For those who don’t know, the Green Party leadership election is under way, and the runaway favourites are Caroline Lucas & Jonathan Bartley. Their candidature is viewed as unfair by many activists who instead support a vote to re-open nominations. I feel the same way about this as I did the Green Leaves campaign for Brexit: I can see where you’re coming from, but it will end badly.
The sole objective of the RON campaign is to topple Caroline Lucas’ candidacy to make her stand down and get new candidates to stand in a second election. This raises some major issues. The first of which is that this will essentially be seen as a vote of no confidence in the only MP we’ve ever managed to get elected by the public. Beyond the pointless and self-destructive “she’s too popular, it’s not fair” argument, I’ve started to see people actually laying into Caroline’s character. The excitement of the campaign is such that some people appear to have become (maybe temporarily, who knows) actively against Caroline Lucas. Bartley too is being denigrated as an ex-Tory, as if people are fixed in one social group for their entire life and can’t possibly change their minds. Anyone who has paid attention to Bartley’s opposition1 to Conservative2 policy3 under the Greens can see how ridiculous this sentiment is. So whether you want them to win or not, if you’re leaning towards voting RON, try to refrain from trashing some of our top spokespeople in the process.
If the objective is achieved, and we get a second slate of candidates who didn’t run the first time around, we’re faced with the following reality: a selection of candidates who lacked the confidence to challenge Caroline Lucas. We’ll be choosing a leader not based on their ability to communicate our policy through the media, which Lucas & Bartley are both good at, but on the basis that they’re anyone but Caroline or Jonathan. I actually had a couple of candidates in mind that I would have liked to run in the leadership election. I would have even voted for them above Lucas & Bartley, but if they didn’t want to fight to win an internal leadership election how can they be expected to stand up to the towering opposition of the other parties and the corporate press?
All of this is coming at a time when the UK is in political crisis. As usual, the Conservatives have done what they do best: reunited against the rest of us. The Tories have shoved their squabbles into a corner to get on with the task of implementing the most right-wing type of Brexit possible. There is already talk of watering down workers rights, staying in the single market while cutting free movement, and Theresa May has already axed the dedicated Department for Energy and Climate Change. The Green leadership should be screaming from the rooftops about this travesty, we can hardly afford to spend months staging and re-staging our leadership contest. The only credible opposition to the Conservative government right now is the SNP, whose reach and influence is completely neutered in England & Wales.
I do understand the reasons for voting RON. As a party that preaches equality we should be able to present a more diverse field of leadership candidates. We need to make systematic changes to the way our party works, and we need to give more power to our official liberation groups to influence party policy and practices that affect oppressed minority groups. This isn’t something that changes overnight with a swift RON vote, it’s something we all need to work for, and we need to let liberation groups take the lead. I would encourage everyone to lobby the leadership (and conference) for those powers in the coming months, regardless of the outcome of this election. I’m concerned, as in the past, that people will take opposition to RON as equivalent to opposition to diversity. That couldn’t be further from the truth, I just want a unified party to take us forward swiftly, decisively, and actually start making a difference. I hope we can achieve that come September.