Despite positive steps forward, there is clearly a perception among the public that the Green Party is a ‘middle-class’ party. And there is a problem of class in wider politics too; the percentage of working-class people in Parliament and council chambers has plummeted from the 1980s to today across all parties (just 4% if MPs now come from manual working-class backgrounds), creating a crisis of political representation for the vast majority of people who are state-educated and have not worked in journalism, the senior civil service or for think tanks and similar ‘elite’ institutions.
In response to this crisis of representation the University of York Green Party has created a short questionnaire for the 2012 Green Party leadership race which aims to raise awareness of the need to change the party’s public perception and to draw out candidate’s views on the issue, as well as their life experience and own perceptions of class in the modern era.
Other parties, notably Labour (at long last) are beginning to address the issue of working-class under-representation – the Green Party, a radical and fast-growing party, cannot be left behind. The proposal coming up to Green Party conference for the leader to be paid a wage is a positive development – one of the main demands of the Chartists in the 19th Century was that MPs be paid so that working-class people were able to stand and be elected. The same should go for party leadership.
So candidates have been emailed being asked to write a maximum of 100-words for each of the five questions on the topic of class.
This is intended as a contribution to the debate around the future of the party, in the candidates’ own words. Please share the results, when published here online, around your local party groups.
Voting begins at the start of August – this is hoped to be a positive contribution to the leadership race and the debates around it.
Responses will be published initially exclusively at the York Young Greens blog and here early in August when voting begins.
The questions are as follows:
1. What steps, if any, will you take to improve working-class recruitment, representation and election both inside and outside the party if you are elected? E.g. national recruitment strategy, shifting emphasis in interviews etc.
2. Do you agree with recent proposals (outside the party) for working-class shortlists/quotas to improve the representation of ordinary people in politics?
3. What life experience do you have that you believe would make you appeal to ordinary people? E.g. working on the minimum wage, living in affordable/council housing, state education etc.
4. How would you define yourself in terms of class, and do you see this as important to your politics? (Please write a,b, c, d, other/NA and your explanation below)
5. Have you:
a) Ever attended a Russell Group university such as Oxford/Cambridge?
b) Ever attended a private school?