A Political Job Share? Green Party Leadership Election Sets New Precedent

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The announcement that frontrunner and Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas was elected to the leadership of the Green Party hardly came as a surprise.

The fact she has a co-leader, however, was completely unexpected prior to the contest. Her election on a joint ticket with party Work and Pensions spokesperson and former parliamentary candidate Jonathan Bartley has given rise to a somewhat alien concept at Westminster: the ‘political job share’.

Since their decisive election with 86% of all first preference votes in the six candidate contest, the Greens’ new head honchos have made no secret of their decidedly un-British political ambitions.

In something more reminiscent of Danish or German politics (or perhaps an episode of Borgen) they are unashamedly frank and open about their desire to form a progressive alliance with Labour. Such an agreement would mean the two parties would not field candidates against each other in an attempt to stop any possibility of the Conservatives being elected.

Prior to her election, Lucas claimed that Jeremy Corbyn’s office said it would be open to discussing the idea, and that Labour had by no means ‘shut the door’ on the possibility. Corbyn himself, however, has publicly ruled out the idea, saying that Labour is ‘different from any other party’.

The pair also set out their policy direction over the coming years, declaring their ambition for a ‘green guarantee’ that would allow industry to be undergo a ‘new industrial revolution that will work for everyone’. In practical terms, this is likely to mean policies focused on green technology and tackling social inequality.

We have, of course, been here before. In 2008 Lucas was elected as the Green Party’s first ever leader before standing down after Natalie Bennett was elected to the role in 2012.

Bennett’s position came under intense scrutiny during the 2015 general election after a number of highly publicised ‘gaffes’ including her performance at the televised general election debates. She later stood down after the election result, admitting that she was not a ‘spin-trained, lifelong politician’.

The successful job sharing arrangement with Bartley came about after he proposed the idea to Lucas, saying that he did not want a full time leadership role so he could spend time with his disabled son. Bartley described the idea as a new way of ‘opening up’ politics, saying that Westminster needed to ‘catch up’.

The road ahead for the pair is set to be filled with the consequences of the recent ‘Brexit’ vote, which Lucas set out as a key priority during their acceptance speech. She told the party that any deal on a new relationship with the EU should be put to a public vote in a second referendum, arguing that she could not accept ‘a deal that doesn’t offer hope and security to both those who voted to Leave and those who voted to Remain’.

 

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International Editor 2015-17. Third year French & Spanish student currently spending a year studying abroad in Concepción, Chile. Interested in media and world news.

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