Two days ago, I published a short essay discussing the source of the strength of capitalism in terms unfamiliar to many on the Left. Yesterday’s post was concerned with finding an economic framework which would favour the best alternative we have to corporate capitalism: cooperatives. Today, I’m going to wrap up these three essays by looking at the nature of the political leadership offered by the Green Party.
We Greens rejected the practice of having a single political leader for a long time. We discovered that the established media, and consquently, the public at large, could not get their head around reporting our views, let alone listening to us. So we changed our constitutional arrangements and chose a leader: Caroline Lucas. Proof of the success of this political engagement with the democratic structures we faced was found in the election of Lucas to the House of Commons. She became the first Green anywhere in the world to be elected via a first past the post voting system. Since then, she has worked tirelessly by our cause and is generally recognised as one of the hardest working MPs. Love or hate Saint Caroline, as she is sometimes affectionately known, you cannot fail to see her. She has constantly appeared in the media and has consistently argued for all of the Green Party’s policies, including the radical ones. Especially the radical ones. Being a party which has grown out of the peace movement, she was one of only a dozen Members of Parliament which voted against the UK intervening in Libya. Personally, I disagreed with her vote but admired her for sticking to her principles. How many MPs do that?
Having established herself in the nation’s living rooms as the Green Party leader and having won a seat in Parliament, she shocked the political establishment by deciding to step down from being party leader. Her reasoning was that her role had given her a high enough profile to overcome the hurdle placed before Parliament by the first past the post system. She declared that it was time for the party to give the high profile to someone else, in the hope that we could elect a second MP. We carried out a leadership election and chose Natalie Bennett to be our next leader. Find me another party with an elected MP and a leader outside Parliament and you’ll be looking at another country! Whilst the media pundits and the established political parties were surprised by this self-deprecating move, we Greens were not. We don’t particularly like egomaniacs, like the other parties seem to. We don’t want a leader to dominate our politics, we want our politics to dominate the way our society is led. It really is that simple.
We don’t just recognise the value of diversity in our culture, we see it as a strength. In the first post in this set of three essays, I used this analysis to look at capitalism and concluded that the diversity of its economically powerful class was the source of its apparent indestructibility. In the second post, I looked at the best possible alternative to capitalism and concluded that we should look to cooperatives and mutuals to calm the chaos of our economic woes. However, although such methods of organisation retain the principle advantage of a capitalist economy ~ a diversity which is durable ~ they do not necessarily manage the planetary resources in a sustainable way. That requires political leadership. We need political decisions about what sort of business enterprises are acceptable. Just as we previously decided that businesses based on slavery were no longer going to be tolerated, today we need to make decisions which revolve around the commonly accepted idea that we must preserve the planet’s ecosystems. I wish that all political parties were seriously competing for that mantle but unfortunately they are not. Luckily, we have the Green Party, which is absolutely committed to social justice and environmentalism.
With our pan-European economy in ruins and our parliament led by people bereft of any plans worth nailing a title to, our party puts a Green New Deal at the heart of our economic policy. Repeating everything written at that link would break the shape of this post but the basic idea involves:
- Massive investment in renewable energy and wider environmental transformation in the UK, leading to,
- The creation of thousands of new green collar jobs
- Reining in reckless aspects of the finance sector – but making low-cost capital available to fund the UK’s green economic shift
- Building a new alliance between environmentalists, industry, agriculture, and unions to put the interests of the real economy ahead of those of footloose finance
Here’s where the Green Party fundamentally differs from the other parties. We understand that we don’t have a monopoly on wisdom. Thus the call for a new alliance of disparate groups. Similarly, we don’t find much merit in becoming obsessed with the leadership qualities of any one particular person. Our strength truly lies in our diversity. Our party values its members regardless of their political heritage. Thus, we have many ex-Labour Party members who work happily with small business owners. We even have some ex-Liberal Democrats in our ranks; this even includes people we have promoted to top positions, for example Jason Kitcat.
Our growing credibility in Brighton & Hove has not been dependent on the same hands on deck. In fact, we’ve had a rather high turnover of elected councillors. Our electorate understands that it is the policies we promote that they are voting for, not the people.
Our local opposition in Brighton, the Labour Party and the Tories, seem absolutely unable to grasp this idea. They do not understand the strength of diversity, in much the same way that they do not understand the critical problems we as a society have visited on the planet. Our Green administration has introduced a carbon budget into its planning but they dismiss this as a ‘pet idea’, despite it being an obviously core Green policy. They are parties which are run along much more traditional lines, with leadership teams which remain in place for years on end.
In the case of the Brighton & Hove Labour Party, Gill Mitchell looks set to remain their leader regardless of their political misfortunes ~ they are now the smallest party on the council, with only 13 elected representatives. Her grip on power has had obviously deleterious consequences for party morale. An email from an unsuccessful internal candidate to become Labour’s candidate in the forthcoming East Brighton by-election, which was sent to Mitchell, has been widely circulated outside the party, due to the level of enmity it contains. Whatever the truth of their internal politics, this recent episode has led to the disintegration of their local party in the Queen’s Park ward. Unless they rebuild it, Labour will have to rely on people from other parts of town to fight another election there. All key Queens Park activists have quit the party.
This sort of debacle doesn’t occur in the Green Party because we truly believe in the strength of our diversity. Although we’re only in our second year of running Brighton & Hove City Council, we’ve had two Council Leaders already. First the prize fighter Bill Randall took on the post. He was succeeded by the shiny Jason Kitcat. Doubtless there will be another leader before the next election. Discussions are already underway. We thrive on our internal debate because we know that it is the policies we care about, not the people. Policies are best developed with as many people as possible taking their turn at being responsible for them. There are no easy rides in the Green Party. Everyone plays their part. If you’re thinking of joining us, be assured there will be a part for you to play!