It is difficult to know how to write this letter without using phrases such as “What on earth is going on?” and my mother’s favourite phrase, “Wake up at the back there!” But when multiple WhatsApp groups are on fire until well after midnight using words like ‘trigger-happy’, ‘overreach’, ‘out-of-control’, ‘factional zealots’, plus the inevitable ‘lawyers’, you know all is not well in the presumed genteel world of Green Seniors.
Yesterday evening at the respectable pre-horlicks time of 5pm, Green Seniors held their AGM. 300-odd members had duly received agenda, previous minutes and notice of annual election and 48 members turned up to enjoy an hour’s convivial company. What ensued could only be described as a scene out of Monty Python or at the least a Pagford Parish Council meeting in ‘The Casual Vacancy’, as the appointed ERO, and a last minute stand-in chair attending from his hospital bed, tried valiantly to bring some order to the proceedings. “What on earth could have happened” indeed?
When the eager members finally managed to gain entrance to the zoom, the heroic chair not being entirely au fait with the technology of hosting, we were shocked to learn that the Co-Chairs of Green Seniors, Nicola Watson & Freda Davis, variously described on those pinging WhatsApp messages as stalwarts and grandees of the Party, had been subject to the Party’s now notorious No Fault Suspensions (NFS). Nicola had just returned from a weekend canvassing for Adrian Ramsay in Suffolk. Freda is a veteran of Greenham – if she was unafraid of the might of the US military do you imagine for a minute she will be cowed by ‘overreaching factional zealots’? In addition, quite probably the eldest member of the Party, Eric Walker, Membership Secretary, who celebrates his 99th birthday next month, had similarly fallen on his sword. Anyone who witnessed Eric declining to leave the meeting voluntarily when requested and instead insisting on being ejected, will have been left under no illusion that the ‘factional zealots’ who had brought about this situation have made a very big mistake in targeting these veteran members. The ensuing uproar, albeit conducted in tones of controlled but thunderous outrage (the meeting chat stretched to many pages when saved and analysed later with our horlicks), left us all in no doubt that this attack on the internal democracy of Seniors may well be the last straw which breaks the camel’s back of the corruption which has seemingly now embedded itself in the Party.
The reference to ‘fanatical zealots’ is used advisedly. Witnesses to and victims of the wholesale capture of the Party’s Complaints and Disciplinary system, Regional Council, Standing Orders Committee and the national ERO position *(#hatgate anyone?) can tell you this is no overstatement. Of course, there are numerous honourable members on our governance bodies but they are constantly outnumbered by the said faction, resulting in:
- Trees hero and PPC, Alison Teal, on a NFS for 16 months
- Astute and highly-respected Co-Chair of Green Party Women, Zoe Hatch, suspended and GPW closed down
- Dawn Furness and Emma Bateman, returned after years of suspensions but unable to stand for office and now in determined mode
- Robbie Spence returned after two years on NFS for a crime which it turned out never existed!
- The Party’s original whistleblower on the Challenor Affair, Andy Healey, finally expelled after years of persecution
- Ex-Chair of our esteemed Executive, Liz Reason, now on a four-year suspension
- And now three stalwart Seniors on NFS – for how long?
Of course no details are known of the alleged crimes and I can hear the cries of ‘we cannot interfere in the complaints system’, and ‘all eyes are on the General Election’. But the media are ready and waiting for internal Party scandals. It is time to recognise the Complaints System is corrupted beyond repair, with requests for NFS from complainants regularly upheld by decision-makers acting on an ideological basis against members they disagree with. There are rumours that the Regional Council is ignoring its own legal advice, and members are increasingly disturbed by the Party’s willingness to sleep-walk into unlawful discrimination. As was posited last night, unless these three septuagenarian, octogenarian and nonagenarian members have turned into latter-day Bonnie and Clydes and embarked on a bank robbing spree, none of us Seniors can see what possible risk they could be to the Party. In our eyes, their only crime has been to champion free speech in the Party, allow open discussion on dozens of subjects including the bete noir of said ‘fanatical faction’, sex and gender.
If anyone amongst the leadership is still in ostrich mode, please be assured the determination to confront discrimination in the Party will never go away. The combined age and experience present last night was in the region of 3000 years. And short of waiting for us all to die off, we can assure the Party that women and men who have spent that many years campaigning for, amongst other causes, the rights of women (‘as a sex’ used to be implicit but now needs to be spelt out) are not about to give up now. Age discrimination has just been added to our grievances.
To be deadly serious, the ‘fanatical zealots’ acting unlawfully to discriminate against members contrary to the Equality Act are on course to bring our beloved Party to its knees, judicially, financially and morally. I now count seven members fully determined to follow in Shahrar Ali’s footsteps in holding the Party to account in the courts if necessary, with the aim not of damaging the Party but of making it the ethical driving force it needs to be.
It is way past time for the Party to end this unlawful discrimination once and for all. For a start:
- The use of NFS for anything other than criminal acts must be ended
- Disciplinary Committee and DCRG must be disbanded and all complaints outsourced
- No members may be allowed to hold multiple seats on governance bodies
- All in leadership positions must go public with their condemnation of discrimination on the basis of sex and age, within the Party
There are now numerous unofficial groups formed with the intention of holding the Party to account on the issues of sex discrimination and abysmal governance. Efforts are now being combined, meetings are being held across disparate groups. The camel’s back is now groaning with the additional straws.
Other words heard tonight were ‘leadership’ and ‘get a grip’. Now is the time for action.
Best Green wishes
Liverpool Green Party
* Hatgate: In an internal Party election for multiple roles last year, well-known advocates of gender ideology were listed top for every role. On enquiring of the ERO which randomiser had been used, the astonishing answer was “We kept it classic and drew the names out of a hat. The hat was a 1950s refurbished chestnut brown peach loom felt trilby and the paper was the back of an old agenda paper.” This became the subject of a speech on the Conference floor and subsequently went down in Party lore as #hatgate. Needless to say the ERO uses they/them pronouns.