What happens to the leadership “losers”?

When thinking about whether to run prospective leadership candidates will probably be wondering about the consequences of running and losing. Will a leadership defeat hurt their status in the party? Will they be drummed out for daring to stand, or will a plucky but unsuccessful challenge be just what they need to build their profile and move on to bigger and better things?

Well, as a public service, why don’t we take a look at the winners and losers of the last six years (two leadership elections and two principle speaker elections… or is that principal, I can never remember).


Leader: Caroline Lucas (unopposed)

Deputy Leader: Adrian Ramsay (elected) vs Derek Wall


Leader: Caroline Lucas (elected) vs Ashley Gunstock

Deputy leader: Adrian Ramsay (unopposed)


PS Male: Derek Wall (elected) vs Darren Johnson vs Ashley Gunstock

PS Female: Caroline Lucas (elected) vs Jenny Jones


PS Male: Derek Wall (elected) vs Keith Taylor vs Ashley Gunstock

PS Female: Sian Berry (unopposed)

So, by my count that’s five unsuccessful candidates in six years (or over for elections). Let’s see how they’ve done since.

Derek Wall: he stood and lost in the deputy leadership election two years ago and has since a) come third in the South East European list slot (which for those who aren’t sure is very high) and came a close second for party chair last year. It appears that losing the deputy leader election did him no harm what so ever.

Ashley Gunstock: or him off The Bill as we know him, is pretty much where he was before he stood for the top job every year. He neither lost anything nor gained anything as far as I can tell. He finally gave up in 2010 – but perhaps 2012 will be his year. Will we see him in the race again? I hope so!

Darren Johnson: a surprise loser in the 2007 Principal Speaker election Darren went on to lead the recent London election campaign and got convincingly reselected to stand in said election meaning he remains a London Assembly Member. Losing that election clearly did him no political harm.

Jenny Jones: in the run up to the leadership referendum Jenny stood as an “anti-leader” contender against Caroline Lucas and, from memory, lost by a mile. Since then she was selected to be London’s Mayoral candidate, so it didn’t do her much harm either.

Keith Taylor: this one’s more tricky. Keith went on to become one of our two MEP’s so no set back there you would have thought. However, that road wasn’t easy. Having lost the top party job he then lost the selection to be Brighton Pavilion’s first Green MP in a place where he was one of a small number of people who had actually made getting a Green MP a real possibility. That must have been a painful blow to know that colleagues he’d been working with constructively for years voted against him.

I’ve no intention of revisiting the rights and wrongs of that selection but the vote was a reasonably tight 55% to 45%, and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say had he not been hit by bad local press reports of losing the PS election he may well have retained the Parliamentary selection over “outsider” Caroline Lucas. Whether that means he would have been our first MP instead of Caroline is unknowable.

The final reckoning

By my count that makes one person stood still after losing, three people had flourishing party “careers” and one ended up as one of the top elected officials of the Green Party despite trials and tribulations.

So, if you’re thinking of running for leader or deputy leader and are worrying that losing may see your stock diminish in the party history suggests otherwise. All bar Ashley Gunstock have won prestigious internal elections since their defeats.

People can come out of elections in a worse position than they entered them, but this is almost always because they behave badly during the election never simply because they lost.

Leave a comment


  1. Principal. Principal. Principal Speaker. But the BBC couldn’t get it right, so you’re excused…

  2. Edited, thanks.

    So principle is like ethics and principal is like first yes?

    OK. So I shall remember with e for ethics and with an a for the A Team. Simple really.

  3. Douglas Coker

     /  29/05/2012

    Plenty of scope for upsetting people with a post like this. I think you’ve been rather even handed. Well done.


  4. Just trying to stick to the facts – and also attempting to preserve some institutional memory before the past gets entirely forgotten!

  5. weggis

     /  29/05/2012

    Well, I bumped into Ashley this afternoon in Tescos (spilling Mustard Picallili all over the floor, not sure if that was just clumsiness or some form of direct Action?) and I asked him why it is that he always seems to play dark satanic roles – the devil himself, Pure Evil and his last Hellbound? He said he was now looking for some light comedy role …..

  6. I really hope that means what I think it means…

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