Mrs Parkin's resignation came as senior colleagues, including Jean Lambert, one of the Greens' two principal speakers, described her position as 'exceedingly difficult'. However, a move to expel her was withdrawn.
Speaking at the annual conference in Wolverhampton, Mrs Parkin repeated her view that the party must 'reform or fold'. She added: 'Green politics is moving fast everywhere and the Green Party is just not in that at the moment. I hope the party will change and get its act together.' She had no plans to join another party because none was 'remotely green'.
However, there was further conflict over an independent report from the University of Strathclyde, part of a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, which Mrs Parkin has used to bolster her argument that the Greens need strong leadership.
According to a survey of haemorrhaging party membership - which has sunk to 7,500 from a peak of 18,500 in 1990 - 75 per cent of those who leave cited lack of proper leadership as an important reason and 27 per cent viewed it as decisive. Slightly fewer - 73.5 per cent - said the party's 'ineffectiveness' was an important factor. Mrs Parkin believes the results bear out her contention that internal arguments and factionalism explain the party's poor showing in the April election. But Ms Lambert and others accused her of quoting selectively from the report, which concluded that factors such as the ebbing of public interest in green issues and the regrouping of the Liberal Democrats led to the slump in votes.
Wolfgang Rudig, director of the Strathclyde project, said the best the party could hope for was 'damage limitation'. 'In the present electoral system the only immediate thing the Green Party can do is survive as an organisational entity and wait for new opportunities to arise.'
David Icke, formerly a leading figure in the party, who declared himself last year to be a son of God, told a packed fringe meeting that fear of ridicule and loss of credibility was making the Green movement an 'irrelevance' in achieving fundamental change. He urged his audience to 'raise their vibrations' to match those of the 'Earth Spirit'.
It emerged yesterday that the party might disqualify Mallen Baker, one of Mrs Parkin's principal opponents, from the executive elections for bringing the party into disrepute. This could open the possibility of Sid Rawle, the veteran hippie and spokesman for New Age travellers, being voted in unopposed as one of the Greens' two principal speakers.
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