Friday, 2 September 2016

A homogeneous Green Party leadership?

The possible new Green Party leadership trio
The results of the Green Party leadership will be announced at the Green Party Conference in Birmingham today and I am 99% sure that Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley will be crowned as the new co-leaders of the party.

Party rules mean that there will therefore be only one deputy leader.  In many ways the deputy leadership contest was more interesting than the leader contest with a wider field of candidates in terms of ethnicity and class.

The front runners for deputy are the incumbents Amelia Womack and Shahrar Ali. Womack rose up through the Young Greens and Ali was the first BME deputy leader of a British political party.

Only one can become deputy if Lucas-Bartley wins the leadership as Womack pointed out at the Cardiff hustings:
'I also see, as many of you might realise, if job share wins the leadership there will only be one deputy leader. And I'd like to see the money that goes for two deputy leaders at the moment - if that does happen then that money goes towards payment for the leader of Wales Green Party..'
Some observers see that as possibly inadvertently infringing party rules which forbid candidates from implying or promising 'in any statement to voters, including at hustings, that they will give any monies, goods or services to any part of the Party dependent on their election....' although, unless the vote is very close, numbers at the hustings were unlikely to be sufficient to affect the result.

On-line voting has been used for the leadership for the first time this year and it has increased turn-out significantly in a party with increased membership. My hunch, with on-line voting complemented by strong social media, particularly that of the Young Greens, is that Womack, widely seen as very capable and an excellent communicator, is likely to win the  deputy leadership.

It is right that 'capability' is a major factor when electing leaders but Lucas-Bartley-Womack does present a homogenous white middle-class profile at a time when the Green Party has been attacked for being less diverse than UKIP - a jibe with more than an element of truth.

To make an electoral breakthrough the Greens need to appeal to working class and BME voters. Our policies are relevant to both groups but the task has been to put those over to voters beyond our 'natural constituency'. This has been accomplished by some Green Party actvists, including deputy candidates such as Andrew Cooper and Shahrar Ali,  but the challenge remains.

There is another factor which relates to leadership style. Ali contributed a combatative approach to media interviews taking on some very difficult tasks such as the situation around the attacks on Stop the War.  His approach has come in for some criticism - 'coming out fighting' is not the Green Party style according to some- but it added a vital ingredient to the leadership mix that may now be missing.

Whatever the result later today it is clear that the membership, as well as the leadership, has a challenging task on its hands, particularly when Jeremy Corbyn is attracting many who previously voted for the Green Party.

No comments: