Sunday, August 17, 2008

Who'll be the next Green Party Chair

Following on from the online hustings for the leader post and equality and diversity here the candidates for Green Party Chair, a key position on GPEx in my view, on how they see the role;

Question 1: What do you feel the main priority of the Chair of GPEx should be?

Jim Killock: The main priority has to be to get the party working together and focused on the elections.

We have our biggest elections coming up, and our biggest opportunities politically. Breaking through at Westminster will change the party’s future prospects dramatically, so we have to do all we can to make sure that happens.

The big challenge to making all this happens is always finance, and membership. However, I feel the main task is to take advantage of our rising support, and the enthusiasm out there for green politics, and harness this support in terms of new members and new funds. The party will grow now we have Direct Debit, the question is how fast and how well we involve and empower our new members with tools and projects.

James Humphreys: The Chair has a practical role in making sure that GPEx works effectively – preparing for meetings, chairing them properly, following up on action points and making sure that decision-making is transparent and open to everyone in the Party.

There is also a representation role – in the media, but also behind the scenes with organisations such as the Electoral Commission and the BBC, so that the Green Party gets a fairer deal. And the Chair also needs to be able to resolve tensions or disagreements within the Party, so that we can concentrate on increasing our impact.

Question 2: The Green Party has many different strands within it. Sometimes there can be a tension between a chair's role in officiating impartially over, in this case, GPEx and the fact that they will naturally be likely to personally favour one position more than another. How do you propose to square this circle between having your own strong opinions and arbitrating over the formal running of GPEx?

Jim Killock: I believe I am fair to people, and always look at what the underlying issues are when people take differing positions. It is usually clear where the balance of opinion lies in GPEx, so the important job for the chair tends to be making sure that everyone’s concerns are dealt with, rather than simply overriding any minority views.

In general, GPEx has had a very difficult job, as it has lacked good information on finance, membership and local activity. This is inevitable when party management is entirely voluntary, as only the most pressing tasks are completed.

I sincerely believe that with our increased number of professional staff, decent information can reach those with responsibility on GPEx and GPRC and better, more effective decisions will be made.

James Humphreys: The Chair cannot be partisan: they have to work for the Party as a whole, not taking sides but seeking ways in which differences can be minimised or resolved.

As a civil servant, I had plenty of experience under both Conservative and Labour of setting aside my personal views to serve the government that had been democratically elected, and would have no difficulty in doing the same as Chair of GPEx. For example, I was not part of the “Yes” campaign for the creation of a single leader but now that the Party has decided on this course, I would be whole-hearted in working to make this a success.

Question 3: The Party has a number of democratically elected bodies which all have their own particular role within the organisation. The relationship between the roles of GPEx, SOC and GPRC specifically has not always been clear, even to members of those bodies. What can we do as a party to help smooth the relationship between these bodies and what role do you see yourself playing in that?

Jim Killock: Conference plays the vital role here. SOC should only be implementing Conference made rules, but up to now Conference has, for instance, never set GPEx election rules. This needs to change.

With GPRC, I believe each Executive member should attend at least one GPRC meeting a year, to explain what they are doing, and GPRC should receive much more and better information about how the party is getting along. Much like GPEx, GPRC has not been given the information it needs in order to do its job properly, because it hasn’t existed.

I would be very keen to attend GPRC meeting as Richard has, which I believe has been of great help.

James Humphreys: It’s inevitable in a Party dependent on volunteers and spread right across England and Wales that communications will be a problem. It’s so easy – particularly with email – for misunderstandings or for genuine disagreements over policy to develop a bitter or personal edge.

As Chair, I would seek to build the kind of relations between GPEx and the rest of the Party – not only GPRC and SOC, but the local parties too – that would reduce these tensions. There may also be scope for the three central bodies to work together to bring more clarity to their respective roles. As someone who has not been active at national level before, I would be well-placed to act as an honest broker, if that was needed.

If you've not already seen them you might like to read what the candidates for leader and equality and diversity have to say too.

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