I joined the Green party in early 2006, a former Labour party voter and supporter, though never a member, disillusioned with the decision to participate in the invasion of Iraq, and much else that New Labour represented. I had also become increasingly alarmed by climate change, and had discovered ecosocialism, which I thought the Green party was best placed to promote. What I found was, although somewhat disorganised, a decent party, which genuinely seemed to want to do politics differently, ethically and democratically. A sharp contrast to Labour, for sure.
Over the years though the party has embarked on journey away from the principles that I found so attractive. It probably began with the move from principle speakers to leader (or co-leaders) in 2008. I voted against the move, but accepted the result, seeing that it might get us more media attention, which was largely how it was sold to the membership. But the party did seem to be heading off on a different trajectory though, from that point.
In more recent years I started to hear more and more disturbing stories about the inner workings at the top of the party. In 2016, reports emerged of local Green parties being leaned on by the leaders, Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley, at that stage, to stand down from a by-election in Richmond, in favour of the Lib Dem candidate. The chair of one of the local parties involved, Kingston, was forced to resign after he revealed details about a £250,000 donation made to the Green party on the condition they did not stand in Richmond. This was used to pile pressure on the local parties.
In 2018, a story was published on the Left Foot Forward website, accusing Shahrar Ali, a former co deputy leader of the party, and a candidate at the time for leader, of antisemitism. The piece was written by the new editor of the site, and recently resigned Green party member, Josiah Mortimer. It featured a selectively edited video of a speech made by Shahrar Ali, which was eventually restored to its full, complete length. Was this an attempt to smear Shahrar Ali? It certainly looked like it.
In 2019, I was shocked to hear that a senior member of the Green party, at the behest of the Campaign Against Antisemitism group, had used the party’s internal complaints procedure, against Shahrar Ali. The complaint was eventually dismissed, but why did this prominent member use the internal complaints system like this? A question unfortunately never answered by the member concerned.
I got to thinking that something wasn’t really right with what was going on and started to dig deeper into things as best I could. I found that people who knew about the machinations of the party’s leadership, were only willing to speak to me about it anonymously or privately.
I contacted a former employee of the Green party, about the antisemitism complaint brought against Shahrar Ali. She did not want to go public with what she knew, but agreed with me privately when I suggested to her that ‘there is something rotten at the top of the party.’
Later in 2019, a member of one of the local parties involved in the disastrous Unite to Remain electoral pact with the Lib Dems (and Plaid Cymru) I was in touch with, told me that the national party had side-lined their party from the decision to not stand. The local party did not want to be associated by the Unite to Remain pact. Shades of the Richmond by-election.
I watched with dismay as Natalie Bennett in 2019, was given a peerage, as part of Theresa May’s resignation honours. The decision was made by the small group around leadership, with no say from the wider membership. If I’d had a vote, I probably would have voted for Natalie, but that is not point, this is all part of the undemocratic nature of the party’s hierarchy.
London Green Left blog has also learned that Rashid Nix, the equalities and diversity co-ordinator on the Green party executive (GPex), is taking two senior London Green party members to an Employment Tribunal for racial discrimination. As well as an internal victimisation case. This after the two members concerned walked out of a judicial mediation meeting between both sides of the dispute.
Whilst waiting for the internal process to begin, a story was published on, yes you guessed it, Left Foot Forward, written by Joe Lo. Both Lo and Mortimer were writers for the Bright Green website prior to Left Foot Forward. The piece looks like a crude attempt to smear Nix’s name. A tactic we have seen before used against Shahrar Ali by the same website.
Finally, someone did go public. Dee Searle, a former GPex member, who has now left the party, wrote a piece for this blog which sheds a shocking light on what goes on at the top of the Green party. It says that a small clique around the leaders and Caroline Lucas’s office, take all the decisions, are democratically unaccountable and has ‘become more ruthless and less tolerant of genuine discussion.’ I urge you to read this post, and also the comments below it where others corroborate what Dee Searle has written from their own personal experiences.
It saddens me deeply, that this is what the party has come to, but members have perhaps one more opportunity to free the party from its controlling clique, and put the party back on a decent pathway. This year’s leadership and deputy leadership elections are that opportunity. Please use your vote wisely.
I will be first preferencing Shahrar Ali for leader, and Andrea Carey-Fuller for deputy leader, who I know to be decent people, and great campaigners, but whoever members decide to vote for, please do not vote for the incumbents. The Green party needs to change, and it is in your hands if we are to have a party we can be proud of, once again.
Voting is from 3 to 31 August.