In the battle of the sexes, it's Green v Green

Germany's Greens, possibly the most politically correct party in the world, take women's rights very seriously indeed.

At their annual conference this weekend, delegates who wish to make a speech must apply in writing by placing a slip into the appropriate box: one for each sex. A well-balanced selection committee then picks an equal number of applications from each box. This way, 50 per cent of the speakers are guaranteed to be female. The speeches stop when the female box runs out.

The bureaucratic procedure takes away a little of the event's spontaneity, but it is a small price to pay for women's liberation. To prove how deadly earnest they are about equal opportunities, the Greens have quotas throughout their organisation, from tea-persons to regional chairwomen. Their leader, Joschka Fischer, only happens to be male, as does his Number Two. In their 30-strong national office in Bonn, 17 are women.

Into this harmonious collective stepped Harald Handel three months ago, to take on the job of national spokesperson. Mr Handel is young - 36 - politically right-on, and comes from an oppressed minority: he is a born and bread Ossi from East Germany. But despite an impressive career in television news, Mr Handel has a major flaw. "I am just a man," he admits.

No one can now explain how it happened, but the Greens hired the wrong sex. The national leadership do not think so, but the party's own staff council do. They have taken the party presidium to court, demanding Mr Handel's dismissal. The first hearing of the case of Greens versus Greens is expected in January.

The staff council, consisting of two men and one woman, accuse the party leadership of busting the quotas. Mr Handel was picked out of 200 applicants. The position had fallen vacant because the previous incumbent - a woman - could not get on with her male boss.

After her resignation, the party leadership selected another woman, but she turned them down. At the second attempt there were only four candidates left; two men and two women. The Greens' presidium of five men and five women voted unanimously for Mr Handel, with only one (male) abstention.

On that day, the staff council nodded the new recruit through, but later changed its mind. Gerhard Lippe, its male chairman, complained that the Greens already had too many regional spokespersons of the male variety. That's irrelevant, countered Gunda Rostel, a member of the party presidium. Ms Rostel is the highest-ranking Ossi in the party, and was not about to settle for a Wessi spokesperson, whatever the gender. Members and officials are like gold dust in the East, where the party remains largely irrelevant. Sacking Mr Handel now would alienate the few remaining Ossi supporters.

There is no chance of that happening. The Greens are standing by their man, leaving the Green staff council with no choice but to sue. "The party leadership sought the advice of lawyers, and were told that nothing could go wrong," says Mr Handel.

"It is a disaster for the Greens," he adds. Apart from the bad publicity, the legal battle is likely to be protracted, and will cost the party a small fortune. Independent experts believe the staff council have no legal leg to stand on, because political parties do not have to justify whom they employ.

The male-dominated staff council knows it cannot win, says Mr Handel, but is using the issue to score points in the Greens; Byzantine office politics. "It's just a macho game to them," the spokesman explains.

peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits