As I mentioned the Green Party conference is starting on Thursday and as part of that there are going to be a series of elections to some of the most exciting committees and governance bodies you can find. It's just a roller coaster of raves, illicit sex and fashionable cocktails, or at least so I'm told.
Anyway, we have a very important year ahead of us with a general election where there is a general expectation that the Green Party can and should be winning its first ever MPs. That means whoever our elections coordinator turns out to be they are going to have a whole weight of expectations on them and are going to be required to be cool under pressure, highly experienced and have a proven record of national level election organising.
Judy Maciejowska is standing for the post (and you can see her website here) so I thought I'd ask her a few questions to see if I could find out a little more about her;
You've got experience of national election strategy going right back to the Greens' high point of the 1989 European election, what do you feel are the key principles in getting an election strategy right?First of all the strategy must have the support of the whole party. The election isn’t only going to be contested by GPEx and the target constituencies, but by all the local parties and every activist up and down the country.
So the election strategy needs to be addressed early in the election cycle to give activists the chance to have an input. Fortunately we already have an excellent paper produced by Sarah Birch, a former Elections Coordinator, and passed by Conference last year. Certainly it needs updating to reflect the current position, and this will be one of my priorities, but the framework is there and I’m very happy to adhere to it.
Secondly you need a good ‘nose’ for the important issues around the party, and how to get our message across to opinion formers and voters. It’s good then to be able to bounce thoughts and ideas around with colleagues and the elections team.
How do you see the role of national elections coordinator?On a day to day basis there needs to be tight coordination of all the relevant teams and departments. It’s no good, for example, having Publications producing leaflets without liaising with Policy or External Communications. Also everybody needs to know that the fund-raising is on target, and budgets are being adhered to. So probably first and foremost the Elections Coordinator must have his or her finger on the pulse of all the campaign’s work, or you end up with a horrible mess.
But no election campaign goes according to plan. You have to expect the unexpected, and that’s where the coordinator’s role is so important, keeping in touch with the candidates, the communications teams, GPEx chair etc.
I also think the Elections Coordinator needs to be prepared to balance the expectations of the wider party with those of the outside world. Of course, that should be said of all GPEx’s externally focused coordinators, but none more so than the Elections Coordinator. Targets and messages must be challenging but realistic, and the figure work and statistics of Chris Rose, our so-dependable National Agent, will be crucial in those sorts of decisions.
How do we balance the crucial need of winning our target MPs at this election and the needs of the national party?Of course we are putting our maximum efforts into our target constituencies. This is an exciting time for the party and we have a real chance at last, to get representation in Westminster and really start to put our agenda at the centre of policy making.
But we mustn’t forget that there are equally important elections all over the country, not least on local authorities, and these must be given as much support and validity as our target Westminster seats. The London Borough elections only come up every four years and success here is not simply a platform for Westminster, but a genuine way of making a difference in our communities, the foundation of the green agenda.
The same must be said of our candidates all across the country. I’d like to pull together a team of all the regional agents, to get advice and feedback from them, and ensure the campaign is as relevant to activists in the wider party as it is to the target constituencies.
If you're elected next week what do you think the most difficult challenges of the job are going to be, and what's going to be the most fun?In one sense the biggest challenge comes after the election, when the excitement has died down and activists flop into exhaustion, hoping never to see another leaflet. That’s precisely when our successes and disappointments need to be managed even more carefully.
It will certainly be an exhilarating year, and I guess it will be a challenge just to keep the national election machine running smoothly without pulling my hair out, but that will also be the most fun.