Has Caroline Lucas just pushed Natalie Bennett out of the London Mayoral race?
Caroline Lucas has just endorsed Sian Berry for Green candidate for London Mayor. Josiah Mortimer discusses the implications for the possibility of Natalie Bennett standing for London Mayor.
The campaign to become the Greens’ mayoral candidate for next May’s election in London is already in full swing. With three candidates already declared – Sian Berry, Caroline Russell and Tom Chance – they’re all canvassing hard for support before the ballots have been sent out to London Green Party’s more than 10,000 members. One candidate, though, just got a massive boost.
Sian Berry – who stood as the Greens’ Mayoral candidate in 2008 – has received a very high profile endorsement: Caroline Lucas.
The extent to which this could affect the campaign cannot be understated – Berry already has a high profile in the Greens having already stood for Mayor, and has most often been in the media in recent weeks over her campaign. She also has a lot of respect and experience as both a Green activist and a well-known transport campaigner.
At the same time, Caroline Lucas is almost certainly the most well-known and admired figure in the Greens – no offense to Natalie Bennett, who has been a tireless and effective organiser at the top of the party. Lucas’ backing for Berry does one very important thing, however – it effectively rules out Bennett from standing.
Firstly, the rumour mill has been going for a long time within the party that Bennett has been planning to stand. It would make sense – she’s the leader of the party, people know who she is, and she has a lot of political experience. It was thought of as a question of when, not if, she’ll declare. This now becomes much less likely.
Caroline’s backing for Berry either says two things: she either knows something we don’t – that Bennett isn’t standing. Or she has pre-empted Bennett standing so that, well, she won’t. For Bennett to stand and not have the backing of the Greens’ only MP would tear the party apart. The press coverage would be an onslaught. The valid talk of a rift would throw the Green Mayoral campaign completely off. And if Bennett won the nomination, but Lucas had backed Berry, this would only be even moreso the case.
Caroline’s declaration for Berry before nominations have closed was quite possibly a tactical move, then. Bennett couldn’t afford to stand without the support of Britain’s only Green MP – the Green campaign would become a fight club instead of a clear issues-based push for a strong Green vote. That, or, as I say, Caroline knows Bennett isn’t going to stand. But all the talk within and without the party is that Natalie is still weighing it up. That decision just became a lot easier.