Thursday, September 21, 2006

That crucial vote

To that crucial vote I mentioned.

It looks like Newsnight may be running with this tonight as it shows the Green Party in a bad light (and the day could only go up from here). In fact they are running a poll What's the point of the Green Party charming boys, charming.

It's a strange story. The Green Party has no leader - but it does have two principle speakers, one male and one female. Up until now the female principle speaker has been Caroline Lucas (more on that soon) and her male counter part is Keith Taylor - Brighton councilor and potentially the first Green MP - if they can break the glass ceiling.

Anyway, to stand for (re)election you have to fill in some forms get members to sign it and give it in on time. Naughty Keith pushed the deadline and one of his ten nominees turned out not to be a registered member despite giving large sums of cash to the party regularly. As you might expect non-party members can't nominate in these elections and although it came as a shock to all that this person was not officially a member some party members decided that Keith's forms were not filled in correctly and so he was not nominated and so the election would be between the two 'minor' candidates.

Now whilst I believe there was some incompetence here on the part of Keith (who may well have more important things to think about than filling in forms absolutely 100% correctly) it was simple idiocy for people to argue that he could not stand.

I shalln't go into the logistics of why there was a debate on this - but there was - and those who felt Keith should not be on the ballot paper did not start off on the right foot with me. "Rules are rules" were their very first words to conference, I kid you not. Rules are bloody rules. Another delegate said that "If we don't have rules... there would be chaos."

In these people's minds democracy exists through its adherence to procedure. Well, I totally disagree. Democracy is defined by the level of participation of the ordinary members. These people were seeking to deny the members the chance to vote for someone they clearly wanted to elected last time round, and whatever I may think of Keith (and I have no major grievances) any male principle speaker elected without Keith on the ballot paper would have no legitimacy and a decision of that nature could spark a civil war in the party.

In my view better a centre left progressive who can fulfill the functions of principle speaker than someone to his left who is viewed with disgruntlement or even hostility by the members. In whose interests would that be? If Keith was to stop being principle speaker in my view he should be beaten in a fair fight, not ruled out of order because of one incorrect nomination that he was given no chance to correct.

Leo Lipman said "Why do we have rules?" which I thought was *the* question in this context. And he ended his speech by saying "The spirit of the law is more important than the letter of law." Absolutely.

The debate was marred with tetchiness, mainly from the anti-Keith people. One person said he didn't want to be "railroaded... this isn't the SWP" and there were a number of references to the Hove caucus - as if the only people who opposed the move to bar Keith from the election were his mates. I don't appreciated being labeled anything whether it be that I'm "like" the SWP or I'm from Hove.

Hove! With it's woeful lack of internet cafes! Pah.

One amusing moment was when one delegate accidentally referred to the debate as being around the election of a leader. Shrieks of comical squeaking went up "Leader!?! Leader?!?" Man, I almost fell off my chair and for all my irritation that moment confirmed for me I was in the right room.

Anyway, the hands went up, it was close - but it looked to me like Keith was to be barred from standing. A card vote was called, points of order raised, proxy votes questioned... and in the end the proposal fell by 84 to 67. Keith can stand and newsnight now have their footage of Green Party members behaving like idiots... I wont get a chance to see it so please let me know how it goes. Sigh.

Muppet count was pretty high this morning.

There was then a second motion attempting to do something similar but via a different route. Matt Wooten, someone I've been smiling at from afar ever since he dissed the disgraced ex-party leader to his face, said "let the members decide" which seems so obvious, but so badly needed saying.

Another vote (no cards this time) 46 for barring Keith, 48 against. Recount. 50 for barring Keith, 55 against. Hurrah! Disaster averted - what are some people thinking?


greenman said...

Aaargh! You've been SOC'ed!:-)
Yes, ones first encounter with Green Party SOC can be a frightening experience, as can first encouter with GP conference proceduralism and hair splitting.
It becomes amusing sometimes though - has anyone referred to "the man in the hat" yet?

AN said...

The real test of utter lunacy would be whether any one sought to overturn this decision as unconstitutional in the courts.

If that doens't happen then I think the greens have passed this test!

Ed said...

I saw the report on Newsnight and to be honest the journalist was doing his best to patronise and take the piss - although I couldn't help baulking a little at the high number of men with beards and the amateurism of the whole thing if you know what I mean. Although, I dare say that these things were exaggerated by Newsnight for 'comic effect' (carefully chosen shots and so on) because of course Newsnight journalists can't take anyone who isn't neo-liberal and just the same as Lab/Con seriously.