Mike Woodin

Principal Speaker of the Green Party

Wednesday 10 July 2013 03:24

Michael Edward Woodin, politician and psychologist: born Hartley, Kent 6 November 1965; Principal Speaker, Green Party of England and Wales 1997-2001, 2003-04; married 1994 Deborah Glass (one son, one daughter); died Oxford 9 July 2004.

Mike Woodin was the Green Party's Principal Speaker - the figurehead who fulfils the public and media roles performed by the leaders of the more conventional parties - during six of the last eight years. He held the post jointly, first with Jean Lambert before her election to the European Parliament in 1999, then with Margaret Wright, and most recently with his close colleague Caroline Lucas MEP.

Woodin was born in Kent in 1965 and educated at Gravesend Grammar School. He graduated in Psychology from Manchester University, took his PhD at Wolfson College, Oxford, and later taught Psychology at Balliol. He became one of the Green Party's first city councillors in Oxford in 1994, and at the time of his death was leader of the Green group on Oxford council, which with seven members had become Britain's strongest local authority Green Party group jointly with Lancaster Greens. In 1994 also he married Deborah Glass, a colleague who four years later herself unseated Oxford's Labour council leader to bolster the city's Green group.

As a city councillor Woodin championed the rights of pedestrians and cyclists and fought for the greenest policies that could be achieved under a Labour, and later Lib Dem, council. His endeavours played an important role in reducing Oxford's city-centre traffic congestion and pollution, in providing 100 per cent door-to- door recycling in Oxford, and in making a commitment to inclusion of 50 per cent affordable housing in the council's new city structure plan. But he was better known as the Green Party's senior national spokesperson, for his articulate and good-humoured promotion of Green policies.

After the 2001 general election, Woodin took a break from the Principal Speaker role to concentrate on his council duties and the imminent arrival of his second child. It was said of him by an executive colleague on that occasion that he had shown an impressive combination of principle and pragmatism from which the party could learn - never losing sight of Green principles but always having a close eye on the best result achievable in the circumstances.

His pragmatism showed itself in various ways. He was the driving force behind the ambitious strategy that got the Green Party's first two English MEPs elected in 1999. And he was a Green who recognised the value of leadership and argued, in his speech to conference when he stepped down from the top post in autumn 2001, that the Green Party should elect a leader.

He was succeeded as Principal Speaker by Darren Johnson, the leader of the Greens on the London Assembly, who held the post until Woodin's return to the post in September 2003.

While helping shape the party's strategy for the 2004 Euro-elections, Woodin was also working with Caroline Lucas on a book sharply critical of economic globalisation and neoliberalism. Green Alternatives to Globalisation: a manifesto was published in April this year and received praise from both economists and environmentalists. The proofs of the book were signed off the day before Woodin was diagnosed with secondary lung cancer.

Woodin's illness came shortly before the Green Party's Brighton conference this spring. He spoke passionately about the impact of cancer on his life, and what he saw as a parallel waste of life in a socioeconomic system he believed resulted in profound inequities, poverty and oppression. He continued with his Green Party duties between spells in hospital - his last radio interview was on Radio 5 Live on election day, 10 June - and, just two weeks ago, he took his place on Oxford city council's new executive board as the Green Party's representative.

Having an eye for detail and a sense of the symbolic fine touch, at his own request he made his last journey in a car-free funeral procession, drawn by friends and colleagues on bikes decorated with green ribbons.

Spencer Fitz-Gibbon

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