Given that we are sharing statements about our interactions with political parties, we have decided to publish this account of our interactions with the Green party.
Last year, we had two linked interactions with the Green Party:
- In August 2018, we sought, and were granted, a meeting with the leaders of the party to discuss our concerns about the GRA consultation;
- In October 2018, we made a formal complaint to the party about a Green Party officer, Lucas North, who had written a piece for P*nk News criticising Caroline Lucas for agreeing to meet with us which we believed to be defamatory.
Neither interaction proved to be satisfactory.
In August 2018, David Challenor, Green party member and election agent for the Green’s Equalities spokesperson, Aimee Challenor, was jailed for abusing and raping a child.
On 30th August, 2018, Caroline Lucas wrote for the Guardian about the situation in which she said:
“If we want a more equal society we need to talk about how to get there.”
We agree so Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) wrote to her to ask for a meeting.
We were pleased to get a swift response and a meeting with Caroline Lucas & Jonathan Bartley was set up for 10th September.
We subsequently received a request to audio-record the meeting. We questioned the purpose of such a recording and said we thought this would impede free expression, particularly of sensitive or personal testimony. We also felt it implied a lack of trust and we shared our concerns over privacy, what the recording would be for and who it would be shared with.
Some reassurances were made but we were still not satisfied and outlined our objections more forcefully. The Green Party finally agreed that the meeting would not be recorded and to the issuing of a joint statement.
The meeting went ahead with three representatives from Woman’s Place UK & Fair Play for Women. The Green Party was represented by Caroline Lucas, Jonathan Bartley and a member of staff.
Topics covered included the potential impact of self-identification on the current provisions in the Equalities Act 2010, and specifically on safe spaces; trans people in prison; the effects of blocking software being employed on social media; hate crime; whether parents have the right to know if their child is on an overnight trip with a child of the opposite sex who identifies as trans; and sex education. The meeting also discussed protecting and maintaining sex-based exemptions in the Equality Act.
Following the meeting, a proposed public statement was sent to us on 14th September.
There followed a protracted negotiation about the wording of the statement as it did not include the fact that the meeting had agreed the importance of protecting and maintaining the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act.
The Green Party wanted to exclude the specific reference to ‘single-sex’ and make the statement about all exemptions in the Equality Act. WPUK could not agree to this as these other exemptions were not discussed in the meeting and the campaign does not have a position on them.
On 2nd October 2018, we agreed to a form of words proposed by the Green party which retained the reference to ‘single-sex exemptions’ but which also clarified the postion of Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley on the principle of retaining other exemptions.
In the meantime, our attention turned to the P*nk News piece by Lucas North.
After receiving legal advice, we decided to pursue the matter through the Green Party’s complaints process and on 4th October 2018 we submitted a formal complaint. We were asked to resubmit the complaint using official Green Party forms which we did on 19th October.
Meanwhile, on 17th October 2018, we had chased the Green Party for permission to publish the statement about our meeting.
On 25th October 2018, the Green Party responded saying that, because of the complaint we had submitted against Lucas North, the party could not agree to publication of the statement. We were told this was because Green Party leaders are constrained not to do anything that might prejudice live complaints.
We did not understand why a very simple, factual statement of a meeting would prejudice anything. We also felt an obligation to inform our supporters that the meeting had taken place so we told them we would make our own independent statement.
The Green Party responded asking us to reconsider.
We did reconsider and, on reflection, we did decide not to issue a statement.
However, our reasons for this were not because of the complaint.
Given the apparent failure of safeguarding and oversight by the Green Party in the case of David Challenor, we were now concerned about the reputational damage for our campaign of being connected with the Green Party.
Furthermore, it was also clear that the Green Party were unlikely to take any action that would progress our campaign demands.
In truth, the meeting had borne little fruit and the statement was so anodyne as to be meaningless.
On 15th November 2018, we received an email from the Green Party Complaints team apologising for the delay in processing our complaint. We were told this was due to a lack of investigators for new complaints.
On 26th November 2018, we were advised that investigators had been appointed.
On 12th February 2019, we chased for an outcome and were told on 13th February that there had been a further delay.
On 18th February 2019, we were told that Lucas North had left the Green Party and the complaints procedure now had no jurisdiction over him. The complaint would be placed in abeyance and re-instigated should he re-join.
We have not attempted to engage with the Green Party since.
After our meeting with them, we had believed in the commitment of the Green Party leaders to the right to freedom of speech, and the need for dialogue that is evidence based, respectful, constructive and nonviolent.
We feel we are free to speak about this meeting since Caroline Lucas was public about committing to it and her office only asked us to hold publication of the statement while the disciplinary procedure was live.
We are not issuing the statement.
We sent Caroline Lucas a copy of our complaint against Sussex Police after our meeting was besieged by a mob of protestors at our unofficial Labour Party Fringe meeting #WPUKLab19.
She has responded to us and said she will take up our concerns with the police.
14th November 2019
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