Living up to potential: Ashley Gunstock

"I want to get more Greens elected to office – councillors, assembly and regional members, MPs – and make a real difference." Ashley Gunstock explains why members should vote for him in the upcoming leadership election.

Ashley Gunstock leadership candidate
Ashley Gunstock

The Green Party has been failing to live up to its potential for too long.

At a time when the threat of climate catastrophe is becoming more real with every day, this is something that has to change – and change quickly. 

Surveys indicate that people have a more favourable opinion of the Green Party than they do of other political parties. Many people feel alienated from the traditional two- and three-party politics and are deeply concerned about the environment, the decay of our communities and what the future holds for their children. 

And yet they don’t vote for us. Eighty-four per cent of our own members couldn’t be bothered to vote in our last leadership election. 

Coverage of the Green Party in the media is derisory. We know that the owners of our newspapers have their own agendas, but it’s a disgrace that when Caroline Lucas appeared on the BBC’s flagship Question Time in June, she was the first panellist from the Green Party for 18 months. 

I am standing for the leadership because… 

  • I am standing for the leadership of the party because I believe passionately that tackling these issues must be our urgent priority. I want to get more Greens elected to office – councillors, assembly and regional members, MPs – and make a real difference. 
  • In order to do this, I believe that the Green Party must return to its roots and concentrate on its core raison d’être, the reason that so many of us joined the party in the first place. 
  • That is why, as leader, I would want to arrange to attend regional meetings with local activists to better refocus the debate away from other issues that have, in my opinion, been taking up too much of our bandwidth. 

In particular, the party has lately been tearing itself apart over one issue – an issue on which, paradoxically, our members are overwhelmingly in agreement with each other – and taking down one of our co-leaders in the process. This has to stop. Not because trans and non-binary rights are not important – of course they are. People of all sexualities and none are welcomed for their dynamic contribution to Green politics. Therefore, I fervently wish that we could simply resolve this matter and move forward again together. But, because it is so complex, the world will not wait for us, we have to focus our energies on the fight to avoid climate catastrophe – and do it now! 

We also have to challenge some of our party’s long-held and cherished beliefs and practices. If any of them are holding us back from achieving our goals – and I believe they are – we must have the courage and the will to change them. That is not to say that we should abandon our principles, but we must not let doctrinal purism stand in the way of our aim of electoral advancement. 

So I support the principle of cooperation with other progressive parties in order to advance our goals, including a switch to a proportional voting system. We share one objective – the removal from office of the worst and most dangerous UK government of our collective lifetimes. This is a necessary precondition for the UK to start to seriously address the impending climate catastrophe and bring into force the policies of greater social justice at home and abroad that must underpin this effort. 

We must decide on funding 

We must decide whether the strategy of standing Green Party candidates in every constituency and every ward represents the best use of our limited resources, or whether more can be achieved by targeting and concentrating resources on the most fertile territory. 

The time has also come to revisit our policies on party funding. Our refusal to accept corporate donations is clear and principled, but puts us at a huge electoral disadvantage. When the Liberal Democrats received over 30 times more in donations than the Green Party in 2019 and the Brexit Party received over 15 times more than we did, is it any wonder that we find ourselves hopelessly outgunned at election time, or that our hopes for significant gains so often fail to materialise? I therefore believe that we should unashamedly seek investment from ecologically and socially ethical companies. 

About me 

  • As one of the longest-standing members of the party – I’ve been an active member for 32 years, nine of which were spent campaigning in Barnet and the rest in the London Borough of Redbridge, where I live with my wife and son – I’m firmly of the view that more of the same is no longer an option. 
  • My professional background is as an actor; people of a certain age may know me as PC Robin Frank from The Bill in the 1980s. Being involved in the theatrical industry has given me a good insight into and made me familiar with the workings of the media. I am also a teacher and qualified Football Association coach. 
  • Since joining the Green Party in 1989, I’ve stood at every possible parliamentary and council election and also the first two GLA elections. In doing so, I’ve helped the party in raising its profile firstly in Barnet and then by 50 per cent in Redbridge, where I’ve been the Lead Spokesperson for the past 10 years. 
  • I was instrumental in establishing Homeless Action in Barnet and the successful campaign to make Redbridge a Fairtrade borough. My campaigning to promote The Green Party agenda has included associations with Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups, as well as local peace, anti-war and anti-fascist movements. 
  • In all of these activities, I have not only shown that I can work with people of all ages and backgrounds, but demonstrated the sort of leadership, seriousness and commitment to the cause that current circumstances call for. 

That is why, along with my belief in openness, honesty and accountability, I’m stepping up to make my case to be the next leader of the Green Party.