Andrew Robinson writes:
Looking back on the last year, we've achieved some amazing things. We've turned a small web forum into a fully functioning political party. We've successfully contested a general election, and we've seen a swing of 0.3% in our favour, despite having an election budget that wouldn't cover a single poster site. Almost as importantly, we've steadily increased our membership numbers, and we've gained a lot of respect from both the media and our political rivals. We've resisted the temptation to shout a lot and wear eye-patches, and instead we've made sensible political arguments, even when this approach might gain us less publicity. We are well placed to put in a good performance in next year's elections, particularly in Scotland, where the proportional system will help us have a bigger impact.
Behind the scenes, we've built a strong structure, with an NEC, a board of governors, and a set of Regional Administrative Officers. We are respected enough to be working with Ofcom on the Digital Economy Act, and we have strong contacts with politicians from other parties who are opposed to parts of that Act, and who are persuaded that copyright, patent and libel reform are worth taking an interest in. Journalists regularly ask us for quotes, and often turn to us for explanations of the technical issues involved in file sharing.
Of course, it hasn't all been plain sailing, with some horrendous rows behind the scenes about the colour of our logo, and the comparatively simple concept of selling t-shirts becoming a task of herculean proportions for a number of boring and complex reasons. Considering that we started off as volunteers with no political experience, and sometimes quite disparate views of what a Pirate Party should be and do, I think we can all pat ourselves on the back and say that we've done a great job so far.
As a party, we need to focus now on becoming more professional, and on maintaining our profile in a non-election year, as well as building up to the regional elections. We need to put in time and effort, and to get better at managing our volunteer resources. We need to improve our media skills, and turn our post-election high profile into more media coverage.
When the party started out we needed someone who was prepared to do everything that wasn't being done by someone else, and to be a peacemaker between different internal factions. I think I've been quite good at doing that over the last year. We also needed someone who wasn't afraid to stand in front of a camera and say 'you've never heard of us, but here's why you should vote for us', and despite horrendous nerves on occasion, I've managed that without putting my foot in it. Now we need a leader who can consolidate on the work we've done so far, and do a job that involves a lot more dealing with the media and talking to the membership on the forums, and a lot less time smoothing out internal management issues, designing adverts, sourcing suppliers and so on. Although it pains me to say this, I'm aware that I'm not the best person we have for this role.
In my personal life, I'm trying to hold down 2 jobs to pay the mortgage, and the financial strain of having to regularly drop everything and travel around the country at my own expense means I've had to say no to a few media opportunities since the election. I know there are several people in the party who could do a better job of leading the party as it it today us than I can, so it's time for me to step down and let someone new take over. A forum thread will be opened shortly for members to register their intention to stand as a leadership candidates. I remain 100% committed to the party (in fact, it's this commitment to what's best for us that has led me to stand down rather than cling to power), and I hope to help the party as much as I can in future, probably by being the one thing I didn't have as leader, an experienced person to turn to for advice.