In this party, we believe in democracy for the many, not the few. While Labour has always elected men as leaders, this September the Greens not only selected a woman for the fourth term in a row, we also have voted for her to lead as a job-share, and with someone who has been vocal about his experience as a carer of a disabled child. And I am immensely proud of what is almost certainly another England and Wales political party first this year: electing a young woman, and one who is disabled, as the Green Party Executive’s Chair.
In the Greens, we have always believed in opening up democracy. But doing so is more important than ever at a time when many are disillusioned with politics, and when people who say that the public have ‘had enough of experts’ can tap into that despondency with catastrophic consequences. Our Parliament is still two-thirds male, has less than a handful of disabled MPs, and far fewer people of colour, or who are trans or nonbinary, than is representative of the population. Unsurprisingly, the ideological policies of austerity have hit those least well represented the hardest. In this context, it is understandable many feel that traditional ways of engaging with democracy are ‘not for people like us’.
Rather than engage with a seemingly fixed system, it is reassuring that people have not given up on democracy entirely. There is continual interest in public demonstrations and in online petitions, and pressure groups not affiliated to any one party. And, after years of ‘tactical voting’ under our first- past-the-post system, no one can say there was anything less than a huge interest in the EU referendum.
Citizens’ representation is still being squeezed, both via withdrawal from the European Union and through the proposed boundary changes for UK Parliamentary constituencies. We must act now, not only to revive our democracy, but to prevent it from slipping backwards. As a party, we know that more must be done to increase diversity within politics – as Women’s Equalities Spokesperson Sarah Cope and I argued during our campaign to allow MPs the right to job-share, turnout is likely to increase as people begin to see politics as something not just for the ‘pale, stale and male’. And we know that voting system reform, including reforming the way we populate the House of Lords, is essential. Flicking through these pages, it is clear that Greens are leading the charge to open up our democracy to all.