With the news this Thursday that Alex Phillips, a Hove Green councillor and former co-chair of the Young Greens, is standing for deputy leader, the party has been given an excellent opportunity to broaden its reach – to the millions of people who are realising that Tory cuts aren’t working and that Labour’s won’t either, to the millions of Northerners taken for granted by a complacent opposition and to anti-cuts activists across the country who a looking for a viable left-wing party.
Alex is an eco-socialist. This is key to keeping the Greens firmly rooted where we should be – on the left, where there is a huge political space at the moment. I saw Alex speak at conference earlier this year and she spoke with conviction and principle, traits reflected in her stance on the Brighton budget.
Her campaign website can be viewed here – http://www.alexfordeputy.org.uk/index.html (you can sign up to support the campaign too) – and contains her main platforms – to listen to grassroots members, a key public figure, to refuse to retreat to our environmental comfort zone in the media but talk about social issues, and to grow the party so we can be a party capable of engaging a passionate activist base to win elections.
Fighting for working-people has led to a huge growth in membership since Caroline Lucas became leader, and Alex looks set to continue this, while at the same time ‘broadening our supporter base’.
Central to her suitability for the post for me is her concern with the public perception that we are a middle-class party. This needs to change, but it can only do so if we recruit working class people – and more than that, encourage working-class people to stand and speak both in the party and in the public domain. As Alex puts it on her site, ‘we still struggle with the perception that we are a white, middle-class, heterosexual party. This can only change if we truly broaden the range of voices voters hear’.
It’s a point that can’t be laboured too much. We have to be seen as a party for a North which has been betrayed, and for working-class people in the South who are fed up with a Tory/Lib Dem false dichotomy (writing as someone who’s lived in Cornwall for much of my life). With a Lib Dem vote collapse, we can’t leave it to the Tories or Labour to pick up those lost voters.
A Green Party with a proud socialist deputy leader would inspire the generation radicalised by the austerity agenda, and could not a real dent in the consensus, whether it’s full on caustic cuts or Labour’s ‘caring cuts’. Let’s grasp the chance to pick such a deputy.
Though Alex is the first declared candidate, and without wanting to speak to soon, she’d be an excellent figurehead to develop strategies for the Greens to build and to escape our comfort zones and public perceptions. Nominations only officially open on June the 1st, but already I think I know who I’ll be supporting. The unofficial campaigning begins now. Twitter and online hustings may prove decisive.
On a side note – the party’s constitution requires that we have a male/female split between leader and deputy. Does this clear the way then for Adrian Ramsay and his (probable) bid for leader?