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A shadow hangs over the future of the Green Party of England and Wales, as the party’s official financial accounts suggest a legal challenge from a former deputy leader could bring the organisation down as a “going concern”.
The latest accounts from the Greens, filed with the Electoral Commission, reveal a warning from auditors that a “material uncertainty exists regarding legal claims” as to whether the party will continue to remain financially afloat.
Byline Times has learnt that this uncertainty revolves around impending legal claims from several gender critical activists – including former deputy leader Shahrar Ali, who is suing the party over alleged discrimination based on his views about gender and sex.
Shahrar Ali, an academic who was joint deputy leader of the party between 2014 and 2016, is a prominent critic of the Green Party’s official stance on gender issues, including the party’s backing for self-identification and the principle that ‘trans women are women’. He has stood unsuccessfully for the leadership three times, but is now embroiled in a fierce legal battle with the executive.
He launched his legal challenge against the party in February 2022, alleging he had been unfairly sacked from his unpaid role as party spokesperson for policing.
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“Following my appointment, on 7 June 2021, I was subjected to a coordinated campaign of discrimination and victimisation because of my gender critical beliefs, which are protected under s.10 of the Equality Act. This campaign of discrimination was conducted, induced or aided by members of the Party including by officers, elected representatives and committee members”, Ali alleges.
He claims a special “spokesperson support and monitoring group” was set up with the intent of ousting him from his position, over his views on gender.
Ali’s subsequent legal action has caused major headaches for the party in terms of negative national news coverage. But now it has emerged that the row has become a serious financial burden too.
Warnings of a failure to remain a “going concern” in company accounting – as set out opaquely in the latest GPEW accounts – mean there’s a prospect of an organisation going bust in the next 12 months.
A source within the party, who we have granted anonymity to, in order for them to speak openly about the issue, shed light on the potential liabilities. The insider said: “There is the possibility that the party will go bust in the next 12 months because of the potential of ongoing legal claims…
“What it can do is put the party in a position where it can’t employ staff any more and its member income is basically going on servicing the debt. The assumption is at this point many members will leave etc. so the income will go down. It’s not really about the compensation – which at £34,000 isn’t much in the scheme of things – it’s the legal costs to defend.
“So the party will still exist, but in a much diminished state, with much less staff and much less success going forward because of it.”
Two other similar legal actions pile further financial pressure on the Greens. Emma Bateman, a former long-standing Co-Chair of Green Party Women (GPW) claims she was almost immediately given a ‘no-fault suspension’ after being re-elected in 2021, for “speaking up about women’s sex-based rights.” She was reinstated but then expelled again this January.
She claims she was expelled because her view that “people cannot change sex” is against party policy. While appealing to be let back into the party, she is continuing with her legal action.
Dawn Furness is also a former chair of Green Party Women who was expelled from the party. She is taking the Green Party to court for “institutional sexism, and discrimination on the grounds of sex and on the basis of my Gender Critical beliefs.”
She claims the party’s disciplinary system has been “weaponised” to “systematically purge gender critical women from the party.” The Green Party denies the claims from all three activists.
The challenges, which are ongoing, have the potential to severely diminish the national party’s capacity to campaign ahead of the next General Election.
A party source claimed Green HQ “did everything they could” to settle with Ali, but he allegedly demanded sweeping changes to the party’s disciplinary process which they wouldn’t agree to. “The party has not been determined to fight it – and tried very hard not to.”
The party could potentially make a claim to recoup their own legal fees if Ali and others lose, but the source suggested it would “not be a good look” to pursue their own members for costs – “even if they were the ones who racked them up.”
Another senior Green Party figure told Byline Times the party going bust “is my fear.”
Party Admits ‘Challenging Financial Times
While the Green Party has reportedly made extensive efforts to reach a settlement, their pre-trial efforts at negotiation were, Byline Times understands, jettisoned in the face of demands that the party deemed untenable – including an overhaul of the party’s disciplinary processes.
Responding to the claims, a Green Party spokesperson said: “Like many organisations, the Green Party is facing some challenging financial times. As a result, we are taking steps to reduce our outgoings over the coming months.”
To shore up the party’s financial future they are freezing funds going from HQ to local party branches for “the foreseeable future”. The spokesperson added that this would be “under regular review.”
On the legal challenges the party is currently defending in court, the spokesperson added: “We are confident of our position and will not be commenting further while proceedings are ongoing.”
A note in the Green Party’s annual accounts states that “the existence of contingent claims, together with the existing financial situation of the Party, and its reliance of the majority of its income on membership fees and donations, indicates a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt in the Party’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
However, they add that the party is “confident” that “it can react accordingly and implement cost-cutting strategies on a timely basis to ensure the Party’s going concern should the material uncertainties [in the party’s finances] crystallise”.
One party source said the official party line was “making it seem as bland as possible.”
“The comms people on GPEx/staff have consistently wanted the fact that the court case will have (and already has had) financial implications for the party to be kept as quiet as possible.
“This pretty much tries to divert attention away from the court case and towards the drop in membership – which is caused by cost of living – as the reasons for the financial issues. However – the auditors statement is pretty clear that it’s the court case”, they added.
The Management and Admin line in the accounts for 2022 is £70k higher than in 2021, and that line will be higher again in 2023, a party figure believes.
Confidence Over Case
An LGBT+ Green Party figure told us they believed Ali’s court case “will fail because of the precedent it would set for any political party… [It] would be ridiculous – e.g a Scot Nationalist could not be suspended from the Tories… If that happened, it would make challenging any bigotry incredibly difficult to do.”
“The attitude many LGBT+ Green members have, as well as many progressive members, is that this case will be won by the Party.”
The Green Party of England and Wales’ (GPEW) membership dropped by 5% last year to just over 50,000. However, income remained relatively steady at just over £3m.
The issue of trans rights, sex-segregated spaces and self-ID has been a major dividing line in the party over the past three years. The party has repeatedly endorsed gender self-ID at its conferences, but there is an increasingly outspoken group in the party who claim that proper debate on the issue has been “censored” and organise on the basis of biological sex rather than gender.
Last October, the Scottish Green Party voted to end ties with the party in England and Wales over alleged transphobia. Former London mayoral candidate Sian Berry also stood down from the co-leadership of GPEW in 2021, over similar claims that transphobia was not being actively challenged by other party figures.
Shahrar Ali did not respond to a request for comment.
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