With the autumn conference weeks away, some of the candidates have started to make noises to get voted onto the Green Party Executive (GPEx). As a soon-to-be-ex member of GPEx I thought I’d share some thoughts on criticisms that candidates are making in their bid to replace standing members. Read on, they’re quite long!
If Jason and Rupert replace Tracy I really hope they continue her very strong work on building up that “glossy” stuff they don’t seem to like. The election broadcast video won us amazing plaudits from the media; mailing lists, twitter and blogs were flooded with positive comments from friends and onlookers. It’s easy to say “we will focus on everything” but much harder to square that with a very limited budget.
It is also a shame when candidates make thinly veiled attacks against standing GPEx members without just naming them and giving them a fair hearing. Staffing decisions are always complicated, and encompass personal as well as professional issues. Working with very small budgets that fluctuate rapidly around elections, with a party office struggling under the weight of many historic shortcomings, is always going to be tough. If Tracy puts in more than her 17 volunteer hours per week we should thank her, not complain!
It’s easy to criticise from the outside. I was very critical of People & Planet‘s office when running to be on their Management Committee. But two years working with fellow committee members and staff gave me a bit more respect for the office and humility in my critique.
Some party activists are making a lot of noise about more transparent communication. Iit’s tricky to balance rapid communications with the need to ensure, for example, that everyone is happy with the minutes from a meeting. Reporting before the minutes are agreed is a great way to start rumours and promote factional rifts. That said, I hope more candidates make use of Twitter and blogs round the year to involve members in developing ideas and resources.
I really hope that the next GPEx can find the time to be praoctive about three key issues: more online community building to support our target constituencies’ campaigns; getting relevant, punchy messages into the public eye without resorting to gimmicks that can backfire; and improving the standard of our policy in certain key areas like health.
Finally, on a personal note, why am I not standing? I was co-opted into the role of Campaigns Coordinator for the national Executive of the Green Party (England & Wales) earlier this year. It has been a really fascinating experience, both in participating in GPEx meetings and in shaping a campaigning strategy for the party. I’m not running to continue in the role because I’ll soon be working at the GLA for our two Green Assembly members, and wouldn’t be able to devote enough time to campaigns without breaking GLA rules or giving up any personal life fun!
I hope to carry on developing resources that help local parties run effective, focused campaigns. I’ll be happy to support the new Campaigns Coordinator, who can then focus on making our national coordination about a bit more than the occasional demo in central London.
Thanks, Tom! Interesting post – and thanks for your good work this year. I’m sorry you are standing down.
One point of clarification: It is NOT true at all that Jason and I don’t like glossy profile pieces. We like them a lot (so long as they are done well and sensitively)! And I have specifically gone out of my way to praise the PEB this year: http://rupertjason.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/credit-where-credit-is-due/ . …The point is, as explained briefly there (and at our Manifesto: http://rupertjason.wordpress.com/our-manifesto-for-external-communications/ ), that we cannot rely on keeping our noses clean and on glossy profile pieces. That isn’t a winning strategy. We need to actually _do_ things; and we need sometimes to take risks: see http://rupertjason.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/crisis-opportunity/ for some examples.
In the expenses crisis, for instance, we lagged behind the curve, and we didn’t come out with any policy initiatives or electoral initiatives or even any visual ‘stunts’. That is probably why we failed to gain new MEPs, in a situation that couldn’t have been riper for such gains (See http://rupertjason.wordpress.com/2009/07/30/the-2009-euro-elections-a-missed-opportunity-for-greens/ ).
Hi Rupert, I’m glad to hear you’re still in favour of the glossy stuff.
On responding to the crises we’ve faced recently – most notable the recession and expenses – I have a couple of suggestions.
First, a large part of the Ext Comms job is making good links with national media journalists to get us more exposure. They’re very, very snobby and Tracy plus others have done amazing work in getting us far more regular access. I’ve seen several journalists derisively describe the Green Party as the media’s darlings, suggesting our media presence isn’t justify by our votes!
Second, we’re not very good at rapidly putting together well considered policy proposals. We either sound gimmicky and tokenistic – as, I’m afraid, with the whole Norwich “fat cats” campaign – or we have a good idea with no story of how the government could implement it (e.g. local banks) to make us sound serious. That’s not helped by the fact that getting one or two MPs into Westminster, or a few more MEPs into Brussels/Strasbourg, is hardly going to enable us to make that huge change. We need to somehow articulate the impact that a little more representation could have. I love the Westminster project message that “a Green is doing to have far more of an impact than one more Labour MP”, for example.
As Rupert says, it’s about balance. Glossy stuff alone is not going to win us the seats.
I don’t agree that a large part of the Ext Comms job is making good links with national media journalists. While of course Executive members should support those kinds of goals, it is up to the professional staff we have to deliver on those tasks. Executive members should be setting the strategy and goals, not doing the day-to-day work.
I do very much agree that we haven’t been good enough at rapid generation of positive policy proposals. We need to make sure we can get better at that while staying true to our democratic values. I really like the ‘one more Labour MP… etc’ message too.
But I must make a stand for the ‘fat cats’. In Brighton & Hove we used them and it was our most popular leafelt in YEARS. Activists loved them and delivered far more than usual due to their passion for the message. Voters responded very well (31.3% Green!!!) and on the streets the response was great. My favourite moment from the 2009 Euros was handing out fat cat leaflets in central Brighton. Zoe Ball walked past me, stopped and comes back saying “Actually I really want one of those!” and took one.
Final geeky point, could you use the gpex09 tag as I’m encouraging people to search for that to see the election debate from all s
Tracy has been great to work with, those of us with long experience of the press office including Darren Johnson, Jean Lambert, Jenny Jones and Caroline Lucas will be voting for her.
Why Twitter rather than identi.ca and other OMB sites? Support FOSS rather than corporate-controlled walled gardens.
Great to see candidates using WordPress, though!
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