All change – to a party fit for the 21st century

The Green Party is holding an Extraordinary Conference in May to finalise a new constitution, and to match the challenges and opportunities of today and tomorrow. Shaping the ideas that will go into this have been many years in the making.

Liz Reason

The Green Party needs governance arrangements that are fit for the 21st century if we are to deliver on our ambitious political strategy.

The current constitution has been in place for decades and was drafted when volunteers standing for election to the Executive were essentially willing to help run the party as full-time unpaid staff. The party is still an unincorporated association, which means that GPEx members are legally and financially liable in their personal capacity.

Now, with a membership of 50,000, hundreds of local councillors, two London Assembly members, a Member of Parliament and two members of the House of Lords, we need a structure to match our size and influence, and governance arrangements that are open, democratic and agile that will enable our local parties, politicians and working groups to work effectively in a fast-moving political environment. 

The party now has a budget of £2.5 million and a staff of more than 40. It needs to become a limited company overseen by a board with the appropriate expertise to ensure that the party complies with all legal, financial and electoral regulations, and has the resources and plans to deliver on an ambitious political strategy.  

And it needs a body that has responsibility for oversight of the strategic direction and activities of the party, integrating the policy development process with the political strategy and the manifesto, relations with other Green parties in the UK and around the world, as well as working to ensure the health and wellbeing of the party. 

As it is, the 20 members of Green Party Regional Council are dealing with the significantly greater demands imposed by a much larger party and they are stretched to breaking point.

It's clearly a time for change.

The process of designing and implementing new governance arrangements was started as long ago as 2013. Those given responsibility for the redesign have also changed over the years. In 2017, Conference agreed to the setting up of a Holistic Review Commission, with members appointed by the Green Party Regional Council and the Green Party Executive.  

The Commission’s report, with its recommendations for a new constitution, was passed by the 2018 AGM and later that year by a referendum of the full membership. At Spring Conference 2019, the Memorandum and Articles of Association were approved that will allow the current unincorporated membership association to be constituted as a company limited by guarantee.

That’s progress. However, incorporation needs the appointment of a board with the skills appropriate to ensuring that the company complies with all financial, legal and electoral regulations whilst overseeing the preparation and implementation of plans for overall operations, communications, elections and development – consistent with delivering the political strategy.

The Commission’s proposals were based on key principles:

  • building on our democratic processes

  • ensuring that governance membership is more inclusive and representative of all groups

  • creating agile decision-making processes

  • improving transparency, and 

  • increasing the size of our principal governing body to ensure that there is sufficient volunteer resource to fulfil the many duties that effective management of the party imposes.

The Extraordinary Conference to determine the new constitution will be taking place online in May. There will first be workshops 17-20 May, followed by plenary sessions 21-23 May. To find out more and get information on how to participate, Green Party members can view all the necessary information on the Green Party members website.