The NI Green Party Lord who never was

After last May’s Westminster election, political parties across the UK will be given a chance to make political appointments to the House of Lords. The Liberal Democrats, partners in the coalition, have been pushing for the allocations to be proportional to the share of the vote each party received across the UK.

So the Green Party are gearing up to appointing six or more Lords. (Not that the Green Party unanimously supports the House of Lords, but some see merit in using the upper house in the meantime.)

A panel representing the Green Parties across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was set up to sift through the list of 18 nominated Green candidates and cut them down to a shortlist of ten that could be elevated to the Lords.

A Northern Ireland name made it onto the final list and onto the ballot paper that has been sent to Green Party members across the UK in what was described as “a fiendishly complicated variation on STV”.

Only problem is that the candidate has now withdrawn!

Jim KitchenJim Kitchen heads up the Sustainable Development Commission in Northern Ireland. The body’s strapline describes it as “the NI’s Government’s independent advisory body on sustainable development”.

SDC NI is closing on 31 March 2011, as a result of a January decision by OFMDFM to withdraw its funding, in line with DEFRA’s announcement last summer to close the parent SDC organisation.

A former teacher and headmaster, and previous head of the World Wildlife Fund in NI, Jim Kitchen had built up significant experience in the area of sustainable development and was a member of the NI Green New Deal Group.

In the Green’s eyes, his “elevation” to the Lords would have been a bit of a coup, keeping the issues championed by the SDC on the political radar, despite OFMDFM’s dastardly plans.

But Jim Kitchen pulled out of the race to the Lords at the last minute, citing a possible conflict of interest with employment opportunities he is pursuing. Fair enough given that the Lords isn’t a salaried position and he’s out of a job at the end of March.

However, his last minute withdrawal means that the NI Greens have lost their chance to get local representation in the Lords.

Jim’s still on good terms with the party, and addressing their 30th anniversary dinner on Saturday night in his role as head of the SDC NI.

South Down councillor, Assembly candidate and runner-up in the recent local leadership election, Cadogan Enright, sat on the shortlisting panel. He explained:

While the Green Party would like to see the whole of the Upper House elected, the expected change in appointment process gives us an opportunity to have important environmental issues highlighted and championed at the highest level of the legislative and governmental system.

It is strange to be selected to help appoint the Green Parties’ nominations to an institution we all oppose, but it is nevertheless important to have more strong voices in Westminster to support our sole MP Caroline Lucas.

Reforms have been promised to create an elected Upper House but until such time as these reforms are implemented, the Green Parties operating in the United Kingdom will co-ordinate to democratically select a list of potential nominees in preparation of when appointments to the unreformed House be offered to the Greens.

Back in January, Devenport Diaries, the BBC NI’s political editor wonders what Green representation on the island of Ireland will be like after the February and May elections, before turning to the ethics of peers’ garb:

The Greens may be glad of a local voice, as the latest Irish polls suggest they face annihilation in the Dail, whilst Steven Agnew will face an uphill struggle to retain the party’s single Stormont seat.

But what happens if a Green “takes the ermine”? Do they have an option to save the stoat by insisting on artificial fur?

Looks like the cunning fox has taken himself out of the hunt …