If an indication was needed as to how the Green Party had matured in recent years, the seriousness by which the current Green Leader and Deputy Leader elections are being taken by candidates are an obvious marker. Individual candidates have developed web and social media presences, campaign teams backing them and are proving themselves responsive to questioning by the membership.
Several of them have already given substantive responses to my post last week around gender representation within the party and I’m hoping to be writing about further topics over the summer that members have expressed interest in hearing their views upon.
Unfortunately, the same level of engagement has not been mirrored in the elections for the Green Party Executive (GPEx). Only a couple of the positions are contested (compared to one last year, in which I was one of the candidates). This modest increase in competition is undercut by the fact that we only have one candidate for Party Chair, a crucial position that sets the tone and pace of the work GPEx will be undertaking for the next 12 months. It is a crying shame that we don’t have the opportunity to challenge and explore the qualifications and views of a number of contenders over the next couple of months.
As a consequence of this dearth of candidates, the imperative for members to take time to assess the record of current incumbents is significantly blunted and I’d argue that another year for the party will commence without the membership truly getting to grips with how influential this group can be in determining our success. With no disrespect to any of our current candidates and current officers, uncontested positions mean that the person who succeeds is the person who turns up. Hardly the most ringing endorsement of someone’s fitness to take a leadership role within the party!
But what can we do to encourage more people to submit a candidacy forward? This is becoming a perennial question and now needs to be wrestled with. Let’s be frank, a role on GPEx is time-consuming and many would argue is rather thankless. Additionally, as a party with few financial resources, it regularly falls to these individuals to supplement the sterling work being done by paid staff in the National Office to keep the organization running. Ideally, a successful fundraising strategy that raised sufficient income to bolster our capacity as an organisation could serve to lift this administrative burden a little and allow these elected individuals to spend more time thinking strategically and politically, thereby increasing our reach and effectiveness in the longer term.
This will require the new Leader and Deputy Leader working with GPEx to draw up a new staffing structure and proposing amendments to conference to adapt existing roles to make them more attractive and influential. To gain legitimacy, this approach will need to reflect the centralised support that local parties and regions are crying out for and include an element of longer-term sustainability, such as prioritising membership growth and fundraising.
I would also encourage GPEx members to spend the next year making some attempt to raise the profile of their role. Not self-promotion, but ensuring that members clearly and regularly hear about what they are doing and making sure they are present, visiting local parties and hearing at first hand what activists need from them. The greater the understanding is about what these roles entail, the more likely that members will be able to measure performance and visualise themselves as potential candidates in the future.
All this said, I return to the point I opened this article with with. There are real signs that the Green Party is maturing as a political force and the high quality of candidates willing to stand for Leader and Deputy Leader is a testament to that development. Easy though it can be concentrate on our public face alone, we must not forget to attend just as vigorously to nurturing the quality of the candidates navigating the treacherous political waters behind the scenes. Their impact, for good or bad, cannot be overstated.
Previous blog posts focussing upon Green Party leadership:
What we need from the post-Lucas Green political leadership
How can the Green Party break through?