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It is plain obvious that the Green Party would benefit significantly from an increased public profile, if it were to do what both its MEPs and 70 per cent of its councillors want it to do, and have a leader. In the words of the Guardian’s John Vidal: ‘Not having a leader has stopped mainstream political reporting of the Green Party for years. Having a leader would make for a better platform. It would make sense to change.’
It’s a no-brainer. But as a radical democrat, I believe that there’s a deeper reason for change. We need real accountable leadership. We need to know where the buck stops. If the government does something truly appalling, the PM resigns (think Eden, or Blair – well, actually Blair never did resign over Iraq, but you take my point, all the same).
Think the unthinkable: if the Green Party at the highest level did something appalling, who would take responsibility? In those circumstances, our leader or co-leaders should resign … But if we don’t have any such leaders, what is going to happen: will the media and the membership call for our ‘principal speakers’ to resign?! It just doesn’t make any sense.
Without leadership, there can be no genuine accountability. We need to have this referendum go through, not just so that we can reach the public more easily: we also need it, for us.
I imagine that one major objection to all this will be to say that green leftists ought to object on principle to having leaders. But we eco-socialists need to be quite clear that it is a merely individualistic fantasy to think that everyone is equally suited to leading. There are very, very few who are genuinely and consistently capable of leading (as opposed to being tyrants or dictators, which is somewhat easier).
Socialist and communist parties have long known that anti-leadership is not in the slightest radical or left-wing. Anti-leader-ness is in the end as quite literally absurd as ‘the American dream’, the nonsensical notion that everyone can be a millionaire, if only they work hard enough.
Being green is about us acting and living naturally as teams. Not as individuals each with the alleged same capacity to lead. Leaderlessness-advocates claim that all and none of us are leaders – all of us because we can all lead, and none of us because none of us ought to follow. This is the same false fantasy that drives advertising implying that we can all have the best car, the best body … Anti-leadership advocates have bought into a right-wing [liberal, consumerist] fantasy.
Anti-leadership is at best a misguided anarchist ideal: NOT a left or green ideal. And it is certainly a quite hopeless basis on which to run a political party.
It is utter nonsense to pretend that anyone whose door we knock on could, with enough assistance, become the next Caroline Lucas. Such nonsense holds us back, as a party, from achieving what we need to: nothing less than saving the future.
Lacking a leader is getting in the way of this utterly vital ambition.
Real leadership is leading – co-ordinating, inspiring, and strategically spearheading – a team of others who have complementary skills. That is what the Green Party needs.
Cllr Rupert Read is the lead Green Party candidate in the 2009 Euro-elections for Eastern Region; Dr Read is also reader in philosophy at the University of East Anglia (Norwich), where he specialises in political and environmental ethics
More from the campaigns:
http://www.greenyes.org ‘Yes’ campaign for a single leader to replace ‘principal speaker’ positions
http://www.greenempowerment.org.uk ‘No’ campaign – advocates collective leadership rather than appointing a single leader