The principles of good governance

Outgoing GPEx Chair, Liz Reason, discusses the importance of SHOOLIA, the seven principles of public life, that are vital for building strong foundations in the structure of a political party.

Liz Reason
Liz Reason

As a member of the Green Party Executive (GPEX) for six years, the first two as Management Coordinator, and the last four as Chair, I believe I have a unique perspective on the characteristics of good governance. Those first two years made me intimate with the problems the Party faced in its attempts to become an effective political party. After four years as Chair, I am proud to say that key challenges have been overcome. I genuinely believe we are on the cusp of transforming the political landscape.

When I joined the party in 2014, I became a member of the Governance Review Working Group. The Party’s membership at that point was around 12,000. There was a longstanding trigger point for considering the move to delegate conferences – when we reached a membership of 25,000. “That won’t happen for years,” everyone chortled. Then in 2015/16 the party’s membership rocketed to 63,000.

The Green surge demonstrated the numbers of people who valued what we have to say – above all the climate and ecological emergencies need serious action and serious voices. Recovering from the impact of that huge rise in membership took some time. We didn't have the infrastructure or the systems in place to use the new resources at our disposal in the best ways. 

So the past four years have been devoted to professionalising the Party and its systems under the wise guidance of Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mary Clegg. The foundation on which Mary’s success is being built is the political strategy approved by Conference in Spring 2021. This encapsulated the Party’s new-found confidence and bigger and bolder ambitions. On the back of that GPEx, with the CEO, has set out the organisational and financial objectives designed to deliver the political strategy. 

So what now?

We’re a modern party with an urgent mission. Our success is critical. When we succeed, we deliver.

We currently share power in eighteen councils. In thirteen of those councils, we hold the climate brief. In the other five, we hold significant climate-related roles. We’re a modern party with a duty to succeed. Critical to our success is an organisation that makes the most of our limited resources, and one which is now focused on dramatically expanding those resources. To put politics on a fairer footing.

We’re a modern party. We need a modern constitution. And we need members to stand for the governance bodies who understand the urgency of making us a party fit to govern. There are several key questions: what are the principles of good governance? Whose job is it to contribute to that? Where do we find candidates for governance posts who have the right characteristics? Could one of those be you?

We need more members with substantial board-level experience on our governing bodies. Such experience should be a key criterion in deciding for whom we vote.

Passionately held beliefs about one party policy or another do not qualify an individual to be an effective member of a governance body. Nor is a passionate interest in a single issue – or indeed oneself – a measure of fitness for office!

What we need is members with a passionate commitment to SHOOLIA. SHOOLIA is a mnemonic for the seven Nolan principles of Selflessness, Honesty, Objectivity, Openness, Leadership, Integrity, Accountability.

If the party is to succeed with the speed and urgency that our times demand, then it needs members with board-level experience committed to party unity and to SHOOLIA to step up to governance roles.