Why I quit the Green PartyPolitics · · 9 minutes
On 11th June 2022, I resigned my membership of the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW). Here’s a blog post explaining why; primarily aimed at other members of the party.
Who am I?
I joined the Green Party in September 2014, after a period of political homelessness. My politics has always been human rights first, anti-capitalist second, and the Green Party had - and still has - the best policies in these areas of all the mainstream parties.
Since joining I have been:
- Coordinator of Central & Outer Leeds Green Party - the largest local party in Leeds - for two terms,
- Coordinator of the Leeds Federation of Green Parties for its entire existence,
- Both a local and parliamentary candidate in 2019’s elections, and
- Co-author of some national policies, and signatory to many others, including the first version of the trans “self ID” policy in Autumn 2017.
I’m also transgender and non-binary. Indeed, it was the Green Party conference in Spring 2018 where I first “came out” publicly to people beyond my closest family. If you’re here, it’s probably no surprise to you that this is connected.
The story, in brief
Trans rights have been under attack in the GPEW by a small, dedicated group of members since at least Spring 2018.
This group has been using the same disinformation as a global campaign to remove rights from trans people because of claims that our rights - our very existence - comes into conflict with the rights of other groups. I’m not going to spend huge amounts of column inches debunking all their misinformation but I’d urge you to read this page from LGBT+ Lib Dems whether you agree with their politics or not. The arguments are mostly recycled conspiracy arguments from anti-semitism, also used to attack racially minoritized people and lesbian/gay/bisexual people during the last 50 years. It’s worth reading about how the global transphobia movement is funded (spoiler: it’s the same people who are funding the anti-abortion movement).
The small number of members who hold the view that trans rights need to be rolled back present themselves as “defenders of women” and “standing up for women”, and indeed they claim if you criticise their argument that you’re trying to silence women (never mind that many of the most vocal ones in our party are men). In reality, the majority of women members of GPEW, and indeed the majority of women in the country, whatever their political affiliation, are in favour of trans rights. Some of the most high-profile women in the party including Caroline Russell, Siân Berry and Amelia Womack have been very vocal supporters of the current trans rights policies. Indeed, Siân’s resignation letter specifically pointed to this battle as her reason for no longer being leader.
You might be thinking - our policies are decided democratically and it should be OK for fringe groups to push for their ideas to be accepted even if they never are. Unfortunately, this small group has used every tool in the book to hijack the organs of democracy. They stand slates for important elections such as GPEX (the Green Party Executive) and don’t mention their agenda in their candidate statements. They present motion after motion to Conference trying to overturn the trans rights policies and then filibuster the debate so that the only things that ever get discussed at Conference are the most broad-reaching environmental policies that everyone supports, and this topic. This has been going on since 2018.
The group also use a classic intimidation technique of threatening people with legal action when they are called out. One high-profile member was removed from his post as spokesperson because he refused to back our democratically adopted policy on trans rights, and now he is taking the party to court claiming that this is a violation of his freedom of conscience. If he wins that case, no party will ever be able to stop its spokespeople spinning whatever line they want in contravention of their own policies and we should all be very scared of this.
Is it a two-sided issue? No, I don’t believe it is. It is one group determined to get a human rights policy overturned or watered down, and a number of people standing up trying to defend it. If the first group went away, there would be no “debate”. In the meantime, trans members have felt unsafe to attend Conference (I myself hadn’t been since 2017) or they quit the party - leadership candidate Tamsin Omond left for much the same reasons as me.
Many local members have said to me: “why not just focus your attention locally and ignore the national party?” and I think this is part of the problem - so many members are so focussed on local politics they forget to pay attention to what is happening in their national party, and they don’t get involved in the very democracy that is being hijacked. It’s low turnouts for things like GPEX elections that allow people who hold these views to attain the offices with power.
When this issue was finally raised at a local party meeting of Central & Outer Leeds Green Party, in the context of the inclusion workshop (see later), the conversation quickly changed to “how can we have inclusion workshops for all kinds of prejudices?” That kind of thinking isn’t helpful, because there’s only one kind of prejudice that is dominating the Conference agenda at the moment (well, OK, it has smatterings of all the other prejudices mixed in with it, but it’s the headline topic).
Why I am leaving now
I’ve had enough. Mostly I’ve just been waiting for the tide to turn: every Conference I think “this will be the last” but it’s been going on for four years now. I tried to stand by all the amazing people in GPEW who have been challenging this the whole time. I won’t name names here but I am in awe of all of you.
I chose this time because the elections are over and I didn’t want to harm the party’s chances locally or nationally. Ultimately this is an internal thing and the party’s policies - what they’d do if they got into government - are still great and I still support them.
But party processes have failed me and all trans members. It’s time for me to devote my free time to something where I feel safe, welcome and valued.
Where I’m going next
I’m staying politically unaffiliated for now. I’ll still likely vote Green in upcoming elections. Indeed, if I was staying in Hunslet & Riverside I’d definitely continue to vote for Green councillors here - Ed Carlisle is a great adovcate for the area and I wish him all the best to become joined on the council by two more colleagues.
In England & Wales, the best party on trans rights is the Lib Dems. Sorry to say it, but it’s true. I’m not going back to them because no matter how supportive they are of my gender, I cannot agree with their pro-capitalist stance on economics.
Labour has its own battles internally which I’m led to believe are as bad as in GPEW. Plus, I can’t agree with them on immigration or (bizarrely) their new stance on industrial action.
I’ve vaguely toyed with the idea of standing independently for election, or starting my own “Queers & Immigrants” party, but this is probably many years off if it would ever happen.
What I hope remaining allies will do
If you’re still a member of GPEW, here’s how you can help:
- Please pay attention to what is happening in your national party. Ultimately, local parties are representing policies set at this level. You’ll have members in your local party who are engaged - please talk to them.
- Educate yourselves about this issue. LGBTIQA+ Greens run inclusion workshops for local parties. Please invite them to do one with you and attend it.
- Human rights are not a debate - please don’t call for more dialogue about human rights where one side is the affected group and the other side is not. All dialogue about trans rights should have trans representatives on both sides of the dialogue - if you can’t find them for one side, chances are it’s because the very idea of discussing it is decreasing our safety.
- Vote in elections for national bodies such as GPEX and GPRC. Turn up to Conference and vote for the inclusive motions. Vote them up at the prioritisation ballot so they get heard first.
- Do everything you can to get a statement passed at Conference like the one passed by Scottish Greens in 2018 that makes clear what the limits to debate are when it comes to trans rights.
If a statement like this is passed, and I see evidence that it is being enforced, I would be very tempted to return.
Thank you for reading. Comments are off and I am not interested in taking questions on this subject.