Monday, July 14, 2008

Launching Lucas Aid

Well, leadership nominations have not closed as yet and you still have time to put yourself forward for this or any other national executive position, offer ends 31st July. Personally I'd like to see every position contested, not just the "sexy" top jobs of leader and deputy leader as it presents a unique opportunity to shape the direction of the party.

As Matt Sellwood mentioned a couple of weeks ago on this very blog; "An internal election has the potential to generate much-needed debate about what the Green Party is about, where we are going, what our priorities should be, and what form of organisation is best able to deliver them. It is difficult to have that debate if positions are uncontested."

So it's good to see people taking the contest seriously and Caroline Lucas has launched her campaign to become leader of the party today, which includes this very well designed website. I thought I'd take a look at what she has to say as an indicator of the kind of leader Caroline aspires to be.

Where she stands

She begins by defining the Party as "a radical voice in British politics" which is building into an "effective and credible force". Her constant references to a "leadership team" as opposed to either a soppy "all of us together" or an unrealistic "what I'll do for you" approach I find particularly appealing because once again it seems to fuse pragmatism with an optimistic, positive outlook.

The political content is laid out in a very well defined and succinct fashion. The party should be about climate change and social justice. She states that "we face a country more unequal than it has been for decades. Only the Green Party has coherent alternatives to government policies that are privatising public services, increasing inequalities, and leading to greater violence and exclusion."

In terms of a strategic vision it seems to me that the over arching theme is one where we should become far more electorally ambitious, not just in those key target areas but across the country in local and European elections. If I can be frank for a moment though, the stated aim that "at the next General Election, I would love the Party to be in a position to offer everyone in the country the opportunity to vote Green" seems not just far fetched but cuts against what otherwise is a very strong and realistic approach.

That's not to say that the principle of throwing the net wide whilst focusing on key seats is wrong, but to pour money and resources into standing in areas where we have neither a functioning party nor any reason to think the area will be fertile ground for us seems like an unnecessary and unwanted distraction. Oh well, we disagree on this point. The key point where we do agree is that the Green Party is "already putting in place our most professional campaigns ever" and ones that have a good chance of success.

Democracy is what you make it

I particularly liked the get involved section of the campaign site, with its focus on signing local members up as national members, and ensuring that supporters are paid up members by July 24th so they can play a full part in this important political decision making process.

For internal democracy to be meaningful it has to be both inclusive and vibrant in a very concrete way - I've no doubt some will be sniffy about the idea of any campaigning at all but without reaching out and spreading the discussion executive posts would inevitably go to those best placed to gain profile in the party, or factions within it, rather than allowing the members as whole to make genuinely informed decisions.

A healthy and active internal democracy is also something that attracts those who have not yet joined the party rather than repels them. Personally I don't give any credit to the idea that internal democracy is something that should held in secret - because this inevitably ends up shielding the members themselves from discussion and does nothing to increase transparency and accountability of the executive to the members and of the party to the public.

From my perspective members need to base their decisions in this election on a number of factors;
  • whether they trust the candidate will do a good job. I think the vast majority of members will agree Caroline will certainly do that.

  • whether the Candidate is strategically placed in a way that, by electing them as leader, they advance the party as a whole. In terms of giving Brighton Pavilion an edge at the general election this is clearly an important element in Caroline's favour.

  • whether Caroline's politics and tactical vision encapsulate the views of Party members. I think this would be the area that anyone seeking to take Caroline on would have to target if they were to stand any chance of making a credible challenge. For me the message of a radical vision combined with no nonsense professionalism is extremely attractive, but I'm certain there are other points, both political and strategic, that can be made that members will have sympathy with, we'll have to wait and see if anyone chooses to make those arguments.
Caroline would be, and is, an excellent leader for the Greens but I'm waiting until all the names are in the hat and the arguments have been made before I make my choice of who to support. I'm looking forward to seeing what others can come up with as Caroline has clearly set the bar extremely high.


Matt Sellwood said...

I'll be interested to see if anyone else even stands for Leader. It's an invitation for an almost certain hiding, which doesn't appeal to most....


Jim Jay said...

Max Mosley then?

Matt Sellwood said...

You are a bad man.


Anonymous said...

Derek Wall has more or less ruled himself out but hasn't said about Deputy Leader

Aaron said...

I get confused about the leader/deputy leader/co-leader talk.
Is there still a possibility of having 2 co-leaders?

Jim Jay said...

Hi Aaron, yes it's slightly confusing - but hopefully once you have the ballot paper in front of you it will be clear what the choices are.

Essentially it goes like this. Candidates put themselves forward for either leader, deputy leader or co-leader.

Whover gets the highest vote will determine how the other chips fall because a) we have a one man, one woman rule (boo, I'm for all female leaders myself) so all the candidates of the same sex will be ruled out and b) all the candidates for the same position will be ruled out.

So let's say Caroline was elected leader that would then leave all the male deputy leader candidates in the running and everyone else out. So if we assume that Caroline is a shoe in that basically means there is no point in any women even putting their name forward, which is a shame.

Personally I think the detail in the motion wasn't as clear and sharp as it could have been and I would have been in favour of tickets myself (eg two people standing together in whatever permutation they desire and you then reject or accept a particualr pairing) which would guarentee electing two people who can actually work together (which I think is extremely important in these roles).

I'm not going to rehash that now though!

Peter Cranie said...

I personally hope Shahrar Ali might consider standing against Caroline. He wouldn't win but Shahrar is a keen debater (not to mention a bit of shark at the pool table). He would make it a contest between two charismatic individuals, and would definitely ensure there was policy and principles discussed throughout the campaign.

weggis said...

“So if we assume that Caroline is a shoe in that basically means there is no point in any women even putting their name forward, [for deputy] which is a shame.”

I disagree. There is every point. Even if circumstances eliminate them the vote will give us a guide as to who might be future leaders, deputy leaders, and also what the mood of the membership is. It will also give the elected leader a guide as to whom the membership think should comprise the “leadership team”, even if they have not actually got elected.

Anonymous said...

Surely anyone with hopes of becoming future leadership material would not tarnish their credibility by standing in this year's leadership election against Caroline, who, as is obvious from Jim's analysis, is the perfect candidate? So what if she is unopposed - if she as leader can inspire the party to greater success, it will be a much more important outcome than whether there is some kind of token opposition to her at this stage.

Anonymous said...

""at the next General Election, I would love the Party to be in a position to offer everyone in the country the opportunity to vote Green""

well, perhaps not EVERYONE - but I say we start building at least ten target constituencies for 2010; focus resources on BP and NS but there's no reason we can't bump up enough seats to get eight second-tier seats (i.e. might not win this time, but definitely next time)

Pippa said...

I think it's highly unlikely that we'll take BP and NS and then go on to take a bunch of seats the following election. I hope that we take BP and get into second place in NS. But even that stretches my optimism ;-P

I really do hope that the leadership is contested. Participatory democracy is one of the pillars of green politics and I think if our first leadership election is uncontested it sets a bad tone ...

Aaron said...

I agree, we should make sure that there is a debate!

Alan Howe said...

Rest assured Pippa and Aaron. Yesterday evening I signed the Leadership nomination paper for ASHLEY GUNSTOCK. He needs a few more, but I'm sure he will get them.

Jim Jay said...

Alan: I'd be happy to sign his papers to ensure there was a proper contest.

Pippa: I thought I was the most pessimistic person round here - but you've outdone me ;) Spot on about participatory democracy

weggis: my fear is that women will be put off from standing, but we shall see.

anon (on not tarnishing future leadership hopes): whilst I agree it would not be a disaster if Caroline was uncontested (although a shame) people stand for all sorts of different reasons and not always to win. To make a political point, to raise a specific issue, to create a profile - which is all perfectly legitimate.

I think Gordon Brown's coronation was far less satisifying in the long run because it didn't have the backing of the party as he'd stitched it up at the Parliamentary stage. A contested fight with John McDonnell or Michael Meacher may have caused short term stress but would have put him in a stronger position long term.

Same goes for Caroline - let's test her popularity rather than simply assume Jenny Jones stood against her last year for PS and no one held it against her even though it was clear she would not win.

Alan Howe said...

I'd be happier if you signed his papers on the basis that he is a serious and credible candidate if not your own personal choice or red-hot favourite.

Anonymous said...

Can't see JJ trying it again this year. Perhaps Miranda Dunn or Sarah Farrow should contest either Leader or Deputy?

Anonymous said...

I just hope that someone as well as Caroline stands to allow a proper debate on the future of the GP. I also hope the £2500 expenditure limit will not create a unlevel playing field because they cannot raise that level of funding.

Green Gordon said...

I believe (and I'm not sure if it's been said) that a candidate can run for Leader and Deputy Leader (i.e. e.g. Derek could run for Leader and know that even if he doesn't get it still has a chance at being Deputy Leader).

Re Ashley Gunstock, I dont want to sound unkind, because I have spoken with him on a couple of occasions, and he seems lovely and I'm sure he's a good guy, but shy does he keep running for Principal Speaker / Leader? Has he held any positions in GPEx/ been at all active outside his local party? If he really aspires to leadership, he needs to make a name for himself like Caroline/Derek/Darren/Jenny/Adrian...