued that when putting yourself forward for a role in politics, you should ask yourself if you are doing this in service of yourself, your own progression and your ego, or in service of people you can empower within that role. Politics cannot be about self-promotion, and our goals as a political party are too imperative and urgent to place individual people’s careers above the progression of our wider movement. When Greens get elected either internally or externally, we use those roles to bring people to power with us.
That is why when I received strong encouragement from people I have serious respect for to consider running, that I had to give it some serious thought. Thank you to those of you who have spoken to me about this over the past few months. It is in that thought process that I have come up with the above prospectus for what our next deputy leader needs to demonstrate they can achieve during this deputy leadership election.
But I have come to the conclusion that now is not the right time for me to run for deputy leader. I do not believe at this point in time I would be able to give the role everything it deserves. Having just taken part in a year-long campaign as a target council candidate and as local party co-chair, I need more time to recover and to grow into my new role as an elected councillor.
More importantly, I have been seriously encouraged by the candidacies of Zack Polanski and Tyrone Scott, both of whom seem eminently capable from what I’ve seen so far. I look forward to seeing what both have to say on some of the points I have raised above, and who else steps forward. I know Zack very well, and I worked with Tyrone in the Young Greens. I know the party is safe in either of their very capable hands.
I managed Amelia and Tamsin’s leadership campaign, and worked on both Amelia’s 2016 and 2018 deputy leadership campaigns. I am intimately familiar with what the teams behind both campaigns will be doing right now, and I wish them both luck. I hope both campaigns take on much of the advice I have given above, which is guided by my own experiences.
Amelia Womack’s work as deputy leader is what inspired me to join the Green Party in the first place. Seven years later, I am an elected councillor who has given serious thought to running for the role myself. Every person you speak to in your leadership role could be a future member, a future Parliamentary or local election candidate, a future local party coordinator, a future councillor, and a future leader. This is the power you hold.
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Image credit: Bristol Green Party – Creative Commons
Nate, my apologies for misunderstanding what you wrote. I read it as if you had said that 70% of voters had voted for candidates with pro-trans positions in a general election, but of course I see now that you were talking about Green Party internal elections. I think you are saying that people should favour candidates for the deputy leadership who will take a pro-trans activist position. Is that what you are saying?
I see this whole thing rather differently. My concern is the climate crisis, which is already spinning out of control. The IPCC, the press, and the BBC continue to talk about the need to cut emissions by 50% by 2030 to prevent positive feedbacks that we will not be able to control. But at least three of these positive feedbacks already exist. The albedo effect from Arctic ice has been drastically reduced, especially in summer (when it is needed most), the Arctic tundra is defrosting now, decades earlier than the IPCC predicted, and is emitting carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, all potent greenhouse gases. The Greenland ice-sheet is collapsing faster than had been predicted. I am terrified for the future of my children and grandchildren, because all these feedbacks are out of control. We can do nothing about them. Well, almost nothing. We can stop pouring fuel on the flames. We can try to get to a carbon neutral economy, and then a carbon negative economy as fast as possible, and hope for the best. Meanwhile Gutierrez is tearing his hair out because the commitments made at COP-26 amount to a 14% increase in emissions.
What has that go to do with the debate about trans rights you might ask? Well that is the point. The party that should be leading the fight on the climate is instead distracted by vicious arguments between factions. Its resources are tied up fighting legal cases and good long-standing greens have felt the need to leave the party while the atmosphere of factionalism puts off others who might join. This is really a victory for climate denialism is it not?
I am not an insider and I don’t know how this situation developed or whether the leadership, and I am referring to a large group of people at the top of the organisation here, could have done more to prevent it. I fear that prominent people taking sides with one faction stir the pot and make the situation worse.
There are some things I think the leadership team could do now. The whole leadership team could get together and commit not to join in supporting one faction against another. They could say that the party supports all human rights. Where there are differences of interpretation between those rights there is nothing essentially more Green about being pro-trans rights or about being pro-women’s rights. Both are important to us. Internal discussions must by conducted in a spirit of sympathy and tolerance of different positions. Members of the party are, of course, perfectly free to campaign outside the party but the party can reasonably expect that they conduct themselves appropriately. For example, if the people you are associating with behave in abusive, threatening or violent or verbally violent ways, then you should either de-escalate the situation, or, if you cannot, you should leave in order not to associate yourself, or the party, with that behaviour.
I would like to put this argument to the candidates.
Nice article, but, as you say, “Over 70% of members at the last leadership election voted for pro-social justice pro-trans rights candidates”. Well, they were voting for progressive parties weren’t they?” So they had a lot of things on their minds, and most people, especially members of progressive parties, do have an awful lot of other things on their minds. So yes, lets hope the next deputy leader does indeed have “the right instincts” about all this.
What we really need is a deputy leader who can find a compromise between two groups who are driven to extremes by opposing anxieties and refuse to listen to one anothers’ points of view. The party ends up being dragged through he courts. It is very unlikely the public find this an edifying spectacle. I certainly don’t.