Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Why equalities and diversity are more important to the Green Party than ever

Of all the issues facing the UK right now, the cuts agenda of the Coalition Government is clearly the most pressing. As the enormity of what this means for the public has sunk in, it's been encouraging to see that the Green Party (and Caroline Lucas in particular) are being listened to more than ever before as a voice of reason and moderation.

Research is already showing that the loss of public services are disproportionately affecting women, black and ethnic minority communities, disabled people and the working classes. More now than ever, we need to be directly addressing the hopes and fears of these groups in society and articulating an inclusive vision directed at standing up for their priorities.

Yet, right now it is clear that authentic voices from these communities remain a minority in the Green Party. The stark truth is that whilst we have made some strides forward in broadening our electorate platform, the overall view the public have of the Green Party is that we are are a white, male and middle-class organisation. This view may feel unfair and doesn't account for the concern we have for all of our society, but it remains an impediment to being taken seriously.

We need to urgently review our strategy in encouraging talented people from under-represented groups to take leading roles in the party, as well as more intensive engagement with communities outside our comfort zones. We need to be hearing hard truths from those who feel under-represented in the party. They should be provided with support to capacity-build and have a more prominent voice in shaping our future.

Within our party, we need dedicated people working to facilitate the breaking down of barriers to access for all members and to ensure that a plurality of voices are heard - in both our policy making and in how we operate as an organisation. Diversity also means regional too - I'm keen that whilst we retain strong voices from London and Brighton, we make space for voices represented from different regions, each wrestling with rich political traditions and challenges not heard enough in the UK political scene.

I have previously written about the opportunities and challenges facing those of us within the Green Party working on LGBT issues too. We should nurture good work like this, but ensure it becomes more transparent and inclusive so that individuals feel able to contribute and develop their confidence. We should learn from the successes of other groups in coalition-building outside the party, such as the work undertaken by Green Women.

We need voices that articulate our core principles in terms that make sense to a diversity of differing communities and speak to the pressing concerns of as many people as possible. I'm keen that we have a conversation as a Party as to how we can best achieve this and urge strong leadership at the highest parts of the party to ensure this happens.

In the longer term, if we are to succeed electorally and move from the political margins, the Green Party needs to nurture fresh voices that inspire and act as a glue to bring together the rich and varied communities within the UK. Championing equalities and diversity in this party isn't a "bolt on" concern, it must be at the heart of our work if we are to truly represent the hopes of our fellow citizens.

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