Should I stand for leader of the Green Party?

Statement in support of my nomination for the post of Leader of the Green Party.

Knowing that Andrew Cooper would bid for the leadership if Caroline did not, I suggested a joint Cooper/Lucas candidature to Caroline. I did so because I want Andrew Cooper as leader. The practical arrangement would be that Caroline got on with the more than full-time job she already does so well, so that Andrew would be the de facto leader. Now look what has happened! So the leader members are voting for is not Caroline Lucas, but Jonathan Bartley, so far as I am concerned, an almost unknown.

I am well aware of my chances if I stand. There will be no Corbyn-style turn up for the book. For him, there was a pent-up wish that he offered to fulfil. There is no pent-up wish in the current Green Party for what I want to achieve. The Party was founded in response to the Limits to Growth warning that indiscriminate economic growth was not sustainable. I joined a three-month old Party in 1973 with the purpose of ensuring social justice within ecological realities. That remains my aim, but not that of the Green Party these days.

I could outline the sequence of how the Party lost its way, but more useful is how can we use this election to put it back on the rails. The Green Party should now be doing everything in its power to ensure the success of the Paris agreement on climate change. Some scientists are warning that the danger of runaway climate change is more urgent than they thought, but our message is not “the End of the World is at Hand”, but “The end of the World need not be at Hand”.

The Green Party’s current output shows little or no interest in ecological destruction, which takes many other forms in addition to the climate. The question is, what can the new leader(s) of the Green Party do about it? What do they want to do about it?

Fairly early in its short history, the Green Party quietly dropped the admittedly difficult concept of selling what will be described as a recession as a necessary policy option for governments. This happened when the Party adopted a strategy of ‘Target to Win’ – concentrating on local success. Fine: that could be quite compatible with slowing the continuing pace of ecological destruction, but in practice it has meant that no one has since shown how the destruction can be slowed, let alone stopped, without somehow moderating economic activity.

I suggested the Citizens’ Basic Income as a way of at least making slower economic growth thinkable for whole populations. Again, no one has suggested a better way of doing this. The Basic income is gaining ground as a social justice measure, but the idea which I think is so vital frightens me if it is not linked to moderating economic activity.

I would not be the best possible leader of the Green Party. Caroline Lucas would be better, and so would Andrew Cooper . I don’t know Jonathan Bartley well enough to comment. I am highly unsuitable if only on account of my age. Bu I am surprisingly healthy at 81, and I have as clear a vision as ever of what the party I helped to found was about, what it should still be about, and some essential steps towards achieving that.

If I am elected against my own expectations, then Andrew Cooper would be a fairly safe bet as Deputy Leader. Whilst I have a clear idea of how I would go about raising the profile of the most serious issue facing us today, I would expect my Deputy to take some of the strain. So the effective choice to be made by the Green Party would be Bartley v Cooper. For myself I would however have a simple narrative:

  • We are  in danger of exceeding the Earth’s capacity to cope
  • This is now embodied in the Paris Climate Change Ageement
  • All other issues pale into insignificance, and will become impossible
  • This involves what will be called a recession
  • If the pie is less than we thought, it will have to be shared – redistribution.
  • The Citizens’ Basic Income is the best way to achieve this
  • It is in any case an answer to this government’s nasty benefit sanctions regime

Andrew Cooper’s record is formidable – 16 years as a Kirklees councillor. I support his candidature for the Deputy leadership because he has a firm grasp of the original Limits genesis of the Green Party.  He has applied this approach locally making pragmatic arrangements as appropriate, and he has shown this understanding in speeches. To be fair, Caroline has also shown understanding, but Jonathan? All I know is that his reasons for joining the Party were nothing to do with Limits to Growth. The Bartley/Lucas website does say:

“Learning how to live well on a planet of finite resources is the most pressing challenge we face.”

But you only find this if you click ‘Read more’. That is not good enough. It should be the first thing you read. It should be linked to the Paris Agreement on climate change. In any case it is a platitude unless backed up with some ideas on how to how to achieve this. I am still waiting for better proposals than limiting economic activity to sustainable levels, with the Basic income essential as a way of achieving that.

I should of course have started this piece with an ‘If’. I would not have considered standing if the leadership team was Cooper/Lucas. Possibly wiser counsels are urging me not to stand against Caroline’s charisma. Hmm . . . I hope they are right that Caroline, and possibly more importantly Jonathan, can be persuaded that the Green Party should return, urgently, to its original raison d’être.

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6 responses to “Should I stand for leader of the Green Party?

  1. Two votes in our household for the Lord/Cooper ticket, and lets get back to green solutions to tackle the most pressing issues of climate change, and transforming economic thinking to take account of ‘limits to growth’.

    • I have appealed directly to Caroline to take what in their website they call the ‘greatest challenge we face’ from the hard to find footnotes to the first thng anybody reads. There is still time for me to stand if I get no response.

  2. Hello Clive, a couple of issues:
    1. Target to Win is a technique that has been used to win our MP and most of our councillors. It works and is nothing to do with the national messaging of our current leaders. It is they who decided not to talk about the need to shrink the economy and to try to win votes just from the left rather than across the political spectrum.
    2. I’d say the fact you’ve never heard of Jonathan Bartley reflects more on you than on him.

    • Issue 1: What you say is true, but Caroline, who has been de facto leader since long before we had an official leader, has always had a problem with the basic income. She does frequently mention ‘a three planet eco-footprint, but that is a platitude without something practical towards reducing it.
      Issue 2: Please tell me what I should have done to know about Jonathan B that I haven’t done.

  3. Reply to robjlinds:
    Whether Target to Win has worked, and how well, depends on whether the aim is jobs for Green politicians, or reducing inequality, or defending the quality of life of future generations and reducing the mass extinction of other species.
    Promoting policies so that they get taken up by other parties is an alternative kind of success.

    • No other party is yet remotely likely to take up the principle of a steady state economy. The Labour Party has become interested in the basic income, but not only has that nothing to do with it being Green Party policy since year dot, the consequences of the Basic Income terrify me if it is not firmly tied to ecological issues. There may well be some solar panels and windmills where the Green Party has not been directly responsible, but that is too little, and very probably too late.

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