10 Days Remaining

Saturday 21st
posted by Morning Star in Features

DEREK WALL pays tribute to the tireless work of the Green Party leader on her announcement that she will not be seeking re-election

NATALIE BENNETT has been a superb Green Party leader. I am very sorry she will be standing down from the post after four fantastic years of progress.

Its customary to say leaders are lovely when they leave. However, I think I can justify my positive thanks to Natalie. As a former principal speaker, I campaigned strongly against our party even having a leader.

Not only was I against the creation of the post, but Natalie was not my first choice when first elected in 2012, I voted for the Green Left candidate Romayne Phoenix.

So why am I so impressed by Natalie? Well, she really has put the work in. She constantly tours the country helping local Green Parties.

For example, I know members in north-east England have been really impressed with her numerous trips to Sunderland and Newcastle. She has constantly watered the grassroots of the Greens and we have grown.

While she wasn’t the first choice of socialist Greens, she, together with her first deputy leader Will Duckworth and now Shahrar Ali and Amelia Womack, have moved the party to the left.

I was spellbound to see her outside Senate House, University of London, megaphone in hand, supporting a demonstration of the Latin American Workers Association, demanding higher pay for college cleaners.

From the junior doctors’ strike to opposition to Trident, Austerity and TTIP, she has led the Greens on thousands of picket lines and demonstrations.

I have worked with her closely. She is consensual, thoughtful and a strategist. She can chair a meeting and get the business done in a tenth of the time of those less effective.

She has really protected the diversity of the party and increased our ambition. Her demand for us to make a strong showing in the general election, helped to grow our party from 13,000 members when she was elected to 60,000 today.

Ultimately she has contributed to moving British politics left. The iconic image of three female leaders, including Leanne Wood and Nicola Sturgeon, during the general election television debate showed another kind of politics was possible.

Natalie’s contribution in the general election give us our best vote ever. Putting forward policies from ending austerity to defending young people from a cruel government also helped to grow more radical political commitments and helped to pave the way for a Jeremy Corbyn victory.

Yes, Natalie isn’t perfect, but who is? She was criticised for fluffing one high-pressure interview, but she has been good for the Greens and for wider politics.

Her international work has also been superb, she has been popular with Greens around the world and her solidarity work with Kurdish communities and Rojava also stand out for me.

Equally, Natalie’s constant defence of asylum-seekers and migration rights have been vital in the context of increased right-wing xenophobia.

And she has been a strong supporter of this paper, promoting the Morning Star and writing for it too.

The Green Party is ultra-democratic. Leader, deputy leaders and executive members are up for election every two years.

Natalie’s statement on deciding not to seek re-election shows her commitment to a leadership of all, not just the one.

“It’s been a privilege and an honour to have the title ‘leader of the Green Party,’ but every member of the Green Party is a leader, helping to lead the way towards a society in which we live within our environmental limits while ensuring no-one fears hunger or want.” Natalie will be a hard act to follow.

  • Derek Wall is international co-ordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales.