(and no more than one from London)
So who will be the leader of the Green Party now Natalie is going?
The question ought to be: “Who will be the leaders?”
There are 11 Green Parties in western Europe and many more around the rest of the world that regularly elect two leaders – a man and a woman. They have made it part of their constitution. And it works.
The New Zealand Green Party, for example, the world’s oldest, and currently the third largest political party in that country, elects a female and male leader. They are James Shaw
and Metiria Turei (pictured above). As you can see, Metiria is Maori, James is white.
The Swedish Party has always elected male and female co-presidents. The picture below shows current leaders Asa Romson and Gustav Fridolin. In Sweden, when Greens first began winning seats and coming into the national media eye, the TV outlets did not know who to invite on to their shows. The Greens insisted on having both. Eventually other parties, annoyed at the extra publicity the Greens seemed to receive from this,
began looking at copying the model, according to Per Gahrton, former Swedish Green MP.
The Green Party of England and Wales used to have two co-speakers. It did not work very well because the mistake we made was to constantly tell the media and the public that they were NOT leaders. This pronouncement, in a highly centralised state like Britain, made it sound as though we had no serious desire to govern or take public office. So I was one of the majority of members who voted in favour of a move to “leaders” not a co-speaker. But the ability to have two co-leaders, a male and female, was rightly retained in the constitution. Having two co-leaders is very different from having two speakers who are expressly not leaders.
Having two leaders addresses one of the long-standing problems many Green Party members have with the traditional party leader model. How can a political party proclaiming decentralisation, decisions by consensus and by as local a level as possible, allow one person to reflect the values of their organisation across the whole country? The centralised media in the UK obsesses with the personal quirks of the party leaders, for example Natalie’s dress sense, her clipped Australian tones, and so on. Any slip by a single leader can be represented by the establishment as “typical of the bumbling amateur Green Party”. Yet these have nothing to do with the policies or goals of a decentralised party like the Greens. Having two leaders, a man and a woman, reminds people that no one person is an embodiment of this political movement.
Also having two leaders allows them to share the burden of leadership: the constant 24-hour demand for your presence, the inevitable criticism of every slip and the pressures of public performing. Two people can share their time, giving them crucial space for a “normal” private life.
Perhaps most importantly having two co-leaders not only allows the genders to be mixed: it allows the ethnicity, the social background, the leadership style, the geographical imperatives of each to be mixed, ensuring better representation of the members and the country’s problems as a whole
Why not have a co-leader from London and one from the sticks? One from a city and one from the country? One from a Labour area, one from a Conservative. One black, one white. One with a business background, one from the public sector. And so on.
I welcome this. I see there is talk of Jonathan Bartley and Jennifer Nadel jointly standing. Both are good media performers and both would be an asset. But both are London based, just as Natalie, the two deputies and much of the Green Party staff and Executive are. This has been one of the problems that the party has suffered under for the past few years: a constant London-centric messaging based around a “housing crisis” and a refrain about having no limits to immigration, when one of the core values of the Green Party is that, unlike all other traditional political parties, it recognises that there are limits to growth. This is coupled with an absence of discussion or mention of the issues facing people in the countryside, even though many Green Party policies tackle them head on. These include such things as green field housing development for profit not people’s need, bulldozing of habitat for new roads, the collapse of the economies of small towns, the collapse of rural public transport, the effective subsidy of intensive, pesticide ridden farming, and the undermining of local democracy and communities.
So I would like to see each sophisticated metropolitan candidate seek to pair up with a regional/country cousin to give both constituencies a voice.
And, London hopefuls, if you want some out of town names to bandy with, how about, off the top of my head and with no idea whether these people are seeking office: Andrew Cooper, Jillian Creasy, Theo Simon, Vix Lowthian? Let the mixing and matching begin!