Derek Wall Interview 02.09.10
Derek Wall, the Green Party of England and Wales former male Principal Speaker and candidate for the Deputy Leader speaks to Natural Choices about the last election results and the future of the Green Party. The Green Party finally broke into the UK Parliament at the last General Election with Caroline Lucas winning in Brighton Pavillion, they are also well positioned to become the official opposition in the coming Norwich municipal elections.
NC: The Green Party ’s TTW (Target To Win)strategy certainly paid off in Brighton, and a respectable score was won in Norwich but in other parts, like London, the Party went backwards. How would you sum up the over all GPEW general election results?
DW: Well it was a game of two halves, it was great to get Caroline elected, pushing past 30% is almost unheard of for Green Parties anywhere in the world. Adrian Ramsay’s 14% in Norwich, doubled the vote and shows progress. However we were mauled in other seats. British politics requires very careful targeting to win, however if you fail to fight across a range of seats you fail to get media attention or to build a national party. London saw a swing back to Labour in what would otherwise have been our stronger seats in places like Hackney and Lewisham. Cleggmania also saw us lose votes to the Liberal Democrats, although the Liberal Democrats did not make the big gains predicted, many potential green voters were tempted to vote for them because they believed this would open up the possibility of proportional representation.
NC: What are the key steps that the Green Party need to take to get to the next level of political effectiveness?
DW: Have a serious recruitment drive based on member gets member and push towards 20,000 members, with an emphasis on picking up radicals disillusioned by Labour and Liberal Democrats.
Resource local parties properly.
Get into campaigning that draws people in.
Start a programme of political education, so members can debate green politics and learn.
Increase our local councillor based and really support non violent direct action such as the climate camp.
Launch a national campaign for electoral and political reformer, ambitious yes but the Scottish Green Party did this and succeeded, we haven’t and could remain at the margins.
Fight the cuts and campaign for proportional representation.
NC: The proposed Referendum on AV is far from the Proportional Representation that the Green Party support, should the Party be advocating a Yes vote or should you hold out for full PR?
DW: Damned if we do and damned if we don’t. A vote for will mean that we continue without proportional representation and because of the pressure to gain preferences the radical messagte of green politics will be under pressure. With 5 or 10% of the vote a Party should gain 5 or 10% of seats, AV will close this possibility down. However a vote against will be seen as supporting the status quo. Green Party MPs will be stuck at one or two with either FPTP or AV. We need to be shouting for proportional representation.
NC: With over 140 councillors on 42 different councils is the realistic future of the Green Party local rather than national?
DW: Well it has to be both. With careful targetting and community politics we can win at a local level. However we need to win more European seats and the electoral reform that matters could be a shift to a properly elected upper house. We need Greens in every part of England and Wales arguing for Green politics.
NC: Why is the only position being contested the Deputy Leaders one, are people allergic to serving on GPEX, what can be done to interest more people to participate in the Party’s internal democracy?
DW: Well many members are focussed on local struggles. We do need to publicise GPEX posts, encourage job sharing and suggest that inter party democracy is essential, otherwise the party at a national level will suffer. I think members need to be told more about the work of GPEX and diversity should be encouraged.
NC: Are the present internal structures of the Green Party fit for purpose and how could they be improved?
DW: I don’t want to rewrite the constitution but improvement is necessary. I know for example we have CEO in the form of David Murray, what I have seen of his work is encouraging but essentially ouradmin structure is headed by someone who most members have no knowledge of at all. Minutes for GPEX, GPRC, etc need to be published swiftly and need to be accessible to members. We do need some strong elected national speakers. I agree with Adrian on the need for regional organisers but they need to be chosen by the regions or there will be a risk of them serving the centre and not the grassroots.
NC: When the Labour Party modernised into New Labour what actually happened was it became more centralised and moved from the Left to the centre, is talk of ’modernising’ the Green Party actually code for changing inner Party democracy and changing the politics of the Party?
NC: As Deputy Leader what would be your priorities and how would you go about realizing them?
DW: Water the grassroots. Fight the cuts. Build for ecology
Ecology, we need to come out against the corruption of carbon trading, we need to turn the Green New Deal into something real by working with trade unionists like Jerry Hicks who support the concept, we need to support indigenous struggles especially where the British government and British companies are aiding the destruction of indigenous people and key ecosystems, we need to make critical discussion of the environment a central part of what we do. We need to make strong links with governments and social movements fighting climate change. We need to work more closely to support climate camp and projects like President Evo Morales call for a global climate movement. Capitalism is destroying our environment, we need to say this and promote economic alternatives based on respect for nature and the commons, my work in promoting Professor Elinor Ostrom’s research will contribute to this.
Fight the cuts. We need to make sure Green Party councillors are in the forefront of resistance, we need to strengthen our economic arguments against cuts, we need to put energy into the ’Coalition of Resistance’ the network challenging the cuts. We need to do more work with trade unions and learn to cooperate with those in other parties or no parties in building the resistance.
Water the Grassroots. Resource the Young Greens, they are our future, contrast the effort the Green Party puts into its youth wing with that of other parties, we need to do more. Raise membership, raise cash, print practical election ’how to win guides’ and other resources for local parties. Value not just one or two constituencies but the whole party. Increase the number of issue of Green World. And as Deputy-Leader my priority would be to link the global politics to the local party activity to really inspire and fire up members. Green politics is about community campaigns, direct action, trade union work, changing ideas and building economic alternatives, a 2046 strategy where we aspire to government in a distant future is not enough, we need in difficult circumstances to build now.
There is a lot to be done, and in the unfair UK electoral system with a hostile media, the challenges are immensely difficult. However I have been working for green politics for 30 years and I think I have something to give if we want to make what is necessary also what is possible.
Derek Wall is an economics lecturer and writer. He lives in Berkshire and has three sons. He has been a member of the Green Party since 1980. He was Green Party Principal Speaker from 2006 to 2007.
Derek is a founder of the Ecosocialist International and Green Left. He has written a number of books on green politics. He also writes a regular monthly column in the Morning Star newspaper. He works closely with Hugo Blanco the Peruvian green activist who publishes Luca Indigena (Indigenous fight).
Derek’s ’No Nonsense Guide to Green Politics’ has just been published, you can get it from the New Internationalist bookshop The book measures the rising tide of eco-activism and awareness and explains why it heralds a new political era worldwide.
Derek Wall is contesting the Deputy Leadership, the other candidate is present Deputy Leader Cllr Adrian Ramsay.
Related article: What now for the Green Party?
- Government failing in ambition to be ’greenest ever’
- Sweatshop Campaigners unite against Adidas’ "Fundamentally flawed" workers rights summit
- Improving Yields and Destroying the Environment
- Agrarian Reform in the 21st Century: Building a New Vision, Redefining Strategies, and Celebrating Victories
- The Green Party, the Left and moving beyond electoralism
- Mood for Resistance – Romayne Phoenix
Related product news categories