Leader/co-leaders

Green Left's questions to candidates - Answers below

1. A Campaigning Party vs Elections?
Within a flawed electoral system, are we focusing on winning elections, one by one seat, above being a Campaigning Party within the mass movement needed to fight capitalism and transform society before the climate change emergency becomes irreversible? Are we paying lip service to the warning from the brave climate change activists especially the youth who recognise time is running out?

2. An accountable Party?
How can the Green Party be an effective campaigning political party, with transparent internal democracy and accountability, supporting local party campaigns with devolved resources? Do we need delegate conferences to ensure policy is properly discussed at local level before conference decides?

3. A party that understands working-class communities?
Many people (with some progress) still see the green movement and subsequently the GPEW as being well meaning but not relevant to the everyday struggles of working people and working-class communities. How can we challenge that idea?

4. Austerity and reversing public service cuts
After over 10 years of cruel Tory austerity which has trashed public services for millions, we must restore those essential services which we all rely on. Not only the NHS and social care but all the local government services like environmental health, trading standards, pollution control, libraries, public toilets, parks etc and the Green Party has not focused on this sufficiently for several years. Do you agree?

5. The Movement for Green Jobs and a Green Socialist future
What do you know of the Trade Union backed Campaign Against Climate Change, Lucas Plan, The Million Green Jobs campaign and the Greener Jobs Alliance of trade unions? How would you work with these campaigns and ensure all parts of the party are engaging with these groups? Do understand and support what Just Transition means?

6. Are you an eco-socialist?
What does eco-socialism mean to you? What links do you see between climate change and the need for social, economic and democratic change?

7. Support native and oppressed peoples
Greens need to expand our world solidarity by working to liberate millions of indigenous peoples in the Americas, Asia: Kurdistan, Middle East, Tibet, and many parts of Africa etc. Internationalism is still too weak in Green culture. How would you improve this in the GPEW?

8.Minority rights
Do you oppose the colonialist oppression of minorities such as Kashmiris, the Uighurs and Tibetans in China, and support the Palestinian-led global campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)? Palestine solidarity groups world-wide have opposed the so-called 'IHRA definition of antisemitism' as an attack on Palestinian rights. Do you support or oppose this definition?

9. Making campaigning for PR a Green Party priority
It’s clear the electoral system is holding back Green Party advance at local and parliamentary elections. How can we campaign to convince members of the Labour Party, Trade Unions and Labour MPs to support this left democratic change to bring elections in line with other parts of the UK? Do you see this as a major priority for the Green Party in the next period?

10. Oppose Nuclear Power
Green Left is supporting a motion to the forthcoming GPEW Conference that calls on the Green Party to demand the government abandons the Hinkley Point nuclear project and plans for the follow-up Sizewell C nuclear project, including the regulated asset-based model and any further development of the hazardous and expensive nuclear power programme. The Green Party should also calls for all existing nuclear power plants to be shut down. No power sourced from nuclear should be imported - only renewable. Will you support this motion?

Rosemary Sexton

  
1. A Campaigning Party vs Elections?

My view is that there are many excellent campaigning organisations who do important work. As a political party, our role is to be the effective political voice of the movement. We are the only organisation able to get Greens into positions of political power, and ensure we have a seat at the table when important decisions are being made. That should be our main focus; if we don't prioritise winning elections, then it won't happen. 
  
2. An accountable Party?

I understand there is a consultation planned for later this year that will examine the role of the membership in proposing and accepting policy; I look forward to the result of this with interest. I will say that the current system, where only those members able to attend Conference are represented in the policy adoption process, is not fit for purpose.
  
3. A party that understands working-class communities?

This is a key tenet of my campaign to become Leader. As a party, we must do a better job of engaging with those who do not look like stereotypical Green voters. One of our wards here in Solihull contains some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England - and yet it is the safest Green ward in the country, with 84% of the votes cast in 2019. We achieved that by listening to the challenges those communities faced, and addressing their priorities. 

4. Austerity and reversing public service cuts

Yes, agree. The brutal cuts to Local Authorities have had a devastating impact on communities, and hindered the response to the COVID-19 crisis.  In my role as Spokesperson for Adult Social Care and Health, I've seen first-hand the impediment that central Government has posed to local council response to the crisis. We urgently need a better funding settlement and significant devolution of control away from Whitehall.
  
5. The Movement for Green Jobs and a Green Socialist future

I absolutely agree with the principle that the way in which we respond to the climate crisis must bring everyone with us, and doesn't disproportionately affect working class communities. We must do this by investing in Green jobs, and supporting people to transition to these from industries that will become obsolete. I believe in engaging with the people and groups affected to find solutions together, and this should be fed into our policy making.

6. Are you an eco-socialist?

I see social justice and environmental justice as crucial pillars of the Green movement. It is hard for people to care about the consequences of climate change in the future when they're not sure how they're going to pay their rent or put food on the table this week. Climate change disproportionately affects those who are least able to bear it, particularly in the global South. 
  
7. Support native and oppressed peoples

I think we should be with international organisations to better understand and raise awareness of these issues. I would seek advice from those already working in this area as to how best to support those campaigns. GPEW as a party is best-able to address this by bringing political pressure to bear on the Government of the day, in the media and (ideally!) through electoral strategy, to effect change.
  
8.Minority rights

I oppose the oppression of minorities anywhere in the world. I think it's important that every government be subject to scrutiny and held accountable for their actions. It is also important to take care that this is never allowed to become a vehicle for racist tropes or dogwhistles. As a person of Chinese heritage I've experienced this; whilst I support criticism of the Chinese government, I don't support the racism that often accompanies it. 
  
9. Making campaigning for PR a Green Party priority

I agree that this is something we should campaign strongly for; however the reality is that PR will not be adopted as the General Election voting system for at least eight years, and quite possibly far longer. It's not enough to complain about the rules - we need to get better at winning under them if we're to effectively play our part in averting the Climate Crisis.
  
10. Oppose Nuclear Power

I can't support this motion, as I believe (in line with the majority of climate and energy scientists and the IPCC) that this would be incompatible with our goals for meeting our climate change commitments. Closing down nuclear power plants in Germany has necessitated new coal fired power plants being built, which will cost lives and jeopardize the attempt to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. I am not pro-nuclear, but I am pro-evidence. 

Shahrar Ali

1. A Campaigning Party vs Elections?

Yes, we are not bold enough. As a founding signatory of Extinction Rebellion in 2018, I well understand the importance of campaigning alongside electoral politics. The two are mutually harmonious means of changing society for the good. However, like many, I am impatient at the inadequate pace of change and especially frustrated by what I see as recent missteps by our own party Leadership, including their advocacy of electoral pacts with the Lib Dems in 2019. Our focus on elections is either too narrow or corrupted by progressive alliance talk. We need to be far more ambitious about the transformative potential that comes from campaigning and how this feeds into electoral success; and, in turn, how our elected punch above their weight through campaigns in and outside the chamber. Politics is all around.


2. An accountable Party?

We are not accountable enough. I have observed and heard about too many cases of local parties, or their candidates, feeling derailed or undermined by tactical decisions being pushed from the centre – especially during general election periods, whether as a result of progressive alliances or Lib Dem pacts. Why hasn’t the election report been circulated to all members? It’s difficult to overstate the demotivation that results in our activists, too, from seeing their hard-fought political capital being squandered like that. In 2015, when I was part of the leadership team, we garnered 1.1m votes and saved our deposits in 123 seats. In 2019 the Green Party kept our deposits in just 31 seats. The loss of funds nationally can be devastating for local parties. Regarding conference, certainly improvements can be made. I generally support the Conference Voting Reform Working Group proposals for Delegate or Representative conferences, such that it becomes easier for all local parties to send delegates who will represent their views, as discussed and agreed at local meetings.

3. A party that understands working-class communities?

The COVID pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests have brought home to us more powerfully than before how our social goods are tied up with the productive labour of many of the most marginalised and poorly rewarded in society – whether BAME key workers at the sharp end of systemic health inequality and hence disproportionate risk of death, or people kept in hock to intergenerational institutional prejudice. Our campaigns for the working class must emphasise socialism, workers’ rights and UBI.

4. Austerity and reversing public service cuts

Our elected councillors are doing a sterling job of spearheading environmental projects and community actions across the country. Simon Grover, a lone Green councillor in St Albans helped set up and run an Environmental action group. Cllr Neil Laurenson persuaded Worcester City Council to install public drinking water fountains and won a motion for council to stop single-use plastic use. Councillors in Lambeth have developed a homelessness charter. The need for these actions and more are directly related to austerity cuts. Let’s develop greater synergy between these initiatives and local party campaigns, even where we don’t have councillors. I have worked alongside communities to save local libraries over many years.

5. The Movement for Green Jobs and a Green Socialist future

I absolutely support a just transition and the framework which this coalition of campaigning organisations and trade union groups – some of which I have spoken at – are developing to ensure that workers are fairly treated and supported in the move from a neo-liberal economic system to a sustainable society, moving towards carbon neutral and zero carbon economy.

6. Are you an eco-socialist?

Yes, I am. Eco-socialism recognises the interdependence of environmental, social justice, democratic and economic issues – everything is connected. Right now those least responsible for climate change are most made to suffer its harmful consequences and least able to afford the remedial action to deal with it – that’s a double injustice. Attempts to save the planet from climate change and all the other existential threats goes hand in glove with radical social, economic and democratic change to achieve a fair and equal society internationally.

7. Support native and oppressed peoples

The Global Greens Congress that shared our Autumn Conference venue in Liverpool in 2017 attracted representatives from Green Parties all over the world. It was one of the most inspiring moments of recent conferences – seeing this fantastic meeting of different cultures and peoples, all pulled together under the Green umbrella.  There is no other political movement in the world that can compare to that. My simple answer to this question is that we must expand our involvement in the Global Greens – to help build a huge and unstoppable international movement for a global fair and sustainable society.

8.Minority rights

I support self-determination of the Kashmiris who have been subjected to generations of subjugation from all sides; as I do the freedom of religious expression of Muslim Uighurs and Tibetan monks in China.

I support BDS, as per party policy, as a campaigning tool to hold Israel to account for its unconscionable actions against the Palestinian people. Therefore, I oppose the IHRA definition which would prohibit BDS and falsify legitimate criticism of Israel as anti-semitic. Year after year Israel has added to its international violations, lately with their annexation plan, and I have seen the Green Party become increasingly timid, or completely silent, on this matter. As Leader, I will continue to speak for the rights of the oppressed against their oppressor in the best tradition of the Green Party.

9. Making campaigning for PR a Green Party priority

On electoral reform, Molly Scott Cato is justifiably furious with Labour’s refusal to consider scrapping FPTP. Local party members can make the case for PR by targeting Labour Party constituencies and affiliated organisations as of priority. Labour will struggle under FPTP as it would need to secure an additional 124 seats – and that is not taking into account any potential boundary changes which will favour the Tories even more than they are now. We should not however prioritise this campaign ahead of the climate emergency; where human motivation and funds are finite, climate should be our top political priority.

10. Oppose Nuclear Power

Yes. We must campaign for the earliest possible closure of existing nuclear plants, implemented as part of a well-planned energy strategy which combines measures for promoting and subsidising renewable sources while reducing overall energy demand through retrofitting, insulating existing buildings and requiring the highest standards of energy-efficiency for new homes, appliances, devices etc. I’m astonished that any leadership candidate would want to make this an open question.



Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry (Joint Candidates)



1. A Campaigning Party vs Elections?

Our role as a political party is to win elections and to win change as part of a wider movement, and we are making strong progress on both counts, which we need to accelerate with the right strategy. 

As Green leaders we both stood alongside young activists and took part in protests alongside Extinction Rebellion, defending the right to protest to the point where Jonathan was arrested. And meanwhile our councillors and activists led the charge to get climate emergencies declared in towns and cities across the country. 

As an organisation we have become stronger too. In the original Green Surge we were not equipped to deal with this growth in size and it melted away rapidly, but over the last two years our membership has surged again, sustainably and steadily by 50 per cent, and we are winning more changes in policy, while securing beating the Conservatives in the European elections and winning more councillors in the 2019 election than in all the other elections in the party’s history put together. 

The First Past the post system for Westminster makes any General Election hard, but as a result of our clear messaging, bold policies and a strategic focus and strong support for standing in more places and holding fast against the squeeze, in 2019 we secured second or third places in 14 seats, forming the basis for future wins as we continue to gain in strength. 

We know the world can’t wait for us to be in Government under the current system, and that we need to not just win power but use the power of our voice and campaigns to win change. Equipping the next generation of Brighton Pavilions with the tools to win and becoming a mass movement working with allies to campaign and get change now is our strategy for the next two years. And as co-leaders our role in the media will be to make clear that nothing less than system change is needed both to address rampant inequality and deal with the climate and ecological emergency.

2. An accountable Party?

When Jonathan was elected co-leader in 2016 he did so on a platform of supporting change in our party structures, with more democratic participation and the infrastructure, mission and ability to become a mass membership movement. 

The changes supported by members in the Holistic Review are the right ones to make governance clearer, more accountable and more democratic and a joint proposal from the current governing bodies for a new constitution to vote on within the next six months is underway. The second review that was set up in 2016 was to look at conference voting as we grow in membership under a set of conference rules that haven’t really changed since 1991, and the party is now consulting members on how we change this. 

It cannot be right that a thousand members who are able to physically get to conference decide policy for a party of over 50,000. So we support the use of online voting during conference. Widening involvement should be positive in terms of promoting debate and discussion of policy proposals, and we hope that local and regional parties will become more engaged in the process as a result, helping to bring more of their members into our decisions. The other main option - with delegates voting on behalf of other members doesn’t seem to us to be democratic enough. 

3. A party that understands working-class communities?

Jonathan has written and campaigned against Hinkley and new nuclear consistently over the last few years, including going to Wylfa in Anglesey on the day after winning the leadership with Sian in 2018.    
  The instant reaction of some might be just to say that we need to show how our policies would impact them, and how social justice and environmental justice are two sides of the same coin. But this is simply not enough.  We need to earn the right to their vote, not just expect it.  That means taking up issues of principle on the ground, in our casework and campaigns, which come to us from the struggles of working class and excluded communities. This is something far too few Labour councils do, as shown by the appalling attitudes to people in council housing betrayed by the Grenfell disaster and the continued demolition of estates in London.  This is a message that we have been delivering to local parties.

The work of Sian in City Hall on renters rights and winning ballots for estates from the current Mayor, and the achievements of Jonathan’s growing councillor team in Lambeth are examples of how this can work - winning change and strong reputations on new issues, as well as new votes and new elected Greens. 

In Lambeth the Green Party has become the party of the estates and sheltered housing, defending them against demolition at the hands of Lambeth Council. In 2012 we asked residents what we could do for them, and some in sheltered housing came to us and asked us to defend their homes from demolition. We saved their homes.  And now they vote for us and we have three councillors in that ward   In a by-election in Lambeth the Greens went from fourth place to second, in Labour’s safest seat in the borough, because they were defending the estate there.  We then won that seat in 2018 and Greens are now the official opposition in the borough. 

4. Austerity and reversing public service cuts

We completely agree that austerity was wrong in every sense and that public services should have been invested in and maintained. The party and all its spokespeople speak constantly about the devastation of a decade of cuts and the damage this has caused and about the economic mistake that this has been. Please watch our conference speeches since we were elected to see the evidence for this. Many Green councillors and spokespeople in fact have current or former careers in public service roles like education, housing and environmental services and have a real passion for fighting cuts that have affected the people they have served.

Green councillors all across the country are also well known for their work protecting libraries and community centres, in the London Assembly public toilets have been a breakthrough issue for us in recent years, and Sian has a huge reputation in the youth work sector for her research every year exposing the impact of youth service cuts in London, which forced the current Mayor to step in with a new fund to fill part of the hole and reduce the harm this was causing. 

During the coronavirus crisis, as co-leaders, we have stepped up our dialogue with the Association of Green Councillors with regular new zoom calls and this work - and our proposals for leaving no-one behind as recovery is planned, is based on their experience and their evidence from the grassroots.  

5. The Movement for Green Jobs and a Green Socialist future

Yes, we are both familiar with these groups. (They are important allies, although our own party’s proposals were bigger than this in the 2019 manifesto, with many more than a million green jobs. Real system change is going to take a lot more!) They are some of the key actors in the movement that we want to build and their links to workers and the perspective on the ground are vital. The Lucas plan was a seminal document in laying down the challenge and possibilities for a just transition. CAAT have done some similar work, as have many others since in how industry can be transformed.

One of the points we have been making over the last few months is how the response to the coronavirus pandemic has shown how we can adapt and change very quickly when there is an emergency.  One of the charges levelled at us as a party during the general election was that our plans were too ambitious and industry couldn’t change in the timescale that we were proposing. Now we have seen that huge change is possible.  But it has also highlighted the need for a basic income - which we included in our proposals for a Green New Deal and were proud to include as a costed proposal for the first time in our 2019 manifesto. Workers must be protected completely in the face of the huge and rapid just transition that is needed and a basic income for all is the way to ensure that.

6. Are you an eco-socialist?

Sian says: I joined the Greens in 2001 precisely because we were the only party making the links between social justice and the need for a healthy planet, while all the other parties saw these as either/or. This link - this key message about system change - is at the core of ecosocialism. I also admire the focus of most ecosocialists on local empowerment and action that builds resilience within communities as well as ‘traditional’ socialist principles like democratic public control of essential services and industries.

Jonathan says: The need to tackle the climate emergency and the ravaging of the planet cannot be separated from the economic system that drives it and the rampant inequality that results. For me this is what being an ecosocialist is about and right now is the moment to be shouting loudly about it. People need more than a choice between Monetarism and Keynsianism. What Labour is offering is neither radical nor ecosocialist. What we offer should be clearly different and mean systemic change.

7. Support native and oppressed peoples

We agree that the party should do much more to share international news and solidarity with our members. One of our most difficult practical problems in recent years has been the rapid increase in membership which has outgrown and strained all the digital and information infrastructure within HQ’s systems. This sounds mundane and simple to fix, but it has taken a new digital team and significant resource to get to where we are now. But the good news is that Action Network (which grew out of the progressive movement in the USA and is not available to right wing causes!) and imminent improvements to our web systems will be a really solid basis for new work. It will not just enable our international coordinators and committee to tell members about our global movement, but also let members campaign and take part in real solidarity actions with our comrades abroad. We agree too that we must be far more internationalist and we have set this out as a key part of where we want to see the party go. 

8.Minority rights

Green policies, campaigns and our elected politicians with international roles support the principle of self determination and abhor the oppression of minority groups in those examples and many others. We support the Green policy of supporting tactics within the BDS campaign, and can see how important it is for those in Palestine and for minority and opposition groups within Israel to see a growing movement of awareness and true solidarity to win peace, self determination and a secure future for both countries, as Green policy also supports. 

We have both supported the use of the IHRA guidelines in our own councils as a way to avoid antisemitism within legitimate campaigning against the actions of the Israeli government, and we have also supported the adoption of similar definitions of Islamophobia. The fact is that too much hate speech is couched in stereotypes and tropes which risk increasing in volume on platforms like social media, and people need to be educated about these dogwhistle aspects of racism and know how to avoid them. 
There is no contradiction here and much evidence of good, fair criticism of Israel that doesn’t come anywhere near to crossing these lines. 

9. Making campaigning for PR a Green Party priority

Change the electoral system and you change lives.  It is that clear.  So we are absolutely committed to continuing our work to change the electoral system at every level. We are constantly working with Makes Votes Matter and the Electoral Reform Society (Jonathan was vice-chair of the ERS) to look at how we can bring the change we need together, and also build the wider movement for electoral reform. 

In terms of the Green Party’s specific role, it clearly has a major role to play in bringing pressure to bear on the Labour Party (and others) to adopt electoral reform. And one of the best ways the Green Party can do this is to increase its own vote share!

This is also important because if there is no general election until 2024, according to the Electoral Reform Society and others, the earliest that any new Government could introduce PR would be 2026. With a referendum it could be later. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. But in the face of the climate emergency and the system change that is required now, we cannot wait around to change the voting system to get the wider change that we urgently need.

10. Oppose Nuclear Power

Yes.  We must have an evidence-based approach to public policy and it’s clear that new nuclear power stations take a huge ecological toll, take far too long to be built when the climate emergency is urgent, are hugely expensive, a distraction from developing renewable energy at scale and is unnecessary now that the old 20th Century ‘baseload’ argument has been discredited. The nuclear industry has become adept at winning itself contracts with inordinate guaranteed amounts of subsidy, which are not good value by anyone’s measure but also fail to deliver on time or within budget and leave the companies involved with no real long-term responsibility for clean up or waste. There is a large amount of evidence that the crucial factors in securing these terrible deals are vested interests and links to a nuclear weapons industry which the Green Party also opposes.


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