With Parliament recessed for summer, late July and early August is traditionally the time when those consumed with politics retire to take stock of recent events, plan an autumn re-launch and step aside to let political silly season take root in the press. I’m leaving London during the Olympics to spend time on a walking holiday with friends in Wales, but this year both the Green Party and myself don’t have the luxury of turning off from the political world.
For the last four years, all types of Green members have been held together in a consensus under the leadership of Caroline Lucas and Adrian Ramsay, resulting in electoral results that significantly shifted how we were perceived as a political force. Yet as they step aside to fresh challenges, we find ourselves at a crossroads as a party, facing a serious test in our resolve to become more electable. We need to identify a leadership team skilled enough to provide the vision, resources and structures that will imbed the best practice our local parties can offer across the English and Wales regions.
With ballot papers beginning to drop through member’s letterboxes from the 1st August, I have spent some time in the last few weeks contemplating who will receive my first preference vote for leader. It hasn’t been as easy to decide as I thought, but I have now come up with a clear answer.
I am afraid that I found little to support in the candidacies of Pippa Bartolotti and Romayne Phoenix. From my reading of the material they published, their public statements and their performance at a couple of the Leader hustings, they have a tendency towards oppositional negativity, flippant responses to tough questions and are remarkably light on detail and practical strategies to improve the Green Party’s reputation nationally. Compared with the potential that both Peter and Natalie possess, let alone the serious and thoughtful leadership we have seen from Caroline Lucas, I feel their stewardship would take the Green Party’s standing back a generation. They bring valuable debates to the table, but they aren’t serious candidates.
Each have a strong reputation for campaigning on issues that I am passionately attached to, such as anti-austerity and international human rights work. I appreciate their fine work in this, but the qualities needed for effective leadership haven’t been demonstrated in their pitch for the top job. Rather than candidates who tick all the right boxes of our political touchstones, we need someone who can knit these together into a compelling vision we can build a movement around.
Natalie Bennett is someone I have grown to like and respect immensely in the last few years and I have been genuinely impressed with the thoughtful and modern way she views the next phase of the Green Party’s development. The work that she and others have undertaken to boost women’s representation in the party and the embracing of social media to get our message across cannot be underestimated. However, I feel that for all her articulacy and deep knowledge of Green policy, she remains untested at this stage of her political career under the glare of media scrutiny and in many ways represents continuity with the approach taken by Caroline Lucas. This would ordinarily be an advantage, but I am convinced we need clearer distinction from our next leader so that they can step out from Caroline’s shadow and find a passionate, urgent voice for change. For me, she is definitely an up and coming figure in the party to watch. For the reasons I’ve given above however, I will be supporting the candidacy of Peter Cranie to be the next leader of the Green Party.
Let’s get the obvious reason for supporting Peter dealt with straight away. Under the current election rules, the Deputy Leader candidate whose campaign I am working on (Alex Phillips) can only be elected if the only male leadership candidate wins. I therefore have a vested interest in Peter’s success and will honestly state that upfront.
However, the values and approach that I find so attractive in Alex find their match in Peter: he is also straight-talking, realistic, practical and with a track record of success in the electoral arena. He has a history of speaking up for traditional environmental concerns, yet is firmly left-leaning, rooted in and able to speak to working class communities about the bread and butter issues they face. Listening to him talk publicly on these issues really brings home what a refreshing new voice he will bring to the British media, going some way to confound expectations about the Greens that none of the other candidates will be able to achieve.
He sees our success as dependent on standing up for and engaging with those who possess least in society and building a mass movement around social justice and tackling inequality, whilst never forgetting how indelibly connected these issues are to the climate crisis. He rightly argues that if we begin to reflect the diversity of British society in our membership, our existing strong messages will resonate more authentically than those offered by both Labour and the Liberal Democrats and can realistically reap us an electoral dividend. I’m genuinely excited to see how his leadership can evolve our party to the next stage of it’s development.
I hope you’ll take the opportunity to look at his site and consider joining me in voting for Peter Cranie as your first preference in the coming Green Leadership elections.