Green Party of England and Wales

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Green Party of England and Wales
Leader Natalie Bennett
Deputy leaders Amelia Womack
Shahrar Ali
Founded 1990 (1990)
Preceded by Green Party
Headquarters Development House,
56-64 Leonard Street, London, EC2A 4LT
Youth wing Young Greens of England and Wales
Membership  (2015) Increase 60,000+ [1]
Ideology Green politics
Eco-socialism
Political position Left-wing [2] to Centre-left [3]
International affiliation Global Greens
European affiliation European Green Party
European Parliament group The Greens–European Free Alliance
Colours      Green
House of Commons English & Welsh seats
1 / 573
House of Lords
1 / 724
European Parliament English & Welsh seats
3 / 64
London Assembly
2 / 25
Welsh Assembly
0 / 60
Local government (England & Wales) [4]
172 / 20,565
Website
www.greenparty.org.uk
Part of a series on
Green politics
Sunflower symbol

The Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW; Welsh: Plaid Werdd Cymru a Lloegr) is a political party in England and Wales.

It is the largest Green party in the United Kingdom and contains various regional divisions, including the semi-autonomous Wales Green Party. The party has one Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, Caroline Lucas, who represents the constituency of Brighton Pavilion.[5] Lucas was the party's first leader, serving from 2008 until 2012, when she was succeeded by Natalie Bennett.[6][7] The Green Party also has one life peer, three Members of the European Parliament, two members of the London Assembly, and a small number of councillors on various local councils in England and Wales.[4][8][9][10]

The Green Party of England and Wales was created in 1990 when the former Green Party split into separate parties: Scottish Green Party, Green Party in Northern Ireland, and England & Wales. The party is affiliated to the Global Greens and the European Green Party. It has often been viewed as a 'single issue' environmentalist party, but while it still maintains its environmental policies and political ecology, it also has a history of support for communitarian economic policies, including well-funded, locally controlled public services within the confines of a steady state economy, and it supports proportional representation.[11] It also takes a progressive approach to social policies such as animal rights, LGBT rights and drug policy reform, and believes strongly in nonviolence, basic material security, and democratic participation.[12]

History

Origins

The Green Party of England and Wales has its origins in the PEOPLE Party started in 1972 in Coventry.[13] The impetus for this group were husband and wife, Lesley and Tony Whittaker (the latter formerly a Councillor for the Conservative Party) being inspired by Paul R. Ehrlich's work on human overpopulation published by the Sierra Club, known as The Population Bomb. They were supported by Edward Goldsmith, editor of The Ecologist; their original manifesto was based on his A Blueprint for Survival.

It changed its name to The Ecology Party in 1975, and to the Green Party in 1985. In 1990, the party split into the Green Party of England and Wales, the Scottish Green Party, and the Green Party of Northern Ireland, although it is registered with the Electoral Commission as simply the Green Party.[14]

Early gains

In the 1989 European elections, the Green Party polled 15% of the vote but did not return a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). The Party returned its first MEPs at the 1999 European elections; the first to be held using a proportional system. The party returned two MEPs, Caroline Lucas (South East England)[15] and Jean Lambert (London).[16] At the inaugural London Assembly Elections, the party returned three Assembly Members (AM). At the General Election of 2001 they polled 0.63% of the vote and held their deposit in ten seats. At the 2004 London Assembly Elections the party lost one AM, returning two AMs. At the 2004 European Parliamentary elections the party returned 2 MEPS the same as in 1999; overall, the Party polled 1,033,093 votes.[17] In the 2005 General Election the Green Party polled 281,780 votes but again did not win any seats.

Caroline Lucas (2008–12)

Caroline Lucas speaking as the first Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales at its autumn conference in 2008.

The party held its first leadership election in September 2008. This replaced the previous system of principal speakers. Lucas was elected leader, and Adrian Ramsay deputy leader.[18] In the party's first election with Lucas as leader, it retained both its MEPs in the 2009 European elections.

In the 2010 General Election, the party returned its first Member of Parliament (MP). Caroline Lucas was returned as MP for the seat of Brighton Pavilion.[19] Following the election, Keith Taylor succeeded her as MEP for South East England. They also saved their deposit in Hove and Brighton Kempton.[20]

In the 2011 local government elections in England and Wales, the Green Party in Brighton and Hove took minority control of the City Council by winning 23 seats, 5 short of an overall majority.

At the 2012 local government elections the Green Party gained 5 seats and retained both AMs at the 2012 London Assembly election. At the London Mayoral Election the party's candidate Jenny Jones finished third and lost her deposit.

In May 2012, Lucas announced that she would not seek re-election to the post of party leader.[21]

A leadership election took place in August and September 2012. The result was declared on 3 September 2012. Natalie Bennett was elected leader and Will Duckworth deputy leader.[22]

Natalie Bennett (2012–)

The 2013 local government elections saw overall gains of 5 seats. The Party returned representation for the first time on the councils of Cornwall, Devon and Essex.

At the local government elections the following year, the Greens gained 18 seats overall.[23] In London, the party won four seats, a gain of two, holding seats in Camden[24] and Lewisham,[25] and gaining seats in Islington[26] and Lambeth.[27]

Amelia Womack and Shahrar Ali were voted deputy leaders in 2014

At the 2014 European elections the Green Party finished fourth, above the Liberal Democrats, winning over 1.2 million votes.[28] The party increased its European Parliament representation, gaining one seat in the South West England region.[29]

In September 2014, the Green Party held its biennial leadership elections. Incumbent leader Natalie Bennett ran uncontested and retained her status as party leader. The election also saw a change in the elective format for position of deputy leader. The party opted to elect two, gender-balanced deputy leaders, instead of just one. Amelia Womack and Shahrar Ali won the two positions, succeeding former deputy leader Will Duckworth.[30]

The party announced in October 2014 that Green candidates would be standing for parliament in at least 75% of constituencies in the 2015 General Election. In the 2010 General Election, they contested roughly 50% of seats.[31] Following its rapid increase in membership and support, the Green Party also announced it was targeting twelve key seats for the 2015 General Election. These seats were its one current seat, Brighton Pavilion, held by Caroline Lucas since 2010; Norwich South, a Liberal Democrat seat where June 2014 polling put the Greens in second place behind Labour;[32] Bristol West, another Liberal Democrat seat, where they are targeting the student vote; St. Ives, where they received an average of 18% of the vote in county elections; Sheffield Central; Liverpool Riverside; Oxford East; Solihull; Reading East; and three more seats with high student populations - York Central, Cambridge, and Holborn and St. Pancras, where leader Natalie Bennett is standing as the candidate.[33]

In December 2014, the Green Party announced that it had more than doubled its overall membership from 1 January that year to 30,809.[34] This reflected the increase seen in opinion polls in 2014, with Green Party voting intentions trebling from 2-3% at the start of the year, to 7-8% at the end of the year, on many occasions, coming in fourth place with YouGov's national polls, ahead of the Liberal Democrats, and gaining over 25% of the vote with 18-24 year olds.[35][36] This rapid increase in support for the party is referred to by media as the "Green Surge".[37][38][39] The hashtag "#GreenSurge" has also been popular on social media (such as Twitter) from Green Party members and supporters,[40] On 15 January 2015, the combined green party membership in the UK stood at 44,713; greater than the number of members of UKIP (at 41,943) and the Liberal Democrats (at 44,576).[41]

Polling subsequently fell back as the 2015 general election approached:[42] a Press Association poll of polls on 3 April, for example, put the Greens fifth with 5.4%.[43]

Electoral representation

A map showing the representation of the Green Party at various levels of English local government as of May 2014. Counties, including Greater London, are in light green; districts, boroughs and unitary authorities are in dark green.

The party has one Member of Parliament, one member of the House of Lords, three Members of the European Parliament and two Members of the London Assembly.[44][45]

The party has representation at local government level in England. The party has limited representation on most councils on which it is represented, and is in minority control of Brighton and Hove City Council. The party has no majority control of any councils in England and Wales.[4][9][46]

Policy

"Welfare not Warfare" sign, indicating the Green Party's policy towards social justice and non-violence

The Party publishes a full set of its policies, as approved by successive party conferences,collectively entitled "Policies for a Sustainable Society" (originally "The Manifesto for a Sustainable Society" before February 2010).[47] This manifesto was summarised by LGBT and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell as "radical socialist", "incorporat[ing] key socialist values" as it "rejects privatisation, free market economics and globalisation, and includes commitments to public ownership, workers' rights, economic democracy, progressive taxation and the redistribution of wealth and power".[48]

The party also publishes a timely manifesto for each of its election campaigns.[47] In their most recent Election Manifesto, for the 2015 General Election, the Greens outlined many new policies, including a Robin Hood tax on banks and a new 60% tax on those earning over £150,000. [49]

Core values

The ten core values set out by the Green Party policy document in February 2015 can be summarised as follows:[12]

  1. Commitment to social justice and environmentalism, supporting a "radical transformation of society for the benefit of all, and for the planet as a whole". The threats to economic, social and racial wellbeing are considered "part of the same problem" and "solving one of these crises cannot be achieved without solving the others."
  2. Preservation of other species, because the human race "depends on the diversity of the natural world for its existence".
  3. "A sustainable society" to guarantee humanity's long-term future, given that physical resources are finite.
  4. "Basic material security" as a universal, permanent entitlement.
  5. Actions to "take account of the wellbeing of other nations, other species, and future generations", not advancing "our well-being to the detriment of theirs".
  6. "Voluntary co-operation between empowered individuals in a democratic society, free from discrimination whether based on race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, religion, social origin or any other prejudice", as the basis of a "healthy society".
  7. Decisions to be made "at the closest practical level to those affected by them" to "emphasise democratic participation and accountability".
  8. Non-violent solutions to conflict, seeking lasting settlement, taking into account "the interests of minorities and future generations".
  9. End the use of "narrow economic indicators" to measure society's success. Instead "take account of factors affecting the quality of life for all people: personal freedom, social equity, health, happiness and human fulfilment".
  10. Use "a variety of methods, including lifestyle changes, to help effect progress", in addition to electoral politics.

The party also has a much larger and broader "philosophical basis", which covers many of these areas on more detail.[50]

Other views

The Green Party supports same-sex marriage and has even considered expelling a member (Christina Summers) as she was not supportive of governmental same-sex marriage legislation due to her religious beliefs.[51] The party has also considered decriminalising (not legalising) the recreational use of marijuana, and party members have described the drugs issue a health, rather than criminal issue,[52] and saying that "The Policy of "War on Drugs" has clearly failed. We need a different approach towards the control and misuse of drugs." However, the party does aim to minimise drug use due to the negative effects on the individual and society at large.[53]

Referendum on the European Union

The party supports a referendum on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union, calling it "a vital opportunity to create a more democratic and accountable Europe, with a clearer purpose for the future,"[54] and favours a "three yeses" approach to Europe: "yes to a referendum, yes to major EU reform and yes to staying in a reformed Europe". Natalie Bennett also added that:

'Yes to the EU' does not mean we are content with the union continuing to operate as it has in the past. There is a huge democratic deficit in its functioning, a serious bias towards the interests of neoliberalism and 'the market', and central institutions have been overbuilt. But to achieve those reforms we need to work with fellow EU members, not try to dictate high handedly to them, as David Cameron has done.[55]

Constitution, Leadership and Membership

Constitution

The Constitution of the Green Party of England and Wales governs all of the party's activities, from the selection of election candidates by local parties, to nominations for the House of Lords and so on. The Constitution states "openness, accountability and confidentiality" in its decision-making guidelines. It can be amended by a two-thirds majority vote at a Conference or by a two-thirds majority in a ballot of the membership.[56]

Conferences

The Green Party of England and Wales holds a spring and an autumn conference every year. The autumn conference is the party's "supreme forum", with elections to the Green Party Executive (GPEx), committees and other bodies; the conference held in the spring, although having the same powers as the autumn conference on policy and organisational votes, holds elections only for vacant posts and can have its priorities decided by the preceding autumn conference.[56]

Leadership

Natalie Bennett has been the leader of the Green Party since September 2012.

A referendum of the party membership in 2007 on the question of creating a Leader and Deputy Leader — or, if candidates choose to run together and are gender balanced, Co-Leaders without a Deputy Leader — passed by 73%. The leaders would be elected every two years, instead of annually, and would be able to vote on the GPEx.[57]

The Green Party had in the past chosen not to have a single leader for ideological reasons; its organisation provided for two Principal Speakers, a male and female Principal Speaker, who sat but did not vote on GPEx. The final Principal Speakers were Lucas[58] and Derek Wall.[59]

Executive

GPEx is responsible for the day-to-day running of the party and meets around ten times a year. The party elects its National Executive Committee each year before its Autumn Conference.

As of 26 April 2014, the GPEx consists of the following positions:[60]

Green Party of England and Wales Executive (GPEx)
Leader Natalie Bennett
Deputy Leader Amelia Womack and Shahrar Ali
Chair Richard Mallender
Elections Co-ordinator Judy Maciejowska
Equality and Diversity Co-ordinator Shan Oakes and Jack McGlen
External Communications Co-ordinator Penny Kemp, Clare Phipps, and Matt Hawkins
Finance Co-ordinator Michael Coffey
Internal Communications Co-ordinator Peter Barnett
International Co-ordinator Derek Wall
Local Party Support Co-ordinator Emily Blyth
Management Co-ordinator Mark Cridge
Policy Co-ordinator Sam Riches and Caroline Bowes
Publications Co-ordinator Martin Collins
Campaigns Co-ordinator Howard Thorp
Young Greens Co-ordinator Siobhan MacMahon and Clifford Fleming
Trade Union Liaison Officer Romayne Phoenix

GPEx positions are elected annually by postal ballot or by a vote at conference, depending on the number of candidates. To become a member of the Executive, the candidate must have been a member of the party for at least two years, or, if the candidate has been a member for one complete year preceding the date of close of nominations, their nomination will be allowed if it is supported by a majority of Green Party Regional Council (GPRC) members in attendance at a quorate official GPRC meeting.

Regional Council

Oxfordshire Green Party hosting a "Green Fair"

GPRC is a body that coordinates discussions between Regional Green Parties. It supports the Executive (GPEx) and is responsible for interim policy statements between Conferences and enforcing constitutional procedures.[56]

Each Regional Green Party elects two members by postal ballot to be sent to the GPRC. These delegates' terms last two years before re-election. GPRC meets at least four times a year. The Council elects male and female Co-Chairs and a Secretary. GPEx members are often required to give reports on their area of responsibility to the GPRC; the GPRC also has the power to recall any member of GPEx (by a two-thirds majority vote), who is then suspended until a re-election for the post is held; similarly, if GPEx suspends one of its own members, GPRC has the authority to decide whether that member should be reinstated or not (again, by a two-thirds majority vote).[56]

Membership and finances

According to accounts filed with the Electoral Commission, for the year ending 31 December 2010 the party had an income of £770,495 with expenditure of £889,867.[61] Membership increased rapidly in 2014, more than doubling in that year.[62] On 15 January 2015, the Green Party claimed that the combined membership of the UK Green parties (Green Party of England and Wales, Scottish Green Party, and Green Party in Northern Ireland) had risen to 43,829 members, surpassing Ukip’s membership of 41,966, and making it the third-largest UK-wide political party in the UK in terms of membership.[63][64] On 14 January 2015, UK newspaper The Guardian had reported that membership of the combined UK Green Parties was closing on those of UKIP and the Liberal Democrats, but noted that it lagged behind that of the Scottish National Party (SNP), which has a membership of 92,187 members but is not a UK-wide party.[65] As of 15th April 2015, the membership of the Green Party of England and Wales stands at 60,000.[1]

Year Membership (as of 31 December)
2002 5,268[66]
2003 5,858[66]
2004 6,281[67]
2005 7,110[68]
2006 7,019[69]
2007 7,441[70]
2008 7,553[71]
2009 9,630[72]
2010 12,768[61]
2011 12,842[73]
2012 12,619[74]
2013 13,809[75]
2014 30,900[76]
Year Membership (as of April 2015)
2015 60,000+[1]

Subgroups

Status of the Wales Green Party

Main article: Wales Green Party

Unlike any other regional party within the Green Party, the Wales Green Party (WGP) (Plaid Werdd Cymru in Welsh) is a "semi-autonomous regional party" within the GPEW. It has greater control over its finances, and produces its own manifesto. Wales Green Party members are automatically members of the Green Party of England and Wales.

Also differently from the full party, the Wales Green Party (and the North West region of England) elects a Principal Speaker who may refer to themselves as the 'Leader' of the Wales Green Party, although, like the Green Party of England and Wales's former principal speakers, they have no powers of leadership. The current leader of the Wales Green Party is Pippa Bartolotti.[77]

Young Greens

The youth wing of the Green Party, the Young Greens (of England and Wales), has developed independently from around 2002 and is for all Green Party members aged 18 to 30 years old. The Young Greens have their own constitution, national committee, campaigns and meetings, and have become an active presence at Green Party Conferences and election campaigns. There are now many Young Greens groups on UK university, college and higher-education institution campuses. Many Green Party councillors are Young Greens, as are some members of GPEx and other internal party organs.[78]

Other groups

Several active groups within the party are designed to address certain areas of policy or representation. These include the LGBTIQ Greens (focusing on LGBTIQ rights),[79] the Green Party Trades Union Group,[80] the Drugs Group (on drugs policy and research),[81] The Green Economics Policy Working Group, the Monetary Reform Policy Working Group,[82] and others. The historical centrist faction known as Green 2000 sought to achieve a Green Party government by the year 2000; the group fell apart in the early 1990s.

The Green Left group, nicknamed 'The Watermelons', represents some of the anti-capitalists and eco-socialists in the party who want to engage with the broader left-wing political movements in the UK and attract left-wing activists to the Green Party,[83] although it is a group of party members, rather than a group within the party.

See also

References

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External links