Green Party MEPs have led campaigns in a number of areas I care about, including climate change, digital rights and employment rights. Jeam Lambert has led the charge on behalf of London since 1999, but I feel it is time to give a new person a crack of the whip. I believe that person should be Caroline Allen.
I am writing this in a purely personal capacity, unconnected to my elected roles in my local party and the London Fed.
When looking through the candidates’ materials, I was looking for a few qualities:
1. Strong understanding of complex policy to ensure they really can engage with and influence technical debates at the European level – Caroline has impressed me with her policy work for the national party, particularly in navigating through choppy waters around the science of GM and animal welfare to ensure we have a credible line, meaning we can actually have some influence. I think she would quickly get up to speed with her policy brief as an MEP.
2. The right approach to being an MEP – I like her combination of fiery radical rhetoric, engagement with London’s communities, and crucially her aptitude to “bring people together to work effectively and efficiently towards a common goal”. Politicians need to be radical pragmatists, able to see practical ways of furthering radical policy aims. I don’t want a Green version of UKIP, ever so principled but wholly ineffective at influencing an institution that has achieved so much for environmental and social justice, but nor do I want a wishy washy Green version of a Lib Dem just trying to win on anything and forgetting our deep critique of the austerity/free market project! There’s no use in an MEP who just talks to Greens, but also little use making links with other community groups if one doesn’t bring those connections back to the party. I think Caroline strikes roughly the right balance.
3. A proven track record in election campaigns – Caroline very nearly came second in the North East constituency for the London Assembly elections, gaining a record 30,000 votes. This brilliant result was in part down to her great work on the campaign, working closely with local parties to mobilise activists, gain lots and lots of media coverage and present a very credible face for the party at public events.
4. A party trooper – Caroline has involved herself in many parts of the Green Party. She has been active in her local patch in Islington, worked hard at the London level in recent years to make the regional party more effective, and dedicated herself to the thankless task of steering through major national policy reviews for which the entire membership should be thankful. I take from this that she will really dedicate herself not just to her formal role as an MEP, but also to the party, bringing all her work, experience and enthusiasm to bear.
Incumbents always have a huge advantage in these elections, partly because they are already well known to members through their work, and partly because members are naturally cautious of throwing out an experienced politician they know in favour of someone they know much less well. But I am very confident that Caroline could get stuck into the work of an MEP and do as good a job as Jean, if not better.
Sometimes it is good to keep experienced people in place. They have connections and they know what they’re doing. I’m not a fan of requiring people to step down just because others want a go. I would only advocate an experienced person stepping down if I thought there was a really good candidate to take their place. Caroline is definitely that really good candidate.
None of this is an implied criticism or Jean, or other candidates, many of whom I have had the pleasure to work with. I simply think Caroline is the best person for the job, and I hope we can see her elected to the European Parliament in 2014.