Green 2000 was a movement to streamline the constitutional arrangements of the Green Party of England and Wales in the early 1990s, with the stated aim of getting a green government by the year 2005.
The constitutional changes passed in 1991 included:
- Creating a party Executive of 10 members to replace the Green Party Council of 25
- Reducing the official Principal Speakers from six to two
- Creating a single party Chair to replace the three Co-Chairs
- Creating a Regional Council to hold the Executive accountable between conferences
These Executive and Regional Council structures replaced a very large single "Green Party Council".
Although the changes were adopted by the party, many of the members who proposed the changes left the party at the end of the first year's executive, in September 1992, leaving 'decentralists' and a leftist group called Association of Socialist Greens grouped around the newsletter The Way Ahead, who had opposed the changes, in charge of the party's new structures.
Their opponents were mainly made up of a radical group that included Penny Kemp, Derek Wall, John Norris and John Morrissey who believed that electoral politics alone was not enough. Strikingly, none of the leading opponents of the proposals have held public office at any level above Parish Council in contrast to the Green 2000 grouping and their supporters, who have gone on to serve as Green Party MEPS, London Assembly members, or have pursued successful careers outside of the party. Parkin and Porritt formed the Forum for the Future, with Porritt later running the Sustainable Development Commission.
Derek Wall says: “The right around the Green 2000 faction wanted to make us into a mainstream party with mass appeal, ditch the radicalism, reengineer the Party constitution and centralise power. We fought them. I remember Sara Parkin talking to the Independent about 'socialist parasites' i.e. myself and Penny Kemp who had been members nearly as long as her. They won and then imploded, when the Party received just a couple of percentage at the 1992 General Election. When the 'realists' believe in achieving a Westminster Parliamentary government by 2000 (thus Green 2000), give me fundamentalism.”
The idea that Parkin and others in Green 2000 really represented a ‘right wing’ is contestable, however. Parkin is on record as supporting all of the party‘s main policy planks at the time. Morrissey, one the key opponents of Green 2000, also sees the split as being more about tactics and ‘electoralism’ than policy as such.
After the success of the Green 2000 constitutional reform, a dispute arose with centrist members - some of whom had supported the Green 2000 initiative whilst not being active campaigners for it - around planned closure of the Party's approach to campaigning in Parliament through Parliamentary Bills, an approach pioneered by campaigns director Ron Bailey. This group, which included Mallen Baker - quoted after the event as having led the group although it had not had formalised leadership as such - led a 'recall' campaign against key members of the executive alleging that actions to disband the party's approach to campaigns and to remove party staff associated with it went beyond the mandate of Green 2000. The attempt failed in achieving the recall of the executive members concerned, although it ensured wide publicity and discussion throughout the party about the proposed changes, and saw Sara Parkin choose to withdraw from the subsequent election to the Executive before voting had been completed.
Sara Parkin and others at the time stated that the opposition they encountered was essentially a war of attrition, which prevented them from exercising any direction. This view is echoed by their opponent Morrissey, who however says that the group from the centre of the party led by Mallen Baker were responsible for much of the disruption: “Their approach was to harry the leadership at every opportunity until its members simply gave up in despair and quit. The tactic succeeded. A few weeks before the 1992 Autumn Conference and the end of its term of office the Executive crumbled, then collapsed.”
Parkin and Porritt distanced themselves from the party after the episode, although Porritt has remained a member.
Critique of Green 2000 Edit
Clearly, the aim that the Green party could enter government by 2005 was optimistic. But it reflected an 'electoral' bias - perhaps the real division in the Green Party. Opponents at the time felt that direct action, grassroots networking and other tactics were more likely to provide political benefit than a focus on gaining councillors and then Westminster seats. Morrissey, for instance, believed:
“The Party is itself a coalition between its environmentalist and electoralist right wing and a left which is libertarian and anarchistic. The former is comfortable with the traditional party form and conventional political activity. The latter could have rejected the idea of party altogether but has instead tried to reinvent it.”
The group of Green 2000 supporters that ran the party in 1991-2 presided over an unsuccessful General election campaign, which was ill-prepared, and led to a subsequent demoralization and large drop in membership. The party was also unable to cope with the growth in members it had experienced some years before. The strategy was open to criticism for raising hopes unrealistically and not then delivering the necessary changes needed to drive the party forward. However, the Green 2000 group itself felt that the 'decentralists' managed to sap their energies and prevent direction being formed. It also strengthened those in the party who shared Green 2000's electoral bias but thought they were going about in the wrong way.
Effect on party long term Edit
After the departure of Green 2000 the structures that they had put into place remained. A constitutional review was set in motion which lasted three years which was to finally put a number options to the party conference. However even though there was a clear majority for change none of the proposals quite gained the needed two-thirds majority. Despite this, the Green 2000 have been proved more than adequate in allowing reasonably-well organized election campaigns that helped elect Greens to the European parliament and London Assembly, and also in promoting Principal Speakers to the media. Peter Barnett (The first quarter-century of the Green Party, 1973-1998) describes the post Green 2000 party as one where "internal strife and lack of tolerance between members with differing views largely disappeared."
In terms of an electoral or activist bias, this question seems to have resolved itself, as slow electoral gains seem to have provided their own momentum towards the aim of council and Westmister gains. The focus of the party seems much more in line now with Green 2000's model than those of their opponents, but this has come about through gradual work, supported by the party's Target to Win strategy, rather than being a vision imposed by the party's executive.