Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Male principle speaker

I've got to get a move on and post my completed ballot paper for Green Party male principle speaker, as it has to be there by Saturday.

We have three choices: First Ashley Gunstock who, for me, ruled himself out of the running with his hustings speech at conference by beginning his speech by telling us he "was special" and then listing all his great attributes. Um, no thanks.

So this leaves the two main contenders. The encumbant Keith Taylor and ecosocialist Derek Wall. I've mentioned both these people before, during my blogging of conference earlier in the year, in particular Derek's contribution to the Green Left fringe and Keith's key note speech, both of which I thought were very good.

Earthquake Cove has blogged his thoughts on the contest here and previously here. Interestingly he seems to favour Derek despite calling him "a bit mad", although he's certainly correct to say Keith is the safe option.

Keith TaylorWith our ballot papers we get a one side statement from each candidate - here are some selected highlights from them both.

Keith "My busiest time as PS was the six weeks I took out for the national "Dirty, Dangerous and Expensive" speaking tour, which dealt with the threats posed by a new nuclear power programme and championed renewable energy. I visited around thirty towns, including most of the areas which saw new councillors elected. The tour was a great success, and if re-elected I will tour again.

"Our party already has the policies that millions of people want. When alongside the 'grey' parties we win every argument, now we have to win vots. I don't believe we need to remodel our philosophy: instead we need to continually sharpen our performance."

Derek WallDerek "Green politics is the politcs of survival. I believe this as strongly as I did when I joined our party 26 years ago, age 14. Our speakers must be bold, exerienced and passionate to gain the media visibility vital to winning elections, changing minds and transforming society.

"This year I have spoken to thousands at the climate change conference, World Social Forum and President Hugo Chavez. I have travelled across Britain... speaking at well attended Green meetings n the LSE, Brighton, Norwich, Oxford and Camden... My NVDA record includes action against hunting, roads, rainforest logging, war and Tescos."

Alas I'm far too lazy and short of time to type them out in full.

As I see it both candidates have advantages and disadvantages. For Keith I particularly liked the last sentance I quoted above about delivering the message more effectively rather than attempting to reorientate the party. I also think he's a safe bet for PS. He does a good job on TV and in the press and when he speaks he's happy to attack capitalism or call on Bush and Blair to be tried as war criminals.

For Derek he has a far less narrow view of what politics is - with elections being part of what needs to be done but not the only part. I think this is particularly important for the Green Party which certainly does have an electoralist streak to it. He also tends to have a broader global vision and politically identifies himself on the left in a very clear way. Derek also comes with the biggest drawback too, in terms of the party, in that it is not entirely clear that he's someone that could unite as many party members as Keith.

My impression is that most Derek voters won't mind if Keith is elected, but certainly a number of Keith supporters would not be overjoyed to find Derek has won. Of course that's their problem to an extent, but I think it is important not simply to judge candidates by how closely they conform to your own political perspective, but also what will the outcome be if they get in.

If Keith wins we will have a moderate face to a radical message, delivered in a reasonable and uncontroversial manner. If Derek wins we'll be getting a radical message that is delivered in an uncompromprising, if good natured, way that would unmistakably mark the party out as outside of the political mainstream - which is not necessarily a bad thing.

I'll be filling my ballot in and post it later today - you have until then to influence my choice!


Matt Burge said...

Hello fellow Green Blogger,

Over at www.environmentdebate.blogspot.com we have a poll running that we would like you to take part in if you wish.

The question runs; 'What do you think is the best way to tackle climate change?

Hope you have time to give your views on this very important issue.


Jim Jay said...

Nice to see a poll with the option "nuke the united states" although I didn't vote for that obviously!

Natalie Bennett said...

Nicely balanced post Jim - I thought at one minute you were voting one way and the next minute the next.

I would question, however, your use of "electoralist" as a negative adjective?

Phugebrins said...

I don't think a more centrist stance is in any way 'safe'. Politically, you end up looking like an alternative version of the Lib Dems. Practically, pursuing a more 'moderate' line means that if, when and where the Greens do get into power, you end up being elected on a platform that isn't worth fighting for - you may as well have started a green current within other parties.
Ok, so the PS can't really change the party's direction. But if you want to attract attention, you've got to promise something different*, and it's the promising and the phraseology that the PS does best.
Additionally, given the nature of the FPTP system, Derek's shift of focus to more direct action and less narrow electoralism is a bigger advantage than you suggest. If you want to get a green elected, the biggest barrier is convincing people that a green CAN be elected. That means organising green action, especially mass local action, to drive the point home that yes, everyone does care. You need that momentum to get you going, otherwise you'll be forever stuck as the 'I'd vote for them if they had a chance' choice.

* I assume you're comfortable enough with 'ecosocialism' as DW puts it that I don't seem to be arguing for picking the leftier candidate purely because he's 'different'

Jim Jay said...

Yup, balanced Jim - that's me.

Electoralist - I guess the sense I'm using it is a focus where elections are the be all and end all of politics. So for instance someone might support a demonstration - but purely because it may lead to more votes. I do think that's a problematic position.

It probably deserves a proper post of its own (I'll get to it!) but I think this way of looking at politics forgets that the real focus should be to effect the changes you'd hope to see, but sometimes people get caught up in what's best for their group.

I'm 100% for standing in elections as part of a strategy to make a better world - but I think an instructive example is New Labour. They ditched their principles in order to become 'electable' so instead of defeating Thatcherism they became it.

Jim Jay said...

phugebrins - nice to see a fellow cambridge person here, do we know each other?

I don't think calling for Blair to be tried as a war criminal or for the overthrow of capitalism is a centrist or moderate position. Keith delivers a radical message but in a measured and moderate form. There certainly are green members who lean towards lib dem style politics but Keith isn't one of them, in my view.

I agree that "the biggest barrier is convincing people that a green CAN be elected" which is actually one of the things I think Keith is good at and if the Greens do get an MP at the next general election it's likely to be him, but I certainly think that we need a movement that fights on many fronts and incorporates many different styles, traditions and methods of changing the world. That's where Derek is stronger I think because he does have a broader vision of a movement rather than just what's best for the party.

Anonymous said...

Derek was instrumental in the fuss caused around keith's nomination - he was shamefully opportunist and endeavoured for Keith not even being on the ballot. I don't want someone like that as a PS, and i also think it shows bad political judgement. That said Keith didn't do himself any favours, but what he didn't do was want to win by default, and people need to realise the difference it will make having a green MP. this will not happen naturally, it requires the candidate getting as many opportunities for public exposure as possible. derek would have been delighted to win without having beaten keith, when the normal green philosophy is to give members a choice. Vote keith, vote RON , but don't vote Derek.

Anonymous said...

the party being outside the political mainstream would be terrible. We can have ideas and policies that are outside the mainstream. But to be percieved as a party outside the mainstream means that our ideas get taken up and watered down by the other parties. The election for PSA offers a simpe choice - radical policies delivered in a way that voters feel they can align themselves with, or radical policies delivered in a way that means that old left voters who already vote for us are even happier. Nice for them, but doesn't get us an MP now does it. Wake up please people, vote Keith Taylor , or vote RON ( re-open nominations) , but for god's sake not for the other two - disaster looms if you do.

Jim Jay said...

Obviously both these last posts are legitimate points of view, but I would be happier if people signed their contributions - even if it's with a nom de web - as it makes debate slightly more friendly.

Like anon(1) I voted to ensure Keith was on the ballot paper as any election without his candidature would not have been seen as legitimate in the eyes of the party, or the outside world. Whilst there were some shameful contributions at conference against this I think, in fairness to Derek, he was not among them.

September's archive includes my blogs on conference where this was thrashed out.

However, unlike anon(2) I don't think Derek winning the post would mean that "disaster looms" - that's hyperbole.

Phugebrins said...

I must admit I don't know that much about Keith's politics. I'd always assumed he was willing to criticise capitalism as someone on the left of the social-democrat label, but if he's actually after its abolition, then I'm mistaken. When I say he's more centrist, I suppose I'm talking about relative to Derek.
To be honest, though I don't think one person can (or should!) make a lot of difference. And that's sort of why I think Derek would be a bit better, if you'll excuse the paradox of that. Keith may be very electable, but he can't be everywhere. By focusing on the more 'peripheral' aspects of campaigning, by trying to build an active political consciousness and environmental awareness, I think that's the only useful direction you can go in if you want to get people other than Keith elected (that sounded way too sarcastic!).

(I think I may have seen you about, I'm not sure. It's taken me until this year to find any activism in Cambridge at all).

Anon(2): Like it or not, the GP is out of the mainstream. Radical policies are, by definition, not part of the mainstream. And within our capitalist society, anything that seriously challenges capital is not part of the mainstream. Move into that mainstream, and you've already lost. Don't believe that the GP has the unconditional support of the far left, either. I'm not even sure the GP has the support of the 'old left' to begin with.

Anonymous said...

'Derek was instrumental in the fuss caused around keith's nomination - he was shamefully opportunist and endeavoured for Keith not even being on the ballot'

Why doesn't this supporter of Keith ask Derek and the other candidates whether this in true on the internal party hustings? Were Keith's problem's due to conspiracy or cock up?

yes Keith should have had the opportunity to stand but who puts their nomination papers in at the last minute as jpg?

This though is a side issue..

Party members should watch the video of the debate between Keith, Derek and Ashley and choose who they think is best or talk to people who were there. The decision has to be based on who will make the most effective speaker.

here are the video instructions

1. Vote for Male Principal Speaker

Members should shortly be receiving by mail the voting papers for the position
of Male Principal Speaker. Recently a hustings at which the three candidates
spoke and answered questions was held in London. This was videoed and can now be
viewed on the members’ website: http://members.greenparty.org.uk.

You need a user name and password to get into the members’ site. These are
printed in each Green Activist (which comes out with Green World). If you need a
reminder, please email internalcommunications@greenparty.org.uk, including your
name and address and local party, and it will be sent out as soon as possible.

Jim Jay said...

Now the other side's posting anonymously - Argh!

On Keith wanting to abolish capitalism I think the key point is how does he envisions that happening, what does he mean by it, who are the agents of change? That seems ambiguous to me when he talks about this - but he does clearly say he wants to do away with capitalism.

On who will make the most effective speaker it isn't just about how good a speech you make but the political content of it and how far you represent the views of the party - it isn't just down to who's speech you like the best - although people should go watch the footage if they can.

Difficult said...

I'm finding this decision very difficult. To be honest I had problems with the way that all candidates behaved during the nomination debacle, and I have issues with them all as PS. I don't think Ashley is experienced enough or has enough profile in the national party, so he is out. I think Keith has done a solid job as PS but I am not convinced that he is as good a speaker as Derek nor that he has a coherent political view. Derek is closest to my own political views and is certainly an intriguing speaker. But then I worry about his tendency to say the wrong thing and 'rub people up the wrong way' and his possible lack of credentials in terms of soundbite crafting!

Perhaps we should have a last minute write in campaign. My favoured candidate would be Peter Cranie, but then he's already got a job.

Jim Jay said...

I think Peter Cranie would be a lot of people's prefered option - but then again he does have a more important position than principle speaker, it just isn't as high profile (he's elections coordinator)

As I noted during conference Peter recieved by far the least RON votes and is just incredibly sound.

me said...

I think the danger in saying someone is stronger because they have a broader vision of societal change ( reagrdless of whether that statement stands up to scrutiny) is that such 'vision' is not necesarily one that is held by the majority of party members. The party has say 5000 to 6000 members - how many of those would consider themselves of the left generally? Probably most. How many would consider themselves 'eco-socialist'. Probably a minority. So the role of PS has to be one which doesn't seek to put views which are further than where the party is, but to represent where the party is now. If you want some direction then have a more structured leadership. If that was to happen the leading candidate would be female i'd imagine and I would have thought that none of the male PS would stand.

So ultimately I think that the PS role, as it currently is, has to be someone who represents the exisitng membership rather than has any particular vision of their own.

Dave said...

Sorry to re-visit this ground, but the following from anon:

"Derek was instrumental in the fuss caused around keith's nomination - he was shamefully opportunist and endeavoured for Keith not even being on the ballot"

Raises the question

"What did he do?"

People seem to be talking about opportunism without examples- is there something I should know about?

Jim Jay said...

Keith made a minor error on his application to stand for re-election and some people argued that this ruled him out of the contest I go into more detail here

Dave said...

Yeah, but what did Derek do?

Jim Jay said...

Oh right - he can explain himself once the vote is over but my understanding is that he thought Keith should be ruled out of the running and some people took that to be self interest rather than the interests of the Green Party, which I think is unfair to Derek even though I disareed with his position.

There were some people who were very divisive and fought for their position in a very problematic way - but I don't think Derek was one of them.

In other words to my mind he didn't *do* anything - there was a disagreement which was democratically resolved (the right way in my view)

Anonymous said...

Two supporters of Green Left as principal speakers - hmm very problematic... Gender balance, but rather less political balance. Looks like the beginning of old style factional politics to me.

Anonymous said...

all three candidates are on record as saying GL is a good thing at the London hustings....so it is hardly 'old style factional politics'