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Authentic leadership is about knowing when to go

Caroline Lucas on why she is standing aside as Green party leader

New Statesman
A Green candidate canvasses, June 2009. Photograph: Getty Images

When members of the Green Party of England and Wales voted to create a formal leadership team back in 2007, it was a pivotal moment in our move away from the margins of British political life.

Some members had felt sceptical about establishing a conventional leader in the traditional mould – mindful of the risks that such a role could bring.

But leadership is also a powerful tool that can draw people in and inspire them.  Our decision to elect a leader was in recognition that it is a privilege to lead, not a right – and that inspirational, moral and persuasive leadership was crucial if we were to effectively communicate our vision for a greener, fairer future to the wider public.

Authentic leadership is also about sharing out responsibilities to others – a refreshing alternative to the more traditional model of leaders hanging onto power at all costs, and only finally being dragged away, their finger nails still embedded in the office furniture.

In September, I’ll reach the end of my second term as the first national leader of the Green party of England and Wales, and I’ve decided not to see re-election for another 2 year term in order to let new talent come to the fore.

As a member of the party for over 20 years, I’ve been hugely honoured to serve in this role. We’ve seen Green politics come of age in recent years, with the party becoming the most influential it has ever been.
Significant breakthroughs in Brighton & Hove – our first seat at Westminster and our first ever local council – have been accompanied by successes across the country.

In the 2012 local elections, we saw more Greens elected to new councils, as well as establishing ourselves as the third party, ahead of the Liberal Democrats, in the elections for London Mayor and the London Assembly.

People are increasingly responding to the Green message, and recognising that we are the credible alternative, with particular interest from former Libdem voters feeling deeply let down by their party leadership’s complicity in the Government’s job-destroying austerity.  

In the last few weeks alone, there have been defections from long serving Liberal Democrat councillors in Solihull and Worthing, choosing to support their local Green parties instead.

As the party looks ahead to a positive future, building on the outstanding work of elected Greens and party campaigners in every region, I believe that now is the time to make space for a new Green leader to build their profile – and that of the party.

Having stepped back from this national position, I’ll be able to invest even more of my time and energy in representing the people of Brighton Pavilion, speaking out in parliament on behalf of my constituents, doing all I can to defend them against the government’s disastrous economic policies, and putting the Green case for change in all circles of national political debate.