What sort of experience does a leader need?

I always have an uneasy feeling when people put themselves up for election to the national executive (GPEx) without having served on one of the party’s many committees first, or when people run for chair of GPEx without having experienced GPEx in another role. It might be uncharitable but I tend to think it speaks to a certain egoism, although I’m sure that’s not always the case.

I never miss an opportunity to fruitlessly prod people to stand for the various committees (Green World editorial board, SOC, policy committee, et al) partly because I think it’s a good way to learn how the national party works without having to be in the spot light. It’s also because I think being on these committees provides an insight into how much work is involved in running a party giving important experience to those thinking they might, at some later stage, run for a higher position.

For me, when I see the list of those running for GPEx I’ll be looking to see what experience they have inside the party as well as what skills they bring to the role from “real life” because, at the very least, they will need to negotiate the internal structures of the party so knowing a little bit about them will be handy.


What about the leader?

When it comes to the leader though I’m slightly more flexible. I don’t have much time for people who are only interested in being the boss and never the unsung worker but a detailed knowledge of the constitution isn’t very high on the list of essential skills.

Unlike GPEx members the job requires a certain level of charisma. They need to be able to give a convincing and credible performance on national TV and radio. They should be able to put forward an argument in a positive, informed way but be pushy enough to ensure they don’t get sidelined in some of the more robust media debates.

On a personal level they need to be able to disagree with someone without shouting at them. To be honest and straightforward in their dealings with people. They need to be able to listen to what members are saying without being frightened of challenging them. They need to be sound, which includes understanding that it’s the party that’s important, not them.

Politically I’d like to them provide a straight forward economic focus on investment for the future rather than some of the more esoteric, less accessible “theories” that we sometimes have to put up with. More than that they need to show that green politics is richer than a dry “no cuts” agenda and whilst not being single issue on the environment that this is at the heart of it’s thinking. More on the politics in later posts.

I’ll be looking for a leadership team that don’t sound like they’ve just wandered, bemused, out of a university or policy think tank whilst still having the ability to inspire with down to earth achievable politics. I’d like them to provide a vision on how we step up a gear from our yearly modest increase in councillor numbers to genuinely impressive electoral gains.

Leave a comment


  1. Becky

     /  16/05/2012

    I think this raises some interesting points. What do we look for in a leader? What is their role. The main question I’ve had going around in my mind since the announcement is –
    How do we use this as another point of difference between us and the other parties? Since the other main parties have male leaders, all of a certain age and background, would this be an opportunity for us to have someone not only charismatic and inspirational (essential) but someone who looks nothing like them? Sounds nothing like them? Someone who also defies what people think of when they hear ‘Green Party’?

  2. weggis

     /  16/05/2012

    A leader needs to be pretty, photogenic, like having their picture taken and wear a waistcoat. Do we have anybody like that?

  3. Ideally we should have a leader and deputy who have different skills. Agree that a Leader should have good media skills as well as a good grasp of our policy and a good sense of where the members and activists political passion lie. I’d like to see a deputy that does a lot of support for parties up and down the country. I’d love to see more candidates from a wider range of backgrounds.

  4. Katie, I totally agree that getting a clear division of labour between the roles would be really useful. I always thought Adrian and Caroline should have been doing an outward facing leader and more party focused deputy – not sure it worked out that way (perhaps it did) but that would have been the ideal set-up.

    I am finding myself drawn too the idea of co-leaders more and more (and I’m not normally an enthusiast for job shares) partly because they will need to find a fit with Caroline still.

    One thing we really have failed to do as a party though is actually discuss this in public or private. I’m hoping we take this opportunity to do so.

    ps waistcoats… hmmm… let me think

  5. Sandman

     /  17/05/2012

    The members of the GP are disproportionately eccentric academic types. Accordingly they prefer to pick one of their own as a leader (or principal speaker). That’s not to say that the leader figures picked are necessarily eccentric, but the members feel more comfortable to have one of their own. Hence Dr Woodin, Dr Wall, Dr Lucas. If you don’t have a PhD it helps to be a teacher, or to have gone straight into politics from studying or researching, or be a medical doctor (which confuses enough of them who think you are a doctor of political philosophy or something).
    Unfortunately, although these types are good at connecting with the core support (Mike Woodin might be one exception who could get broader support), they’re not so good at reaching out to the more unlikely supporters who are necessary to obtain significant electoral success (i.e. substantially more than 8% of the electorate on a good day).

    One good compromise candidate is Peter Cranie. Although he can connect with the common man, he might be acceptable to the eccentric academics as he is at least from a teaching background.

    My prediction is that, with Peter Cranie at the helm, the Greens will be able to sweep up vast numbers of disaffected Labour and Lib Dem supporters. At the next election, he will lead the Greens into a landslide victory. Labour will be reduced to a rump so small that they’ll be forced to make Dennis Skinner a shadow cabinet spokesperson.

    Unfortunately, though, Cranie will have problems attempting to maintain popular support from the centre left, and the core support will grow impatient with the slow progress on implementing a real Green agenda. There will be an internal putsch led by Doctors of Philosophy Dr Derek Wall, Dr Rupert Read and Dr Shahrar Ali. They will establish a form of rule inspired by Aristotle’s Philosopher Kings and govern as an unlikely Triumvirate. Peter Cranie and his supporters are placed under strict house arrest for Crimes Against Future Generations.

    The Triumvirate will achieve domestic success in tackling global warming, as Dr Wall’s eco-socialist policies produce levels of GDP not seen since before the eradication of the black death. Abroad, the Triumvirate achieves its objectives by sponsoring coups in oil-producing nations by Islamists who are so ultra-hard-line that they view oil exploration as the equivalent of peering under Allah’s skirts and therefore blasphemous.

    Unfortunately, their success attracts the ire of the Americans (which isn’t helped by their anti-American rhetoric). Persuaded by arguments that nuclear energy can be a force for good in tackling global warming, the Triumvirate launches a pre-emptive nuclear strike on America. The ensuing armageddon and subsequent nuclear winter does indeed stop further global warming, albeit with the unfortunate side effect of wiping out 90% of all life on earth.

    The remaining population of Britons, mostly comprised of radioactive mutants, is dissatisfied with this short experiment with Green government. The Tories get back in at the next election.

  6. mattsellwood

     /  17/05/2012

    Genius. :)

  7. I wouldn’t worry about getting someone who “sounds like they’ve just wandered, bemused, out of a university”. Candidates for leader have to have been a member for three years before they are allowed to run in an election held every two years, so it could be up to five years before a ‘new’ member can run. As the Young Greens mostly operate on university campuses and have very few people joining up before then, most people on three year courses haven’t yet achieved their three years of membership when they graduate. That, combined with the fact that we had huge spikes in membership around 2010 (ie two years ago) then we are unlikely to get many young candidates running in this election, apart from those who have been around for a long time.

    As an aside, this reasoning is why I hated the move to two year terms. Young and new members often join the party willing to get very involved, but find that the two year minimum (which I don’t disagree with) combined with the two year election cycle means that they can have to wait four years to get involved on a serious level (ie running for GPEx) and five years to run for leader/deputy leader. Rather oddly, one can manage to get elected to a rather powerful position of SOC Convenor without these hindrances, when constitutionally the leader actually has very little power and the SOC convenor has quite a lot. There’s also no minimum membership time to being a co-chair of the Young Greens, so one could in theory be a more powerful person in the party than the leader without these limits. This aside has gone on for longer and in a rather different direction than I expected (possibly because it’s 4am), but TL;DR The rules that stop new members from getting high positions don’t stop new members getting powerful positions, but can stop them for getting more actively involved in the party.

  8. Sandman – thank you – I really enjoyed that!

    Rustam – I was more worried about professors than students to be honest.

    On two years terms, I’m not a fan but I think you’ve misunderstood. There is a GPEx election every year so the year a member hits the two year mark they could, in theory, run for GPEx. If they were specifically interested in only one role and that was not up that year then they’d have to wait until next year. So three years max.

    However, I think newer members should be thinking about joining committees, getting involved in their branch or their region and helping the party in a host of other ways that don’t involve election to GPEx.

    Over the years I’ve seen quite a few people new to the party who’ve felt their rightful place is on the national executive, very few of them have ended up being more of a help than a hindrance. If people want to be important or powerful I’m ready and willing to vote against them :)

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