Monday, September 03, 2012

New Horizons for the Greens

Well what do you know? Back in March 2008 we had a speaker at our Coffee Morning by the name of Natalie Bennett, then Editor of Guardian Weekly, and she was speaking on Women and the Environment.

Well, she’s popped into the national headlines today having been elected as the Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, beating off strong opposition from the north west in the form of Peter Cranie who was a fag paper away from denying the BNP a seat in the European Parliament last time round.

I am sure we all wish her well in her new role. Well, maybe not the LibDems? Being leader of a party that prides itself on being grass roots led is a somewhat tricky task but I think she is more than capable. However, in reality the Party is led by those self selected members, a small fraction of the total, who attend conference and vote on rules and policy. Left to conference alone the party would not have had a Leader at all, but retained the Male and Female Principal Speaker roles. The price of the membership wide ballot on having a Leader and Deputy was the gender balance rule imposed by conference. The membership only had a choice of leader and deputy with gender balance or retaining the status quo. They voted overwhelmingly for change.

But sometimes rules have a habit of coming back at you and biting your bum. The first two leadership elections (they are held every two years) didn’t cause any problems with Caroline Lucas in the running for Leader and Adrian Ramsay for Deputy. It was no surprise that there were no female candidates for deputy in those two elections. But this time was different. This time there was a proper contest and nobody really knew who would win either the Leader or Deputy positions which meant there was an even slate of candidates for Deputy, 2 male and 2 female.

So, as Natalie has been elected Leader the now rather stupid looking gender balance rule means that the Deputy has to be a man. So the two female candidates are eliminated on the grounds that they are, well, female, which has upset quite a few grass roots members. This despite, we are hearing on the grapevine, that they came 1st and 2nd by miles in the ballot. The returning officer is not releasing this information right now and is waiting until after the Party Conference next weekend.

So, our next Coffee Morning speaker, Caroline Allen, will be just a plain and simple vet talking all creatures great and small. This is on Thursday 20th September.

The new Deputy Leader is Will Duckworth from the Midlands who pipped Richard Mallender. One wonders how he feels about all this? We wish him well though. He seems a tough cookie and has a sense of humour, sometimes sadly lacking in Greens.

I also expect a lively conference debate on that rule. There does seem to be a groundswell for change but the proposal for an “at least one woman” rule moves the goalposts from gender balance to positive discrimination and that doesn’t quite fit with the party’s equality agenda. However, given that there is no shortage of very able and willing females within the party, the question is will they be bold and just scrap the rule?

I also look forward to the new leadership’s views on delegate conferences. Now there's a can of worms ...

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