This was my speech at the Grüne Bundesdelegiertenkongress yesterday in Leipzig.

It was enough to get me more than 200 votes for position 14 on the list, and 299 votes for position 20. But not enough to get an electable position.

Why?

The structures of power in the party won out. Deals between the Länder, and between the power blocs, delivered the votes for other candidates. Being from Berlin, a Land that had half a dozen candidates in the running, and a Land that had no formal vote to back any one candidate, was not to my advantage. The extend to which these deals were to hold was not communicated to some of the candidates – I know I was not alone in having incomplete information.

Focus on your speech, I was told. I did. I delivered the best speech I could. And I delivered a speech that was, in my view, a lot better than those delivered by other candidates. Also I prepared the best online communication campaign I could (here). And I brought unique and relevant experience. But it was not enough. You learn from this.

The campaign overall was an important learning process, but not a pleasant one.

The raw competition between candidates really grated. It’s not my style. And even getting information was a problem – I heard about a hustings in Munich at 11pm on the day before it was due to happen – because they had conveniently not thought to email all candidates. And 250 Euro for a last minute rail ticket was beyond my means. And to be accused of being a liar by the number 4 on the list was a particular low point. Whatever I am, I am not a liar.

Being a candidate takes a big toll on a person. I’ve invested a hell of a lot of time and money (both directly, and due to lost earnings as a freelancer) in this. And still people tell me I did not travel the country enough. It worries me the extent to which a bid like this is next to impossible for many people for financial, professional or personal reasons. And such a bid is not good for your personal life – those closest to me have invested ridiculous amounts of time, for free, as well, and for no useful outcome.

The wider reaction to my candidature has also been interesting. Or, more notably, the lack of reaction. No-one with any level of responsibility in the party has tried to say OK, it didn’t work, but there’s something you can do for us. In fact throughout this process no high level support in the party has been forthcoming. It’s me that is at fault here I presume though.

So what do I do?

Here I draw a line.

EU politics is my thing. It is not as if, like some of the people who were successful, I would want to keep trying for every possible elected position at every level until finally being able to get one.

Were I to want to run for the European Parliament in 2024, the way to do so is clear – I would have to spend far more time travelling across Germany, work within some of the policy committees (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Europa) for example, and then make sure my network were similar to that of those who were successful. I’d have to immerse myself in the party even more than I have to date (and I already spend more time doing party politics than I think I should). Further, having seen how this congress worked out I am not at all sure I want to do that, but I know that it is necessary.

I have also felt a change in people’s reactions towards my other work having announced I would run for the EP. “You’ve crossed to the dark side now!” a journalist friend of mine joked to me recently. But he sort of had a point – that I would then be treated differently in my EU analysis work while being a candidate.

There might have been a chance to get a low spot on the list, a non-electable position. But I opted to not do that for these reasons – it would have made sense were I trying to run for some other role in the short term. But I am not. And I do not do things by halves – I do them with my whole determination and commitment, and after this weekend’s congress I do not have that full commitment at the moment. I may at some point regain that determination, but at the moment I do not have it.

I tried. I failed. I learn. And I move on.

I’ll go back to being a normal member of the Grüne. I’ll scale down my party activity somewhat. I will campaign in the EP election, but in the ways I wish, and for the candidates I want to back. And I will continue to blog, to analyse Brexit, to be active in EU politics in other ways.

But, above all, please now in no way consider me a politician or a wannabe politician. I’m back to where I was. I hope.

13 Comments

  1. Pingback: Pflichtlektüre 2018: Das Millennial Manifest von Bianca Jankovska

  2. Anonymous

    Considering that the election is after the 29th of March, are you even allowed to appear on a list, unless there’s a miracle in the Brexit process?

  3. As a fellow British person living in Berlin, let me just say, that we’re all awfully proud of your achievements.
    Gve yourself a pat on the back mate!

    Sadly, politics isn’t all plain-sailing, even in the Greens. And I know from personal experience …😁 The lesson to be learnt here, is that politics isn’t really about your message but rather, the person with the message, and how the message gets across to the relevant people, at the appropriate time. In this case, the voters.

    It hurts to feel rejected but you’re a smart fellow and you’ll get over it, and move onto the issue of the day, which is plenty!

    If you have something to say and feel it’s important to deliver, then swallow your pride, stay in the party, and find another “in.”

    Good Luck. 🙂

    ps. You delivered a really good speech.

  4. Germany is much tougher (and less open) than many people think. It’s all about networking and power – not only in politics. But networking in Germany does not work in a transparent, open and fair manner. Much is happening in the “Hinterzimmer” (back room), and then there is federalism, which is a power grab. That’s the way it is. Sorry…

  5. Stephan Eßer

    Dear John,

    I was delegate at the Bundesdelegiertenkonferenz in Leipzig and found your presentation most convincing so you got my vote in each ballot.

    Your bad luck (and good luck for our party) was that there were so many competent candidates.
    So there is no need to be disappointed, please try again next time.

    Stephan Eßer

  6. Laurent K

    Party politics are so often bruising, no matter the party or the country unfortunately. It’s the big paradox that parties are so dysfunctional and yet so integral to politics in the current systems. Best of luck for future EU activities. We’re still with you and looking forward to your insights and future projects!

  7. Jon, You know I would have wanted you to be on a position with a chance of getting into the European Parliament. But I think you are too negative:

    Getting a realistic shot at becoming a candidate for the European Parliament by having a significant number of votes for slots 14 (=man number 7) and 20 (=man number 20), after being a party member for only 5 years, in a political system with 16 federal regions (=16 party sections with people hoping to become EP candidate), sounds pretty amazing to me.

    Nothing that you write sounds very surprising to me, including not the fact that one would have expected you to travel around to get yourself know by the different party sections. It’s clear that with so few spots for positions with a high chance of getting in, and with a few (male) MEPs with high experience running again, that anything after seats 6/8 would be highly competitive positions with a lot of pre-agreement between the regional groups. That happens in every party.

    I can’t judge your personal experience, but I still think that this sounded like not such a bad run, underlining that you actually did quite a good campaign with quite successful outreach beyond the usual horse-trading and party-based networking. You actually underline that while the “party state” – which Germany is called in political science – is pretty strong there’s still a chance for outsiders if they run a combined party-base and online campaign.

    You should stay active and run again in five years. Because you showed you can do it.

  8. Alexandra Geese

    Dear Jon, I perfectly understand your disappointment. It’s always hard to commit to something spending time and money and then finding out it wasn’t worth it. But the fact is that most people within the Green party do all this extensive voluntary work simply because they deeply believe in its values. Without expecting to be rewarded with such a high political office. Literally every single candidate elected on that list has a long record of political activity in his or her comunity, campaigning and mobilising people, not just participating in a policy committee. Have you considered that other candidates were simply considered more qualified than you by the assembly?
    Regional blocks: When you decided to enter the race, 5 out of 13 candidates elected where from Berlin.Only one from the south and none from the north. All these Berlin candidates have been well trusted and have committed an enormous amount of voluntary work for the party for years and one is an absolutely outstanding speaker who hardly mentioned his equally outstanding biography.Therefore nobody complained. Don’t you think it’s a good idea that citizens from all regions of Germany have an MEP to refer to? I’m happy with a list that allows candidates to campaign in and to relate to all regions of Germany.
    You have a point where you speak of the loss of time and money. Travelling to make yourself known nationwide takes a toll. Not many people on welfare make their way to high political office. That is a structural issue we should care about. But seriously: that party congress elected a former refugee, a woman with a serious disability, two single moms, a Sinto and an African-born woman. You’re a well-educated, able-bodied white male with excellent connections in EU politics and you feel discriminated against by the “power structures of the party” and by not having enough money to spend on travelling? Come on.
    Dear Jon, it was a real pleasure to meet you. I wish you all the best. Alexandra

    • Some fair points, Alexandra, *but* there are 4 million non-German EU citizens in Germany. And this is the *European* Parliament. Political parties remain a largely national business.

      And your words are a little excessive here. I have not been “discriminated against” (your words, not mine) by the power structures of the party. The power structures of the party won out – that is not discrimination, but it is reality.

      You also contradict yourself – you say that too many people from Berlin was a problem, but then it might be because other candidates were actually more qualified. Which is it? Or is it both? I would argue it is more the former than it is the latter – my qualifications in terms of campaigning, communications, policy knowledge are at least on the same level as half the candidates who were elected.

      This election shows that having a good network in Brussels counts for nothing in such a bid. Possibly being a capable possible MEP counts for rather little as well. Where you live, and how that Landesverband behaves, counts for rather a lot.

      As for the money and time issue – this is a major headache. I could only even do this because I am a freelancer. Others had some backing from Landesverbände to assist them. One candidate I know did nothing but campaign for 6 months. This makes the barrier to running too high. A friend who is a student in a KV outside Berlin said to me in Leipzig “I could never do what you are doing because I could not afford it“. That is wrong. That you do not see the problem there worries me.

  9. Jon,
    you know, that would have been pleased, that you as a member of http://www.pro-bahn.de, would have been a follow-up to Michael Cramer and do work in the EP regarding the travelling by train, improving the offer of night trains and other parts of the “Verkehrswende” needed.
    But the fight in all parties of the numbering of candidates is very difficult and not always nice. I would have appreciated, if you would have been one of the 40 persons published !

    Regards
    Peter Cornelius
    Head of the regional organisation of http://www.pro-bahn.de for the countries Berlin and Brandenburg
    http://www.pro-bahn-berlin.de

  10. Isabelle

    Hi Jon, thanks for sharing your experience and being so open about it. Based on my research, I have learned that the politics of becoming a candidate for public office are very complex and often based on personal contacts & networks. It’s unfortunately not about being the most qualified candidate for the post, most of the times. Carry on with your great work and don’t take it personally!

  11. Miranda

    Great post. You are brilliant and the right position – whatever it is, wherever it is – will come to you at the right time.

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