Jenny Jones: A political party with a leader? How 20th century

Share

What was it that changed Tony Blair from the reasonable, listening man we first encountered into the staring-eyed control freak he became? Answer: too much power in the hands of one person. It's obvious that when this happens, the party becomes hostage to the character, behaviour and history of that individual.

This is just one of the reasons that, since its inception, the Green Party has been philosophically against the concept of a single leader. Some now believe that having a leader would make us more visible and more effective at a time when Greens must make headway. But this is a false logic. Such a move would be damaging to the Green Party and firmly root it in the politics of the 20th century rather than as a forward-thinking, empowering party committed to ensuring that its membership has real input into the decision-making process.

Hierarchies are recognised as inefficient because communication is slow and decisions do not reflect people's experience or ideas. Business schools and management consultants now argue that involving the workforce in decision-making increases efficiency. They are moving in a green direction. It would be perverse if the Green Party were now to move in the opposite direction.

For those who follow or support a leader there will be a tendency to look to that person for approval, support and decisions. And this process, by its very nature, entails an abdication of personal responsibility, and an erosion of the autonomy and initiative that underpins an empowered community, whereas empowerment involves the bringing out of leadership qualities in everyone.

To the media and the public, a leader is associated with authority and vision over and above that of their members, someone who will batter the "idealists" of their party into submission to the political "realities", which are wholly defined by past political history and journalistic discourse. If leaders do not "lead" in the established fashion, they will be seen, rightly or wrongly, as weak and unable to command.

The best way to see how having a leader might affect the Green Party is to look at the effect it has on other smaller parties operating within our electoral system. Has Nigel Farage boosted UKIP's vote? Did Robert Kilroy-Silk's vanity help his party, Veritas? Has "pussycat" George Galloway helped Respect to a breakthrough? And what about Tommy Sheridan, whose Scottish Socialist Party splintered and crashed out of the Scottish Parliament? These are all examples, in the real world, of parties which have followed the leader strategy.

Pro-single leader advocates believe that the Green Party and its representatives would somehow be immune to this process. But naivety is not the most helpful quality in politics.

Politics and ideas are about symbols, direction and momentum. Creating a leader would send a powerful signal that the party was rejecting participatory politics and embracing a failing conventional model.

Even if the individual concerned was not trying to centralise power, there would, nonetheless, be an inbuilt dynamic that would accrue power to that person; he or she would be aggrandised. A persona would be created that would inevitably be larger than life. And the individual living under the weight of other people's expectations. What of them?Is this really a green way totreat someone?

So what is the alternative? What is empowerment politics? And can it be made to work better? Many people feel powerless, unable to influence the decisions that control their lives. But we know that just two or three empowered individuals can make a huge difference. That's why the Green Party has spent 25 years evolving policies, strategies, tactics and techniques that seek to empower people, both inside the party and in the wider community.

We Greens have an urgent and radical message for all levels of government and society. Participatory democracy is a necessity, not a luxury if we want to effect change.

Where we have elected Greens, the message does get out, through the media, through council work, through budget negotiations with more powerful parties. We are having an impact out of all proportion to the size of our membership. Green politics is about creating real social and economic change to survive crises, not a new face to administer apocalypse.

The writer is a London Assembly Member, a local councillor in Southwark, and a former deputy mayor of London. David Taylor, a founder of the Green Party, contributed to the article.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Representative - South West England

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest manufacturer of UPV...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Supervisor

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well establis...

Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer / Helpdesk Engineer

£16500 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued growth an exce...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A full-service agency based in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Karen Danczuk is married to anti-child sex abuse campaigner Simon Danczuk MP  

The less said about the Danczuks the better – but try and stop them

Grace Dent
 

Budget 2015: George Osborne should earn his reputation for courage by abolishing free TV licences for the over 75s

Christopher Bland
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy