Green Party Leader Election Hustings

Yesterday evening I attended the Leadership Hustings in Cardiff. All four candidates were present:

An Englishman, a Scotsman, a Welshman and an Australian man went into an Irish pub ………Except three of them were women and this was no joke, but the very serious matter of working out who is the best person to take over from Caroline Lucas as Leader of the Green Party of England & Wales. I do not propose to cover the content of their addresses and answers to questions from the audience, as their views and stance on key issues can be seen on their websites (see links above).

I know of quite a lot of Greens who dislike the notion of a leader altogether, but I believe they have two key roles to play:

  1. The public face of the Party, which in these media focused times can be crucial.
  2. Strategic leadership – in terms of marshalling resources and optimising the fruits of our labours

The first point is the reason why many shy away from the notion of leaders altogether, but in the world we live in today, it would be a high risk strategy to swim against this particular tide. And I don’t think anyone could say that Caroline was not a big success in this role and thereby has been an asset to us all.

So in terms of this aspect of the role, how do the the candidates shape up?

All are highly intelligent and confident, articulate people, as I am sure you would expect, but as much as we may despise it, this aspect of the job boils down to persona, charisma and communication skills.

For me, this rules out Natalie and Pippa, for very different reasons.
Pippa has charisma in abundance, as we all know locally, but she can get a little carried away at times, meander a little, and be prone to the occasional gaffe. She is a fantastic campaigner, and great motivator, but I believe her skills are best used locally rather than on the national stage.
Natalie is a tremendous intellect and has achieved fantastic things in terms of re-shaping the national party already (especially for women), and although she is a media person (newspaper editor), her medium is the written word. I simply cannot see Natalie coming across well on TV and radio, and I believe this is a crucial consideration. She will, I am sure, be a key player in the future of the Party, but not, for me, as Leader.

So this leaves Peter and Romayne.
I have not seen or heard much of Peter before this campaign. He is a canny operator, for sure. He says the right things, and has an air of confidence and grit about him, but still manages to leave me a little cold. He needs a sprinkle of that magic ingredient, charisma. The regulation suit and shirt (thankfully no tie) do not help. He is close to the real deal, but maybe too much of a safe option. He has a great shot at becoming an MEP, and I would urge him to focus and make that his priority. The more electoral success we can muster, again, the better for all of us.
This leaves Romayne. If I am honest, Romayne was not quite at her sparkling best last night, seeming a tad weary, but she has a proven track record of electoral campaigning success (in Lewisham), national campaign leadership (with the Coalition of Resistance) and a down to earth, straight talking, feisty style that I believe will connect the best of the four with our target audience. Prominent in Green Left, she is also the most convincing Eco-socialist for me.

As for strategic leadership, they all have a lot to offer, but again, not necessarily in the Leader’s role.
Pippa has only just taken over the reigns of the Wales Green Party Leadership and, despite claiming business leadership skills, has yet to prove she has what it takes to shape an efficient Party machine. In some ways this may have come a little too early for her. I am keen to see what she can do in terms of licking Wales Green Party into shape before wishing to endorse her for national leadership.
Natalie comes across as having a strong vision of where she wants to take the Party, and I share much of the vision she lays out, but I have nagging doubts about her style and ability to carry people with her. She can be abrasive and I suspect talk of ‘making the party fit for purpose’ may not go down well with some senior figures in the Party who have brought us to where we are today.

Peter has a particularly strong vision of what is needed to help us here at the grass roots and has a strong socialist agenda in terms of human rights, housing etc., but I am unconvinced about his long term vision for the party. He talks repeatedly about being against ‘debt capitalism’ as if the right type of capitalism may be ok. I feel confident that he would help the Party develop and, as I said before, be a relatively safe pair of hands, but is this enough, I keep asking myself? One huge advantage he does have is that, with the Party constitution as it currently stands, he would probably come packaged with the very impressive Alexandra Phillips as his Deputy – http://alexfordeputy.org.uk/ . They have similar priorities and I believe Alex offers leadership skills that could effectively complement Peter’s. How well they know each other and would work together, I am not sure. (Update: please read comment below  from Caroline Allen – also a candidate for Deputy)

This again leaves me with Romayne, on balance, as my preferred choice. Romayne not only has the fullest, most rounded CV for the job, but she has the strongest socialist, anti-capitalist vision. She does not come across as a career politician, but as passionate would-be revolutionary (peaceful, of course). She also comes with a declared running mate, in Will Duckworth. Again, he provides complementary qualities and they come with an assured symbiosis between the two of them. Some may perceive them as a riskier option to Peter/Alex, but I firmly believe that we need to be more outspoken and provocative, but in a controlled and measured way. If we want to start ridding ourselves of the white, middle-class, do-gooder image, and start connecting with the disaffected, disillusioned traditional Labour voter, then it simply has to be Romayne and Will.

5 thoughts on “Green Party Leader Election Hustings

  1. Anon

    Similarly, for me it is Peter or Romayne and I think it will be Romayne getting the first preference from me. Alex Phillips looks to have been tweeting Peter a bit and both have the Liverpool connection. It pleases me as a relatively new party member that there are two leadership teams that to me are look genuinely good and I think Caroline’s decision is going to pay off.

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  2. caroline allen

    Hi,
    Interesting piece. I’m standing for Deputy Leader and should point out that Peter does not have a declared running mate.
    It is important to consider how the leadership team will work together and consider what skills the different people offer. I am standing with deep experience of policy, elections, campaigning and teamwork. I believe Peter and I would make a great team.
    You can read about people’s experiences of working with me here: http://carolinefordeputy.org/what-they-say/ and much more about my campaign at http://www.carolinefordeputy.org and do contact me with any questions on Caroline.greenparty@gmail.com
    Thanks, Caroline

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  3. Matt Sellwood

    Good post – it’s great to see people putting so much thought into their choices. For clarity, I just wanted to say that Peter isn’t endorsing anyone for Deputy Leader…Romayne and Will are the only ‘slate’ in this election. Though obviously if Peter is elected, only Alex or Caroline could be Deputy (due to the current gender balance rules).

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  4. Pingback: Elections update « Bridgend Green Party

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