In Depth

Caroline Lucas makes joint bid for Green Party leadership

MP and former leader will stand as job share with work and pensions spokesperson Jonathan Bartley

Caroline Lucas has confirmed that she will stand for election to lead the Green Party in England and Wales alongside work and pensions spokesperson Jonathan Bartley.

As the party's former leader and sole MP, Lucas was widely encouraged to throw her hat into the ring after current leader Natalie Bennett announced she would not stand for re-election last month.

Though less well known than the popular Brighton MP, Bartley made headlines after confronting David Cameron over the treatment of disabled children, including his son, in the education system, Josiah Mortimer writes in Open Democracy.

The pair say job sharing will help strike a "healthy balance" between work, family and other commitments. "We are proud to belong to a political party that isn't bound by tradition," they say. "We can talk with authority and authenticity about doing things differently, because we are."

If elected, Lucas and Bartley told The Guardian, they will push for a new "progressive alliance" with other political parties willing to advocate electoral reform.

"I really think there is an appetite out there now for a less tribal politics," Lucas said. "The more plural your politics, the more likely they will be effective, and reach more people."

Bartley, who ran against Labour MP Chuka Umunna in Streatham last year, said Labour's shift to the left under Jeremy Corbyn had created a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to form an alliance that would help "bring people together, and actually change politics for a generation".

The race for the leadership is still wide open, with deputy leader Shahrar Ali widely expected to stand. "No one – inside or outside the party – has much of a clue yet who'll stand in the end," says Mortimer. "So expect a few surprises."

Who will be the next leader of the Green Party?

16 May

Natalie Bennett has announced that she will stand down as leader of the Green Party in England and Wales this summer, prompting speculation about her successor.

The Australian-born activist and former journalist will not stand for re-election when her term expires in August, but promises to remain "fully engaged" in Green Party politics.

Speaking to The Guardian, Bennett said she had achieved much of what she wanted to do when she took over from MP Caroline Lucas in 2012.

"I started with a number of intentions: making the Green Party a truly national party; growing the membership; growing the strength of our local parties; and getting us into national debates," she said.

Membership has more than quadrupled under her leadership, soaring from 13,000 to 60,000. But it failed to translate into seats, with the Greens making no parliamentary gains in the general election.

Her decision to stand down also comes just days after "disappointing" local election results, says the Financial Times.

Bennett will, however, be credited with boosting her party's national image. She was widely praised for her strong performance in the televised debates against party leaders last May.

"There is no question that the party has seen a boost in the opinion polls with Bennett at the helm," says the BBC. "She comes across in person just as she appears on TV: no-nonsense, tough and keen to talk about the brand of radical politics, well to the left of today's Labour Party, that has been the hallmark of her leadership."

But others point out that she will be also be remembered for an awkward LBC interview where she struggled to outline a key housing policy. Bennett later apologised for letting her supporters down, adding: "I'm human – I had mental brain fade".

Alluding to the interview, she said: "There have been times when I got things right, and times when I got things wrong, but that's because I'm not a smooth, spin-trained, life-long politician."

As Bennett prepares to retire, talk of her replacement has already begun. Voting will begin in July and the winner will be announced at the party's September conference. So who could take over the reins?

Sian Berry: Green Party members were quick to encourage Berry to stand after her impressive performance in the London mayoral race and her election to the London Assembly. But she has since ruled herself out, writing on Facebook: "I have the best new job in the world as a Green AM [Assembly Member] that I'm just settling into, with a lot to do here in London that needs my full attention right now." 

Amelia Womack and Shahrar Ali: The two deputy leaders of the party are widely seen as potential successors, but have yet to comment on whether they will be throwing their hats into the ring.

Jennifer Nadel and Jonathan Bartley: The Guardian understands that Nadal and Bartley could stand for the role jointly as a job share. Nadel is a broadcaster, barrister and writer who stood in the general election, while Bartley is the party's work and pensions spokesperson.

Caroline Lucas: The popular Brighton MP handed the torch to Bennett in order to focus on her electorate, but could yet return to the helm of the party. Lucas did not comment on whether she would be standing, but praised Bennett's leadership, saying her "determination to stand up for the voiceless" has been the hallmark of her time at the top of the party.


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