Thursday, August 28, 2008

You ask the questions: Adrian Ramsay

The last in my little series on the candidates for the Green Party executive elections. Adrian Ramsay - who's running for deputy leader of the party and is likely to be one of a select band of Green MPs after the next election answers the questions that you put (via me).

What are the candidates' own personal experiences of leadership in the Party, both in themselves and of others in the Party. - Gordon Hodgson

Over the last ten years I have played a leading role in building Norwich Green Party from a dormant local party when I joined to being the first local party to become the second largest party on a principal authority council this year. I am now Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the 13-strong Green Party Group on Norwich City Council. A wide range of leadership skills have been necessary to achieve this, especially team building, enthusing current and new members and helpers and strong organisation.

In all areas of the country where we have elected councillors there are individuals who have played a leadership role on the ground in securing the election of Greens and in working to get Green policies implemented. Seeing people like Elise Benjamin, Andy Cooper and Jon Barry making a real difference in their areas was part of what inspired me to stand for election as a councillor and build up a strong local party in Norwich. Our MEPs and London Assembly members also play leading roles in the party and are inspiring champions of Green policies. The work done by all these individuals shows that green leadership can and must be about inspiration and working effectively with others.

If you had to choose between spending £500 on placards for a big national demo (which may get TV coverage and we wouldn’t want to be outplacarded by the SWP) or £500 on a newsletter for a winnable target ward, which would it be and why? - Sue Luxton

I would go for the newsletter in a winnable ward because it would have the biggest impact on securing the election of more Greens and putting us in a position to implement more Green policies, as well as increasing our credibility as a party. That said, it is important for the Green Party to be well-represented at national demonstrations on key issues and I am pleased that Caroline Lucas is often asked to speak at such demonstrations. I believe that we have a supply of placards with the Green Party logo at the top and bottom but where the main message in the middle can be adapted at little cost from demonstration to demonstration according to the issue of the day!

Did you support our candidacy in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election? Please explain why you held your position. In what circumstances do you believe that the national party should have the right to prevent a local party from standing in elections? - Matt Hodgkinson

I was against us standing in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election. I felt that, in the absence of Labour and LibDem candidates, there would be a strong expectation from the media that we would take many of these votes and I knew it would be difficult for us to deliver this in a constituency where we do not have a history of campaign on the ground. I also felt that it was best to group ourselves with the serious political parties that did not want to play David Davis’s game than with the also-rans that did stand.

Because of the national attention on this by-election and the way in which some other parties and the media would inevitably use the results to draw conclusions about the political mood of the country as a whole, clearly the Green Party as a whole had a big interest in whether or not we stood in this seat (far more so than for this seat in a General Election). I have heard different interpretations of the current rules about when GPRC can prevent a local party standing in a by-election, suggesting that clarification is needed. I would like to see a situation where decisions on elections such as this, where the national party has a major interest, are made jointly between relevant individuals and bodies in the national party and the local party. I appreciate that the details of such a system would be crucial. I know that Elections Committee will soon be considering a draft new strategy on Parliamentary by-elections and it could perhaps consider at the same time and alongside GPRC how the decisions over particular by-elections should be made.

What policies would you support to address issues of domestic violence? - Natalie Bennett

I was disappointed to see that our existing policies say very little about this important issue. Having researched the issue, and from my limited experience in the field as a councillor, I would recommend the following:

More support services: far more Government funding to provide a comprehensive network of refuges and services for victims of domestic violence. At the moment, around one third of local authorities have no domestic violence services. This lack of services and refuge is one of the greatest obstacles to women finding the support they need. Measures are also need to provide better support and services for children staying in refuges with their mothers.

Preventative measures: prevention of domestic violence needs to start early with education in schools about the issues, the early warning signs and how to deal with domestic violence.
Successful prosecutions: only a small percentage of domestic violence arrests reach the prosecution stage. Policies are needed to ensure that domestic violence is addressed seriously and sensitively by both the police and the criminal prosecution system, and that victims feel safe and confident enough to proceed with prosecution.

Joined-up approach: domestic violence is a serious issue that can only be tackled through a joined-up approach, with Government departments working jointly with the police, the criminal justice system, and the education system to ensure it is addressed seriously and effectively at all levels.

Will an academic and cultural boycott of Israel speed up or delay a settlement? - Alan Howe

That sounds like an essay question for a Masters’ degree course in International Relations! There are obviously strong views on each side and it would be very difficult to come to a firm conclusion without a great deal of research and analysis. All I can say is that I don’t have strong views on this complex and sensitive issue and would not have an axe to grind in either direction if elected as Deputy Leader.

For a number of years, the Green Party's membership was growing, albeit from a low base. Over the last year or two, this trend appears to have reversed. What, as part of the leadership team, would you do to address this extremely serious issue? - Matt Selwood

Peter Cranie informs me that (according to the Electoral Commission website) our membership went up by 400 between 2006 and 2007, although I appreciate that this is still nothing to be complacent about. The Executive has already done some good work on this by, for example, encouraging members to join and renew by Direct Debit. This will see a significant increase in the membership renewal rate in the future.

In terms of encouraging new members, I don’t think there’s an easy answer about what can be done at a national level to significantly increase our membership. Good media interviews by our leadership team and other speakers plus strong attendance and stalls at demonstrations, festivals and other events that likely new members will be at will certainly help. The only proven way to secure significant increases in membership is where local parties are very active on the ground in campaigns and target ward work. In Norwich, for example, our membership has quadrupled in the six years since we gained our first council seats – because potential members want to know that they will be part of a serious, successful and well-organised political party. At a national level we need to project the same image.

If elected as Deputy Leader I would work with the Local Party Support Co-ordinator to spread best practice on recruiting new members and active helpers in local parties.

I voted for a leader and I meant a green, enabling leader. How would you ensure you were an enabling leader? - Shan Oakes

I would make a concerted effort to have a good working relationship with all members of the Green Party Executive to try to ensure we work well as a team. I would play a role in our efforts to communicate how elected Greens are making a difference on the ground. This is an important message for the public but it is also one of the best ways of inspiring members (including councillors and potential councillors) to make a difference in their area.

We also need to do more to spread best practice as far as winning elections is concerned. The relevant Executive members have started work on this but we need to do more to communicate how our current success stories have come about. With my experience in Norwich I am well placed to help with this.

Everyone has a sense of humour - how would you describe yours? - Douglas Coker

This is probably best answered by saying what makes me laugh: satire (especially Bremner, Bird and Fortune), various sitcoms (especially Only Fools and Horses) and the antics of my nieces and nephew.

You might also like to check out the online hustings for the leadership candidates and this post on the positions of equality and diversity and chair. You might also like to know there is an "official" online hustings now available here.