Having endured many gibes from Green Party members about internal democracy over the years, I have to admit that I did enjoy more than a moment of schadenfreude this morning when I saw the reaction to David Hay’s perfectly legitimate leadership challenge to co-leader Russel Norman.
Regardless of what you think of Hay, he is exercising a democratic right that the Green Party have long-held in very high regard – to the best of my knowledge though, this is the first time anyone has actually challenged a sitting leader.
No doubt the Green leadership will be annoyed – just when they are starting to get traction on offshore oil drilling, this distraction comes along. I know that is how many of the members feel.
I do think it seems odd that a sitting co-leader can be challenged from outside of Parliament, but I figure that it’s an important principle for a minor party to adhere to, given how shallow the talent pool in their caucus can be at times, particularly given their gender quota for leadership (for example, just before the last election the Greens only had three female MPs, one of whom was already a co-leader and one had already announced her retirement).
So here is a handy suggestion for the Greens to help them preserved their much vaunted internal democracy, while still being able to exude stability: a petition. Institute a rule whereby anyone who wants to challenge a sitting co-leader is required to first get the signatures of a number of Green members. I don’t know what their membership numbers are like, but I’d suggest a threshold of 50 or so members seems sensible.
Being able to challenge an under performing leader is important. But so to is not letting one egomaniac destabilise the entire party.