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Walking the Walk

August 8, 2020 3:45 PM
By Keith Melton


In case you have not yet read the article, these first paragraphs represent something of a "spoiler alert", so shut your eyes and jump to the next paragraph, headed "Walking the Walk" and come back to this after you have read the article!

Fatima - lady in red (Keith Melton)I have just "cast my vote". My wife, Fatima, who is locked down in Brazil at the moment, cast her vote the other day - and she let me know that there were THREE boxes on the ballot. One for Ed, one for Layla and one in case you wanted to "abstain". I had not realised until Fatima told me, that there would be an option to "abstain" - so I thought I should actually register my positive abstention as per the article below. So I have just been to the voting site and put an "X" in the abstaining box.

I am a firm believer in democracy and using one`s vote and I have to say that it felt very odd, once I had written the article, to think that I would not actually use my vote in an important election, so it seemed the correct thing to do to use my vote, even if it was to remain neutral. Now that I have actually cast my abstention vote, I have to tell you that it felt even odder to use a cross "X" when there was an option to use a single transferable vote (yes, I know there were only two candidates, but I am sure you get my point!)

Keith Melton (Keith Melton)However, I also feel justified in my decision. Both candidates have excellent strengths to bring to the role, and I feel sure that, once the dust has settled and the new leader emerges, the candidate coming second will help to make up a winning team from the environmental point of view. Good luck to both of you. You are both winners - let`s now get on with making our distinctive Liberal voice heard, the country needs us more than they yet realise!

Walking the Walk - positive neutrality. From the Chair

Some days a certain confluence of events and thoughts changes the day; or changes one`s view of something; or both. Yesterday was one of those days for me. In the middle of the day I had a Zoom meeting with Jane Vaus and Karen Potter of "Sustainability Hub", talking about what a joint SusHub and Green Lib Dem Fringe meeting might look like at the Autumn Conference.

I also got sight of the motion that was apparently more "coherent" than the GLD motion to Conference - though I am by no means sure that there is any real difference in coherence - you`ll have to make your own minds up about that!

And, either side of these events, I was at my fields (where I am growing trees by the hundred to offset my carbon footprint!) mowing the grass pathways. This always allows me time to reflect upon things.

I shall come back to the comparison of "coherent motions" in another article very soon. But let me first address the meaning of the headline of this article. It was the result of my reflections as I plodded up and down my pathways behind the mower.

Leadership campaign - GLD neutrality.

You may have seen declarations from the Green Liberal Democrats that we would remain neutral as a group in the Party`s Leadership Elections - and we have carefully striven to do just that. We have been very careful to allow and encourage GLD membership to have and declare their own reasons for backing one or other of the candidates, of course. Our WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages have held robust debates about whether A is better than B or vice versa.

Interestingly, my best guess from reading all these opinions is that GLD members and exec committee members seem to be fairly evenly split on the issue. This is probably due to the fact that Layla and Ed have both been assiduously talking up the Environment, the Climate Emergency and Biodiversity losses.

They have both declared, with passion, that the environment will be one of their top three priorities if they get elected. Ed has majored on a £150 billion campaign on the environment and Layla has been pushing a move to a carbon NEGATIVE goal rather than just a carbon neutral goal by 2045.

Talking the Talk

Field pathway (Keith Melton)So, I was walking along behind my mower, occasionally having to stop to unbung the thing, because the grass had got a bit too long and was a bit damp from a short shower yesterday. "It`s all very well", I reflected a little grumpily "just talking the talk!" I have heard it all before - and have sadly been disappointed more than once, when the Party has not delivered on its high-flown rhetoric.

"How do we hold the new leader to their promises - and get them to `Walk the Walk`?"

Up to now, I had been thinking in terms of maintaining my own neutrality as Chair of GLD, merely by not declaring who I was voting for. Yesterday, I decided that I need to go a bit further and establish my absolute neutrality in the contest with a positive abstention. In other words, I shall not vote for either of them, and let the cards fall where they may.

I can then bring the full weight of the Green Liberal Democrats to bear, without fear or favour, as soon as the electoral dust has settled.

And we can make sure our new Leader has to Walk the Environmental Walk, rather than simply talk the environmental talk. The Green Liberal Democrats form one of the most significant Associated Organisations in the Party, with its membership having tripled in the last three years to around 1,000 members. At last year`s autumn conference we put on around 13 or 14 Fringe meetings, only topped numerically by ALDC fringes.

And we have just run our own very significant Online Festival of Green Events covering around 40 events in the space of 16 days, involving 9 of our eleven MPs and over half of the sixteen former MEPs, along with several CEOs, senior Professors and other assorted contributors. We have had over 200 paying participants, shown at least half a dozen films, run three photography competitions and held a Quiznite.

Additionally, we were graced with a Superstar Speaker in the form of Dr Jane Goodall (… as I said in my Chair`s Report to our last Exec Committee "…perhaps the most inspiring, knowledgeable and gentle speaker I have ever managed to coax to speak at a conference session in over fifty years of event management.")

Open Letter to the Leadership contenders

This new aspect of my `Positive Neutrality` has emboldened me to write you this brief `Open Letter` on behalf of myself and our GLD members…

So, Ed and Layla… You have both, literally, promised the Earth, in political terms, declaring Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss to be at the forefront of your ongoing campaigning. Green Liberal Democrats have been politically neutral, as have I, in the leadership election. And, if you will `Walk the Walk` with us on these issues, I will do everything I can to ensure GLD support for your leadership as we go forward together, bringing the full strength of our Associated Organisation to bear in supporting your positive Green Ventures.

In exchange for this post-election fealty, I would ask just four things.

1 You promise to be our keynote speaker for the joint meeting between the Green Liberal Democrats and the Sustainability Hub.

2 You undertake to meet with myself and my senior GLD colleagues during the first month of your Leadership period to discuss how best we can take the Party`s Green initiatives forward in campaigning terms.

[As I have indicated above, GLD punches well above its weight on a purely voluntary basis, but if we can support our activism with funded professional help, our campaigning capacity will be significantly, and disproportionately, magnified. With this in mind we are about to prepare a fund-raising effort to bring this professionalism about… so points 3 & 4 relate to this initiative>>>]

3 You undertake to hold meaningful discussions with GLD and the Party`s CEO and President about match-funding our fund-raising efforts, from central Party funds, to help provide us with paid professional support.

4 Once our professional support is in place, you undertake to help ensure we have access, not only to the Leader`s Office, but also to the research facilities and reports of the Parliamentary Party and HQ as well as access to MPs and officials in both.

We look forward very much to hearing from you - if possible before the Leadership Election is concluded

. . . . .Yours sincerely,

Keith M Melton

Chair, Green Liberal Democrats; August 2020