Can a Green Party leader really “lead”?

A few thoughts on the prime contested position in this year’s Annual Elections follow below. I hope they aren’t too controversial – and I also hope they stimulate some debate. After all, before we elect anyone as our new Leader, we should probably give some thought to what they will actually be doing!

As anyone who was around at the time will remember, it took a lot of heart-wrenching effort to get a Leader/Deputy Leader model established within the Green Party. So much so that, frankly, everyone was pretty sick of the debate once the first elections had happened, and discussion about what the Leader and Deputy Leader should actually *do* rather dropped onto the backburner.

In actual fact, the Leader has little ‘hard’ power within the Party. One vote on GPEX is about the limit of their official influence, and so they rely largely on coalition building, diplomatic skills and the bully pulpit of their position. Even if they did have a significant position of power within the national Party, however, it is not clear quite how much impact that has on the day to day activities of elected Greens. Conference, after all, has seen a number of disputes over the past few years around the actions of local Green parties (the controversy over the Leeds coalition and the recent Brighton budget debate spring to mind immediately as examples). On each occasion, a significant portion of the Party has taken the view that, essentially, local parties are at least semi-autonomous and can do whatever they like.

That being the case, what exactly do we expect of our Leader? What skills will they need to help give direction and coherence to the Party, and if we continue to take the view that elected Greens and local parties can do whatever they like, can the Leader achieve much change at all?

I must say that, when being pessimistic, I do rather worry that our next Leader is going to be like John Adams to Caroline’s George Washington – that is to say, set up for a fall. Given a position with few levers of power and enormously high expectations, whomever we pick is going to have to get along with everyone in the Party and yet be able to make hard decisions at the same time – and be clever enough to make them stick. It is for this reason that I see one of the main tasks of any new Leader as renovating our internal structures and rendering them ‘fit for purpose’. At the moment we have a number of internal bodies which overlap, some which seem to do nothing at all, and a Conference which focuses a lot on passing policy for when we rise to Government – and spends not much time at all on how we are going to get there.

Good luck to whoever wins the contest…they may need it….

Leave a comment


  1. I agree although when I read the words “hard decisions” I did wonder what they might be beyond some of the collaborative budgeting on gpex and fronting the response to the occasional press scandal.

    I really do hope they give some sort of coherent direction to the party though, through good example and persuasion. We genuinely can’t go on having a leader that pays absolutely no mind to the needs of the party.

  2. Douglas Coker

     /  29/05/2012

    Jim you say … “We genuinely can’t go on having a leader that pays absolutely no mind to the needs of the party.” Care to elaborate?


  3. Yes, sure. We need to have a leader of the party who spends some of her time leading the party rather than simply being leader in name but with no time to do any actual leading. I laid all this out pretty clearly on that there Guardian a few weeks ago.

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