Why I’m (probably) Backing Peter Cranie

Posted on July 10, 2012 at 11:03 am,

As I mentioned before, the Green Party are currently electing a new leader. Since my last post on the matter, the list of candidates has been announced. Whilst I’m open to persuasion from the booklet with candidate statements and the hustings I’ll be going to in Birmingham in a couple of weeks time, I’m reasonably sure which order I’ll be ranking the candidates in (the election is by AV). Though I’m still wavering on the deputy leader front.

The four candidates are Peter Cranie (lead candidate for the European Parliament elections in the North West region), Natalie Bennett (founder and leader of Green Party Women), Romayne Phoenix (chair of the Coalition of Resistance), and Pippa Bartolotti (leader of Wales Green Party).

What I want from a leader

The job of Green Party leader is rather badly defined. Since the post was created four years ago, the job description has essentially been “be Caroline Lucas”. With Caroline continuing to be our sole MP until 2015 (at which point I hope and expect her to be joined by at least one more), it’s likely that the leader’s role will change. He or she will be less of a media figure, and probably have more input into party strategy. Therefore, I want somebody who can articulate and argue for Green values and policies, but also for a strong strategy for the party. They need to have some kind of vision for growing the membership, the activist base, and our number of elected representatives. The Green Party is better at winning elections than most other small-medium sized parties, but we’re a long way off where we would be in a fair electoral system. And rather than sitting back and hoping for proportional representation or a 1989-style swing, we need a plan to break through the barriers imposed by first past the post.

How do the candidates visions’ measure up?

Well, Pippa Bartolotti doesn’t come anywhere close to my ideal party leader. Her platform boils down to speaking her mind on Green issues, so she’s getting my fourth preference (she would still be better than having nobody in the job). The other three candidates all have a vision that’s in roughly the right ball-park. Romayne Phoenix talks about how we should build membership, increase our capacity, and work with other left-wing groups. However, her vision is considerably less compelling than that of Natalie Bennett or Peter Cranie for one simple reason. She doesn’t talk about numbers.

Both Natalie and Peter have ambitious targets for electoral success. Natalie is talking about wanting to see a Green MEP in almost every region, a realistic set of “next generation” Parliamentary constituencies, and a Green councillor in every major town and city in the next decade. That’s ambitious and mostly achievable. I can’t see us getting a Green councillor on every council, though. Because local parties are autonomous, it’s almost certain that at least one local party somewhere in the country will prove dysfunctional. Peter, on the other hand, is talking about targeting 7 seats in the 2014 European Parliament elections (we currently have two in the UK), and five to ten seats in the 2020 Westminster elections, and building local and regional parties so that we no longer have any no-go areas.

Of these two, Peter’s vision is more specific, more measurable, and more achievable (sorry Natalie, but that councillor target is almost impossible, whilst Peter’s European target has a clearly articulated strategy behind it), and slightly more timely. It’s a SMARTer thing to aim for. It also feels more ambitious. And the more ambitious we are as a party, the more likely we are to make the impact on local, national, and international politics that we need and deserve to.

What else affects my vote?

In addition to that, Peter and Natalie appear to have a bit more charisma than Romayne – the two apparent frontrunners are both capable politicians in the same league as Caroline Lucas, and would be leaders who are likely to get plenty of media coverage in their own right. Romayne, on the other hand, seems more likely to be focused on building bridges with other like-minded organisations. I’m glad she’s running, but I just don’t think she’s as strong a candidate as Peter or Natalie.

To end, I’ll show you a couple of videos. Firstly, Peter Cranie announces he is standing:

Secondly, London Assembly member Darren Johnson endorsing Peter:

And, for balance, I’ll throw in Natalie’s main campaign video for a bit of balance

I would show you something from Romayne’s or Pippa’s campaign, but neither of them have made any videos related to their leadership bid.

Finally, if you want to follow the campaign as it unfolds, then make sure you keep an eye on the green party elections blog. And, if you demand it in the comments section, I’ll do a similar post on my thoughts about the candidates for Green Party Deputy leader.