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The Green leadership debate 1991

26.3.91

The current problems of finance and organisation within the Green Party stem not so much from any particular real inefficiency but from the simple fact that we are very much alone. Other parties can make thumping losses, drastic errors, disgusting proposals etc and get away with it just because it is traditionally expected of a politician. But, a Green politician, which is perhaps a contradiction in terms, has to be super human. Faultless, selfless, utterly open minded and fully informed. This is a very great burden to shoulder and yet the Greens in their many forms have raised public awareness from nothing to the point where the other parties and even the media are forced to take notice.

The Greens have done well to achieve as much as they have with very limited resources and less media support but we know the party is far from perfect. The problems of existing as a political entity in the 'real world' have to be firmly addressed. The shake up that Jonathan Porrit calls for in our organisation has been much need and I as a prospective parliamentary candidate welcome it unreservedly. However his actions have raised a dust cloud of confusion in the press that could hide some of the important basic issues.

Stupidly the leadership question has become a head on clash between the aspects of inflexible authoritarianism in the standard party system and the dangers of an utterly disorganised shambles of 100% democracy. The former results in the passing of laws that only benefit the law makers, the latter results in nothing being done at all. The situation is neither that clear cut nor that simple because a 'party line' as such on any matter can not exist for the Greens. For other parties any deviation from an implicitly correct 'line' has to be totally wrong. But for us there is always an organic and flexible answer to hand. In this case we should find the sensible middle ground of co-operation. This should not be seen as a half baked compromise between working alternatives with bits of both but with the advantages of neither. It would be and indeed is the practical working position between two untenable positions.

What though of co-operation and leadership? Are these concepts as incompatible as 'green' and 'party'? I believe not. Look at the way co- operatively operated businesses can run. Each member has a position in the structure that is valuable but not necessarily unique to them. The job has to be done but the merits of the jobs are not vertically ordered but of equal importance (if not of equal simplicity) to the running of the whole. Each job often requires a specialist. In the Green Party a leader should be seen as the person doing the three specialist jobs of communication, consolidation and mediation. For this they need to be well as suited and fully informed as possible. The great time and effort this takes should not have to be spent by everyone in the organisation. Only someone with full information, ability and backing can be in the position to lead in the traditionally accepted sense and resources being limited we can only afford a few well chosen specialists for this particular job. Therefore we need 'leaders'.

In our party it is not often up to a leader, councillor, MP etc to make decisions unaided but when the situation arises they should be willing and indeed able use the known wishes of the party rather than act on personal preference (although often the two are very similar).

What if we should choose wrong? At the moment if an elected representative acts outside of their mandate there is nothing the electors can do except wait until the next chance to vote them out. For the Greens the answer is Recall. Under the 12 point Citizens Charter launched this week all Green politicians councillors and leaders are required to submit themselves to recall from office if the people they represent feel dissatisfied. Other parties could consider this to be a hobbling restriction on the running of government, always having to look over their shoulder to see if they are doing the right thing or face loosing power. But that is true democracy, not the clinging on to power for years, doing what is politically expedient and then sweetening the pill just before an election. We have greater faith in both the good will of our leaders and the sanity of our members and the rest of the electorate. We are more than willing to put this radical new approach to the test of the voters.

Cooperation, communication and specialisation will keep the Greens together as a political entity and at the same time let in a more festive 'party' atmosphere. After all, with our act really together we will surely have something to celebrate.

Interesting...