“I was elected Principal Speaker in 1991 at a hustings at the conference – and everyone was really nice to me, and I felt as if I knew everyone in the party anyway – and then they all put their hands up, and that was it! The equivalent of social media then was that I would receive thank you cards from members after TV and radio interviews!” - Jan Clark, North Lincolnshire Green Party
In a party of 3,000, growing to 7,000 and then – when I joined in 2014 – a heady 14,000, income was low and so, of course, was expenditure. Staff were few and systems were makeshift. Then the 2014-15 surge happened and suddenly the party had 67,000 members and precious little management infrastructure to cope with them.
In the six years since I have been on GPEx (first as Management Coordinator and now in my fourth year as Chair), there has been huge progress in introducing and implementing professional practices. A party of 53,000 members needs a very different kind of organisation, infrastructure and approach. And that includes a very different role for members of the two principal governance bodies – the Executive and the Regional Council.
Not so long ago, standing for election to GPEx was demonstrating your willingness to contribute to the running of the party, probably full-time and with no pay. A larger party with a significantly higher income no longer imposes that burden on GPEx members. With a CEO and a staff of around 45 (up to 70 at election times), GPEx members have to bring the skills that allow them to meaningfully scrutinise staff proposals and plans, and to contribute constructively to the annual budget-setting exercise. Income is still far too low to match our ambitious political strategy, so even this year we will be choosing between what feels like ten equally urgent and important competing priorities. We will have to ask ourselves “If we spend money on that, what impact will it have on our different objectives, and how can we spend money so that those objectives work together and impact is maximized?”
However, this year, the sense of progress is very real. The conference approved the political strategy in Spring 2021, and that was the firing gun for the creation of all the plans that will support the delivery of the strategy. The organisational plan was approved by GPEx in August, and in September we saw drafts of the Communications Plan, the Electoral Strategy and the Development Plan (building a movement and fundraising). Still to come is the Equalities & Diversity Plan, as we develop the organizational policies and practices that see us reach out and respond to different demographics.
From early 2022 we are planning on a significant rise in income that will give us the boost we need to commit more resources.
As GPEx Chair, I have friends. And they are the co-chairs of GPRC who are also working incredibly hard to improve the systems that maintain the wellbeing of the party. And I express my gratitude to them for the support they have given me over the past year, in a true Green spirit.
So this weekend brings the newly-elected GPEx induction day (and get-to-know-you evening) when I am confident that colleagues will come away inspired, enthused, and ready to collaborate in the year ahead.