Apologies for quoting from Carry On Up the Jungle, but this really is quite a carry on!
I have never seen eye-to-eye with Royston North, aka Jac O’ the North, who describes himself as a right-wing nationalist. A lot of his sources are suspect at best. He once wrote of me thus: “Chyba has a background in the military or the police, and may be operating as a spy.” But hey, he is never less than entertaining and sometimes he gets hold of interesting things.
Today he has published another attack on the ‘mythical’ Wales Green Party that does at least have some substantive sources. Having left the Party after the General Election, I have had no real interest in following their activities. I am told that they, including the usually publicity-seeking Pippa Bartolotti, have been keeping a very low profile since the election anyway, no doubt licking their wounds after another poor performance at the polls. But it seems that they have been regrouping behind the scenes, devising some cunning plans for success in the Assembly elections. Thanks to Royston, those plans are now in the public domain. They are entitled: Wales Green Party Strategy 2015-17. As it is a staggering 28 pages long, I will not reproduce it, but it can be found here and as an attachment at the end of this piece.
The entire document is written anonymously except for the the last “Annex”, so let me dismiss that first of all.
Annex 2 takes up the last 12 pages and is written by Peter Varley, Elections Co-ordinator subordinaire. It his ‘number crunching’ analysis of election data that starts, as it indeed goes on, with: “I’ll start with some wild guesses about how other parties will do”. He goes to conclude from these wild guesses that: ‘Some of the implications are downright weird – for example, in MWW (Mid and West Wales), if the Corbyn bubble continues to expand, we should target Plaid Cymru, but if it bursts, we should target the Lib Dems’. Weird is the word!
He then proceeds to have a series of self-confessed ‘wild guesses’ about the Greens prospects, based on a series of highly suspect scenarios of his own devising. The statistics invariably show huge gaps that need scaling to get anywhere near to a list seat. The best he can come up with is in MWW, where he postulates that an increase from 8660 of an extra 5000 ish votes will do it. That’s as good as it gets. Yet he sees fit to conclude at the end of it all: “Based on these figures, we would probably gain two AMs, in MWW and SWC, and miss out by about 1000 votes in SWE and SWW.” Well, if “Wild Guess Pete” says it is so, that is good enough for me!
As for the rest of the document, I guess it is reasonable to conclude that a strategy document is the collective effort of the Strategy Group set up to supposedly ‘learn lessons from the General Election campaign’. The members of this ‘task force’ are listed in ‘Annex 1’, along with the group’s remit. The relatively coherent structure and vaguely academic style of the document would appear to eliminate Bartolotti and Slaughter as the main authors, but their perspectives are evident enough, and the fact that the rest of the group (bar the aforementioned Varley) are all relative newcomers with little grasp of the historical context, let alone the current realities, explains why the whole thing is so hopelessly misguided.
It shoots itself in the foot (and that may as well have been the head) right from the very outset. Key point number one states:
“Whilst the 2017 local elections are important, the current objective must be to win at least one seat in the Assembly elections. The reputation of Wales Green Party will be damaged, possibly irreparably, if we fail to do so, so all efforts must be concentrated on this.“
First and foremost, I explained just yesterday, in the PS footnote to the Compass piece, just why the 2017 local elections are all-important, and why devoting time, effort, resources, finance and members goodwill to chasing success anywhere else first is futile. But the second italicised sentence has Bartolotti’s fingerprints all over it. Substitute her name where it says Wales Green Party, and it all of a sudden becomes spot on (perhaps with the addition of ‘even more’ before the word damaged) and the thrust of the whole ‘strategy’ becomes evident. It is a last gasp attempt to salvage her reputation.
I am not going to go through it all with a fine tooth comb (the Jac O’ the North blog does a lot of this), but there are a few other things that need pointing out for their sheer blatant inaccuracy and/or stupidity.
“We will demonstrate that Labour aren’t the party people want them to be by promoting a positive Green vision, with policies and achievements at local and regional levels, is at the heart of our strategy.” (pg3)
Apart from being grammatically nonsensical, promoting a positive Green vision does NOT demonstrate anything about the Labour Party – it is a non-sequitur – especially when framed around non-existent achievements, certainly at regional level.
The very next point on page three bins the ‘Second Vote Green’ strategy that very nearly landed a list seat for Jake Griffiths in SWC in 2011 and has been successful in Scotland. It might ‘seem like a sensible tactic’ because it is a sensible tactic. Expecting strategies to yield success at the first time of asking, and binning them immediately when they don’t just emphasises the conviction that they do not have any idea what they are doing.
Stating that the Climate Change issue is their USP and then quoting stats that state only 1.9% of the Wales population has the Environment as their main issue of concern simply doesn’t stack up as part of an election strategy designed to win anything.
Suggesting Cardiff and Gwent are examples of strong local parties shows, perhaps, how quickly things can change in the few months since I left the party , but it is strength that certainly has no track record. (Cardiff went into meltdown after the 2011 campaign, and Gwent is a far flung collection of individual members that had to rely on occasional telephone conferences not so long ago.)
In the list of 2016 Assembly Election strategies (pg5), it states:
“We do not advocate a targeting strategy as this has been unsuccessful in the past, and the nature of the Assembly regional top-up system means that all regions stand some chance of success. “
Target-to-Win (TTW) is the tried and tested, almost foolproof strategy of achieving secure electoral success in the medium-to-long term. It has been successful in just about every part of England. It has not yielded results in Wales for the very simple reason that it has not been implemented anywhere consistently enough. It takes years of consistent effort. As for ‘all regions having some chance of success‘, that ranges from slim to negligible, at best. Spreading resources thinly never, ever works.
Regional Campaign Teams will seek to improve Green vote share amongst postal voters by encouraging Green voters to register for a postal vote
Since when did a Green postal vote count for more the Green ballot box vote? What a complete waste of time.
Section 4.4 – they are looking spend/waste another £56,000 + on this vanity exercise. What happened to learning the lessons of the General Election? Imagine what could be done with this by the few local parties capable of pursuing a meaningful TTW strategy. Successes in 2017 would be virtually assured.
£34,000 of this is being blown on three short-term appointments of people, with half of that going to a Campaign Manager just off the ferry from Ireland, with a return ticket booked in 6 months time and who is not even committing to stay here for the full duration of that 6 months. He must be feckin’ brilliant!
5.1.4 “A sick society makes people sick” – there’s catchy! Which parts of our sick society is that going to appeal to?
5.2 “We should be radical, honest and evidence-based. We should not be controversial for the sake of it, but if something comes up which we disagree with, we stick to our beliefs. This approach will set us apart from other parties.” The problem here is with the second part. I have already seen virtually the same statements in the materials of both Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru. I wouldn’t mind betting it is in all the others. Best not talk about Brighton Council then. As for Moral Foundations Theory ……
5.3. Other Parties (or more specifically Plaid Cymru, as it is the only one mentioned!).
Where to start here! At least it confirms that the sectarian attitudes that drove me away from the party are still there – in black and white. I quote:
“Plaid Cymru does not want a relationship with the Greens, though we have previously tried for a joint strategy” Simply wrong! Plaid have long been open to working with the Green Party. Witness the strong relationship between Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett at the GE. Leanne goes way back with Caroline Lucas too. It is Bartolotti and Slaughter that are the problem, not the Greens in general! I had secured a good working relationship with Leanne this time last year. It was my main platform in last year’s leadership election. It is therefore not just Bartolotti and Slaughter’s fault. I wrote this exactly 12 months ago today. Nothing has changed, so enough here.
As for Greens being consistent – Pippa is certainly renowned enough for that, but again I have to raise Brighton Council as undermining the the claim that Greens have never compromised their principles. (And please don’t look too closely at the records of Greens elsewhere e.g. Ireland, Australia etc.) The staggering thing here is that Bartolotti’s track record has been laid bare repeatedly, but because a lot of the revelations have been maliciously motivated, she has been excused accounting for them by her cronies on the WGP Council. Hypocrisy upon hypocrisy.
The rest of the document is largely aspirational ideas for how to run a better party. It is mostly reasonable but will mostly go undone.
So full marks for such a thorough and detailed strategy document. It is no doubt the ‘best’ strategy document, in terms of quantity if not quality’ of any party contesting next year’s Assembly elections. Sadly, documents do not win elections. It is the successful application of sound strategy that does this. It is therefore of no consequence that this document will not be enacted upon to any great extent as it is so thoroughly misguided and naive that it truly beggars belief. Throwing money at a few paid ‘officers’ is a major cop out and a tragic waste of money. They may be excellent people but they are not magicians capable of doing anything with the proverbial pig’s ear.
It is all so desperately sad. I once held high hopes for the Green Party. I still hold most of its underlying ideology close to my heart. Caroline Lucas’ success drew me into the Party and offered real hope. I am still one of her biggest fans, but she remains the only truly bright beacon of hope. GPEW is progressing meaningfully (painfully slowly but reasonably surely), in all regions bar Wales, where growth in membership numbers cannot hide the stench of stagnation in terms of political influence and electoral progress.
The imminent change of leadership, like it did for the Labour Party, offers the chance for a change of direction and a change of ethos. I know two of the candidates well enough to know that they are no Corbyn. One will offer no change whatsoever, the other will complete the destruction of the party in Wales by tearing it apart and being found to be an even bigger egotistical attention seeker than dear old Pippa. That leaves the hopes for a brighter future in the hands of the mystery candidate from Mid Wales. She has some encouraging credentials and some strong supporters. I look forward to seeing how she shapes up at the hustings on Saturday. But it is all such a perilous predicament for the party.
Despite what many will say, I wish the party well and hope to see it become the respected contributor to the left of centre alliance we need to see built in Wales. Its potential contribution would be welcomed, and only then can it even aspire to to being it’s own strapline of ‘For People, For Planet, For Wales’, rather than ‘for its own amusement’ which is what it largely is right now. It has a long, long way to go and it is to hoped that all those new members of the last 12 months do not melt away again, as quickly as they arrived, when they realise what they have signed into. The steady growth in ‘Grace’ members is a sure sign that this is already beginning to happen.
Can it turn things around? I sincerely hope so but that has to start immediately and be in evidence at its AGM on Saturday and in its choice of new leader in the next few weeks. I shall be watching with interest and just the faintest glimmer of hope.