Authentic leadership is about knowing when to go

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

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.

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

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.

Getty Images.
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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.