Written by David Taylor
There are any number of nautical cliches to describe the present position of the Green Party – becalmed, all at sea, in the doldrums, rudderless etc – as the present leadership seem to have learnt nothing from the missteps and strategic errors of the recent past.
These include losing members over the alliance with the Lib Dems, supporting adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) antisemitism definition, failing to defend party democracy in the face of attacks by extreme transgender activists and presiding over the Holistic Review which has centralised control so a small group make all the key party decisions. This is by no means a complete list !
The 2019 General Election result caused despair amongst progressives. A triple whammy – Johnson won, Corbyn gone, Brexit done. But morale now seems to be on the rise and the widespread lethargy and indifference fading away. There is even a glimmer of hope in the Green Party as from 3rd - 31st August the leading positions in the party are up for election so party members will have the chance to vote for change. Another bright note could be that the Greens have become the leading party on Brighton Council. But Oh, the irony !
The prize comes due to Labour councillors being suspended or resigning the whip after allegations of antisemitism, such as condemning the oppression of Palestinians or stating the obvious - that Jeremy Corbyn was the victim of an orchestrated smear campaign. If the Green Party leadership had had their way at the 2018 conference, the IHRA definition of anti-semitism would have been adopted by the party and it would be the Green councillors who would have to keep silent on the actions of the Israeli state or be suspended.
In the event the leadership panicked when they saw the way the wind was blowing and remitted their motion. Loud applause from conference for speakers opposing the motion, mainly Jewish members, was followed by a standing ovation for Shahrar Ali after his blockbuster of a speech. A link to his speech can be found here.
The Labour Party experience shows that this issue cannot be dodged. No amount of concessions were ever going to stop the attacks on Corbyn as the object was simply to get rid of him. When he did apologise the apology itself was taken as an outrageous affront and further proof of his pandering to his antisemitic supporters.
Shahrar Ali says that Israel must “be held to account for its unconscionable actions against the Palestinian people”. He has seen the Green Party become increasingly timid, or completely silent, on the matter while he himself has been subjected to racist slurs and malicious attacks.
Shahrar is standing in the election and says if elected as Green Party Leader he will continue to “speak for the rights of the oppressed against their oppressor in the best tradition of the Green Party” Shahrar looked back to 2015 when he was last a member of the Green Party leadership team and the party won a million and a quarter votes - because it had a vision. He says we need to be bold and unapologetic in talking, not just about reform, but about an ecosocialist transformation of the economy including redeployment of arms manufacturing towards wholesale renewable energy infrastructure.
Shahrar has been working to build solidarity on the ground in minority communities and for Green supporters to get more involved with Black Lives Matter. So the question is – can we move beyond our comfort zone and elect the first BAME leader of a main UK party ?
Theo Simon is standing as Trade Union Liaison Officer (TULO), a post which the GP leadership proposes to abolish. Theo says “the proposal to get rid of the TULO post is a huge political and tactical mistake. Our connection with organised Labour has probably never been more important to build on than it is now, as I believe will become apparent over the coming months. We need to leave our comfort zone and engage with the daily reality of people`s workplace struggles and the rapidly increasing membership base of our unions. We have a dog in this fight !
At the 2018 Green Party conference Theo proposed the motion “for a renewal of GPEW`s democratic structure” to address concerns that a unhealthy culture had arisen within the party. He was able to rally co-proposers from every side of the opinion spectrum in the Green Party including Dr Rupert Read, Shahrar Ali, Beatrix Campbell, Judy Maciejowski, long time GP exec member Dee Searle, veteran anti-nuke campaigners Linda & Brig Oubridge, Land magazine editor Dr Mike Hannis and over 60 others.
The motion was prompted by the actions of extreme transgender activists, which have caused many decent and tolerant members to leave the Green Party and has been a toxic distraction from more important matters. It was high time that the problem was addressed before even more harm was done and Theo Simon deserves our thanks for stepping up to the task despite the atmosphere of legal threats and intimidation surrounding the issue.
Theo is described as “a folk musician and general election candidate” - a rather understated summary ! As the 2015 General Election candidate for Somerton & Frome he said he was aiming for a 10% share of the vote. As the previous Green vote was zero this was thought to be just talk but, after a brilliant campaign, he walked the walk and secured over 9% ! I first met Theo when I was involved in booking groups for gigs and we were always guaranteed a sell out with his group Seize the Day.
They would have risen to great heights by now if Theo hadn`t been so committed to the planet and to Social Justice. Whether standing with Palestinians and Jews in Ramallah resisting Israeli occupation, being arrested at Hinkley C protests or dashing down to the Isle of Wight to back the Vestas workers who were occupying the site against the UK`s only wind turbine factory being moved to the USA - he always put the fight first. As for the music – you can hear it on www.seizetheday.org.
There is precious little time left for the changes needed if humanity is to survive on the planet. This election may be the last chance to put the Green Party back in the game, able to play a significant part in the fight for radical change. If we take this opportunity to elect Shahrar Ali as leader, Andrea Carey-Fuller as deputy leader with proven campaigners like Theo Simon on the team, we may just be able get the Green Party back on track.
David Taylor is a Green Party activist, former election candidate and a branch chair of Unite the union, and a Green Left Supporter