After Annamie Paul announced that she was stepping down as leader of Britain’s Green party, co-leader Caroline Lucas told the Guardian that “her deputy will take over while the party’s review is carried out”.
But the press release was wrong. It was not co-leader Caroline Lucas who resigned the leader’s role, but rather Annamie Paul herself.
It was a small detail but it has the potential to alter the trajectory of the rapidly growing Green party, which could see it challenge for election to either the House of Commons or House of Lords in a decade.
“I have a lot of pride in the direction that we’ve travelled,” Paul told Guardian Politics and Government. “I made some substantial differences in 2015, but then the new leader has a very unique sense of difference.”
The former Green co-leader explained that she had a breakdown around the time of this year’s Green party conference, which was hosted in Dundee. She received the diagnosis after her colleagues told her to rest. She was treated for three months, during which time she had to resign her post as chair of the London Assembly, co-leader of the parliamentary party and the House of Lords Conservative whip.
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After briefly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, she found herself struggling to come to terms with what she had done. “For a while, I had really deep doubts about whether or not I should continue. It was on the basis of how I was feeling: how much faith in the party, and the work that it was going to do.”
Her trauma was compounded by the success of the party as a whole, with Paul saying: “Some of the mess around the leadership isn’t helping, but that’s also a reflection of the party.”
Bryan Rudd, who stood for Westminster in 2015 before stepping down, agreed.
“By getting much closer to the leadership, it takes away any belief in them at all,” he said. Rudd explained that because of its social democratic orientation, the party had already become a mainstream party by the time of the leadership vote in 2015.
“I think the question of identity is bigger than leadership in my view,” he said. “All those things are real, and I think what I’ve learnt is that identity is the most important part of a political party.”
Paul said that the self-proclaimed introverts – who she describes as the “externalities” in the party – felt a threat to their own inner peace. The “values” of the party provided her with an opportunity to make history, and Rudd had been inspired by her doing so, giving him the drive to stay active in parliament.
“I have to work very hard,” Rudd said. “It’s in that context that I always feel the most passionate about being part of this party, and being part of politics.”
Paul explained that she would like to see the party – if given the chance – come in behind Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, rather than working with it. “I see that as being what we have to do,” she said. “We’re not going to agree on all the decisions of the Labour party. The heart of the Labour party isn’t that – it’s that intersection between working people and radicals. I’m an instinctivist.”
The Greens have grown exponentially since the previous leadership battle in 2015. As of August 2018, they had more members than Ukip, Labour and Tory combined, and their membership has grown by a quarter every month since last August.
“They’re very energised,” Rudd said. “They’re very interested in seeing the political process change.”