Yesterday, I watched a live hustings of the candidates for the next Deputy Leaders of the Green Party-four men, one woman. Due to technical issues, the live hustings started 40 minutes late, but luckily, it went well when it did get going.
The four men in question were Shahrar Ali of Brent, Councillor William 'Will' Duckworth of Dudley, Councillor Mark Ereira-Guyer of Bury St. Edmunds, and Councillor Robert 'Rob' Telford of Bristol. The lone woman in these hustings was Amelia Womack of Lambeth.
In my honest opinion, all of them put up a good performance, especially on the priorities the Green Party should focus on in next year's general election. Many questions were asked by many different Greens, and it did indeed prove to be a rather tough hustings, just like the Green Party leadership candidates' debate of 2012. Here is my opinion of the advantages and disadvantages of each of the candidates who took part, based on the answers they gave to Green Party members' questions and their past experience within the Green Party:
Shahrar Ali, Brent Green Party:
Good points: Shahrar was generally straight to the point when he answered each question, and answered in a relatively easily comprehensible way. He is also a good communicator and can appeal well to greens in areas like Brent, Harrow, Ilford etc.
Not so good points: Shahrar just did not seem radical enough for me, despite his other good points, and I believe that this could be an issue in places with a radical tradition like Tower Hamlets.
Will Duckworth, Dudley Green Party:
Good points: Will's personal experience and dedication within Dudley, and also his strong connection to working-class voters, will be particularly useful for winning over Labour voters and also the UKIP voters who have just been led astray by biased media coverage.
Not so good points: The same hard left stance Will uses to appeal to ex-Labour voters who vote (or may vote) Green because of our left-wing policies could be problematic when dealing with more liberal greens/potential greens who live in affluent but liberal places like Richmond-upon-Thames or Malvern rather than industrial towns like Dudley, Sandwell, Sheffield etc.
Mark Ereira-Guyer, Bury St. Edmunds Green Party:
Good points: Having once been in Labour (as a Labour candidate, he almost won the safely Conservative seat of Bury St. Edmunds, he knows what it is like to have once been in a mainstream party,and therefore he has a lot of experience. He can also appeal to a rather wide range of voters, not just ex-Labour voters but also ex-Lib Dem and ex-Conservative voters (notable in Suffolk where he lives).
Not so good points: His 'not left nor right but green' stance, which can appeal to a broad spectrum of potential greens and particularly rural/semi-urban greens, can be a double-edged sword. With the three mainstream parties clearly right of centre, and with a major recession still going on, we Greens need to keep to a clearly left-wing stance, especially if we want to retain Brighton Pavilion and win Norwich South next year.
Rob Telford, Bristol Green Party:
Good points: Rob clearly knows what Green priorities need to be-defending Brighton in the general election and focusing on how green issues will be useful to voters. He is also particularly urbane which will be beneficial to getting out the student vote who once voted Liberal Democrat.
Not so good points: Like Mark, Rob took a rather centrist stance in these hustings (see above for why I believe this could be a problem). Also, Bristol Green Party is in my opinion one of the least left-wing Green Parties, and Rob has not exactly been that critical of Bristolian Mayor George Ferguson's pro-cuts administration.
Amelia Womack, Lambeth Green Party:
Good points: Amelia kept unwaveringly on track when she answered our questions, and she was clearly right on target with respect to what was important in the next general election and what we Greens need to do. She also understands the importance of media coverage of the Green Party well and her youth will help show young voters (who are much less likely to vote than older voters) that we can be an alternative to the tired old neoliberal consensus.
Not so good points: She could have been louder, and her portfolio and inner city lefty-liberal stance which can win favours in places like Hampstead and Islington may seem a bit too elite for the youthful voters who do not live in large cities or who are not students. Potential green voters in traditionally bohemian places like Hebden Bridge or Stroud also might not favour her as much as urbane greens.
Overall on balance, it was a close contest. But I will say that out of the four male GPEW deputy leader candidates, Will performed best in my opinion, and I firmly believe he should be re-elected Green Party Deputy Leader for a second term. As for other preferences, my second preference will go to Mark, my third preference to Shahrar, and my fourth preference to Rob. I will say it was difficult to decide,though. Amelia will also have my vote, of course.
Please feel free to give your thoughts on my analysis of these hustings.