In the comments on this post on top Green blog, The Daily Maybe, Modernity asked blogger Jim Jepps for an update on progress with the Green Party’s guidance on antisemitism, and Weggis informed him that the Green Party Regional Council’s (GPRC’s) previously-agreed guidance on antisemitism had been withdrawn after intervention from the Green Party’s London Federation.
In the ensuing discussion, Jim Jepps made the following comments about GPRC:
- “We’re an anti-racist party and we have a policy on everything (unfortunately) hence anti-semitism policy – although this is different as it is a committee report not party policy… exciting stuff i’m sure you’ll agree”
- “This is a committee producing some guidelines that no one will ever read.”
- “The Green Party has clear policy that it is opposed to racism including (explicitly mentioned in the PSS) anti-semitism.”
- “What we’re talking about here is a minor committee that most members never notice and few people want to be on wrangling about ‘guidelines’ that it chose to write.”
- “But GPRC is irrelevant – if it accepts something is a problem then decides it isn’t it’s only their own time they are wasting. And if [Green Party member X] wants to put motions about it then at least it keeps [them] off the streets.”
- “Sorry if this sounds dismissive I just think GPRC’s role within the party is ‘not central’ shall we say.”
- “If this was Darren Johnson or Jean Lambert that would be one thing but we’re talking about a very small clique which has almost no influence in the party – the fact the [Green Party member X] has noticed them does not change that.”
So, in playing down the fiasco over the GPRC’s antisemitism guidance, Jim has dismissed the GPRC as not being “central” to the party, being a “minor committee”, and being an “irrelevant” “clique”.
We thought this was worthy of some investigation. Could it be that the Green Party Regional Council doesn’t matter after all? Here are our findings.
GPRC is responsible for policing the democratic structures of the Green Party and ensuring the Party’s “well being”. The Party’s executive (GPEx) is responsible to the GPRC. Members of the Green Party Executive (GPEx) can be required to report to GPRC, which has the right to recall (suspend) GPEx members, including party Leader and Co-Leader. GPRC has responsibility for policy between conferences, and the enforcement of party procedures. GPRC can review local party decisions, and overturn them, in the event of a complaint. GPRC also plays in a key role in determining the strategic priorities of the Party.
The GPRC, and in particular its co-chairs, have a key role in handling disputes and complaints raised by regional parties, individual party members and member of the public. The GPRC co-chairs can summarily dismiss a complaint, refer it to dispute resolution, or initiate a full-blown tribunal. They can suspend a party member pending a tribunal, and initiate investigations into members behaviour. It may be the case that they are a clique suffering from a bad case of groupthink. But to say GPRC is irrelevant in the Green Party is akin to saying that the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, and the judicial system, are all irrelevant cliques that can be ignored by those concerned with democracy and justice.
GPRC’s constitutional role means that the fiasco over guidelines concerning antisemitism is important and not merely a trivial side-show. The GPRC has previously agreed that there is a specific problem with antisemitism in the Green Party, which requires action on its part, including specific guidance to be considered when dealing with complaints relating to antisemitism.
The Green Party declares itself an anti-racist party. RRR08.1:
“Members should at all times, including when proposing and implementing policy, be sensitive to the fact that the Green Party does not and will not endorse or tolerate antisemitism, or discrimination of any form.”
In 2009 GPRC endorsed a report raising concerns about antisemitic behaviour.
Recommendation 4.1.3 states:
“We recommend that training is offered to all party members on a regular basis, for example through conference, around the topic of anti-racism and anti-semitism. We are aware that some of the anti-semitic behaviour noted at 4.1.2 may not be perceived as such by the people involved, and we feel that it is vital that these kind of attitudes are challenged in a proactive manner.”
The Green Party Regional Council accepted a report that there is a problem with antisemitism in the Green Party. It also accepted very specific recommended actions.
And yet the Green Party has now failed to carry out any of the actions that GPRC previously deemed necessary. It now has no guidance on how to deal with a specific problem that it agrees exists. The absence of documented guidelines in such a difficult area is bound to lead to grave doubts as to whether GPRC is competence to make impartial decisions.
Members of the Green Party may usually have little, if any, contact with the GPRC. But should they ever become involved in a dispute, they will probably come to disagree with the view that it is an irrelevant minor committee, whose decisions, and failings, are of no importance.
To a cynical onlooker it might seem that the entire process for producing guidance on antisemitism was set up to fail, perhaps so that GPRC could wash its hands of a problem that they acknowledge exists but cannot or will not act on. Perhaps one question is whether GPRC is seeking “merely” to appease certain individuals and groups to avoid confrontation and embarrassment, or whether those individuals and groups are de facto in charge of the institutions of the party.
All of this indicates that GPRC has a critical role in policing the Green Party: it is wrong to dismiss GPRC and its decisions as irrelevant.
Author: Chris Fox, Colchester and District Green Party.