Following our tremendous election result in the local elections a couple of weeks ago (where we grew from six to 13 councillors) it was a pleasure to be chosen to be the Green Whip for our party group. Though this may sound like a strangely conceived super-hero, the green whip is a conundrum unto itself. A political whip is someone who traditionally makes sure that party members vote along party-lines and delivers discipline where required (by removing committee appointments etc). But as a grass-roots and members –led organisation what place is there for this old-fashioned and outdated appointment?
When the Green Group was just Cllr Tess Green and I, we elected her as leader and me as whip. We joked in our first Full Council together that she would tell me what to do and I’d make sure she did it. Tess then added more seriously that we’d prefer to be known as Principle Speaker and Party Coordinator. Though this was not allowed, this is the rough convention we have stuck with through the following ‘Leaders’ and ‘Whips’.
Now with more than double our numbers in the council chambers and with members possessing very diverse skill and expertise-sets, the role of leader and whip has taken on a slightly fuller role to previous years. As the third largest Party in the council our opinions will be sought more readily from the local press and as such Rob Telford as our new leader will be under greater demand. To ensure party cohesion and that our negotiations with other parties go smoothly my job will certainly be cut-out for me in the coming months.
The Green Group here in Bristol has gone from strength to strength over the past four years and we have always punched well above our weight. With all of our excellent new councillors and with Rob as ‘principle speaker’ and myself as ‘internal coordinator and interparty co-ordinator’ I believe we are entering into a very exciting new phase all together.
In the meantime, to avoid confusion and extremely long email sign-offs I think we’ll just stick to calling ourselves ‘leader’ and ‘whip’ for the time being.