What would Greta do?

Green Party leadership election: how can the party boost its influence on national politics?

“I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. […] And then I want you to act. […] I want you to act as if your house is on fire. Because it is.” 

Greta Thunberg

Few in the Green Party of England and Wales will disagree with what Greta Thunberg told assorted world leaders at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, which resonated so strongly with so many. But how can the party embody Thunberg’s clarity and sense of urgency into its effort to secure political influence?

Put bluntly, so far the pace of the Green Party’s progress towards tangible political influence at Westminster level has been incompatible with the timescale for addressing the climate and ecology emergency. When the 2019 general election result emphasised this once again, at Compass we called for a thorough and open debate within the party, one where everything is on the table.

When we speak up about the Green Party’s electoral strategy, we do so in a constructive spirit: the Good Society we strive for needs the Greens to do well. It needs a modern inclusive democracy with a proportional voting system and this – as well as transforming society to a much greener and fairer one – requires a progressive majority in our parliament.

Meaningful and Reciprocal

We’ve always been clear that for us, it’s about a plural and diverse progressive majority, not one-party rule. That is what has driven our campaigns for progressive alliances in recent years. The alliances we want to see, and help succeed, are meaningful and reciprocal, and ultimately a means to win power and introduce a fair electoral system. 

The Green Party, arguably more than any other party, has demonstrated how progressive alliances can work. At a local level, there have been resounding successes. But nationally, efforts for cross-party collaboration have thus far been thwarted by the Labour party, which seemingly continues to insist that it and it alone should be the vessel for a progressive majority and a progressive government. 

This attitude – we call it ‘Labourism’ – has been wearing thin the patience and generosity of Greens and other progressives. Sure, Labour has a fresh leadership team and internally calls for embracing electoral reform and cross-party collaboration are louder now than a year ago. But does that mean Greens and others should hold their breath and speculate on what is essentially a replacement of the Labour party’s political culture? 

Clearly not. But the question for the Green Party remains how, if not through some form of progressive alliance, it will deliver by 2024 or sooner the sort of shock to the Westminster system that befits a global house-on-fire emergency.

A bold new course

It’s a question that we’ve been exploring first within our Compass Greens network, building for example on the provocation piece that Stephen Clark wrote, saying the Green Party should make the first move to bring about open primaries. We then hosted a wider conversation, bringing in some well-articulated views from Greens who’ve come to this question from a different starting point. 

There is, for example, Martin Farley’s argument that the Green Party more effectively serves the overall progressive cause by standing candidates everywhere and taking votes from the Conservatives, than by helping to unite the progressive vote. And Molly Scott Cato argues that the Green Party should put its agenda for democratic reform first, remaining open to collaboration with others who share this agenda, but treating those in the Labour party who won’t commit to electoral reform as political opponents.

All these contributions share a sense that it’s time for the Green Party to set its own course in a bold and principled manner. That they provide different clues as to what that course could be is fine for now: the party is electing its next leadership team this month, marking the beginning of a two-year period with no nationwide election foreseen. What would Greta do?

On Tuesday, 11th August at 6pm we will be exploring the complex questions about the future of the Green Party in the Compass live podcast #ItsBloodyComplicated. We will be joined by Norwich Green Party councillor Nannette Youssef, Isle of Wight parliamentary candidate Vix Lowthion, and openDemocracy editor Adam Ramsay. Compass members can participate for free. The episode will be available to all on the Compass podcast a few days after the live recording.

2 thoughts on “What would Greta do?

  1. I support the idea of open primaries, as a means to choose a Progressive Alliance candidate in each constituency. The process should be open, transparent and inclusive , making use of both MSM and social media. Perhaps electors should be invited to opt in to such a selection process in return for a minimum financial contribution of ( say ) £1, which would contribute to financing the campaign. The only constituents ineligible might by Tory party members. Would like to talk about the issue of open primaries next Tuesday

  2. Green Party leadership election: how can the party boost its influence on national politics?

    It should aim to ‘boost its influence’ by running a campaign targeted at convincing the average person that although their present employment may alter, or disappear, during the often difficult changes required to create a sustainable society, livelihoods will be protected. This is essential in order to win people over in the battle to defeat climate change. It would also be a vote winner for the Green party as they stress the benefits of the move to more Green jobs.

    In other words the party should be working with trade unions, and others, on what will be required for a Just Transition Strategy on employment. A UBI perhaps, job guarantee schemes, a Green job subsidy, various plans to vastly expand retraining etc, etc? These and a lot more should be considered in discussions with the unions. This should be at the forefront of the party’s thinking. One might question then why the party is discussing a change to its own constitution which would require dropping the post of Trade Union Liaison Officer (TULO)?

    Furthermore, the current Green party leadership elections are indeed crucial but none of the candidates for this post has so far said anything about the need to retain the TULO.

    I don’t agree with open primaries. I don’t like the idea of Conservatives choosing Labour or Green candidates.

    There won’t be any more progressive alliances anyway until Labour commits itself to proportional representation. And without Labour’s participation any such an alliance is meaningless as it wouldn’t make any electoral difference.

    The ball is very much in Labour’s court. They can sentence us all to having the majority of governments this century being Conservative ones or they can adopt PR as policy and we can have, instead, a majority of centre left coalitions headed up by Labour. Having lost Scotland this should concentrate their minds. Or will it?

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