A photo of a group of Young Greens with banners

Pressure is intensifying on the Green Party of England and Wales over the appointment of its policing and domestic safety spokesperson Shahrar Ali. On July 18, the party’s youth and student branch – the Young Greens – passed a motion calling for the Green Party Executive to consider terminating his appointment.

The motion – titled Green Party Executive to Consider Terminating the Appointment of the Policing and Domestic Safety Spokesperson – claims that “policies of the [Green Party] are in conflict with Shahrar Ali’s online statements.” 93 per cent of Young Greens members voting at the Convention supported the motion calling for the Green Party Executive to consider terminating Ali’s position.

Bright Green understands this is the first time a motion calling for the termination of a Green Party spokesperson has been passed by the Young Greens.

What did the motion say?

The motion identifies two sets of comments made by Ali that the Young Greens believe conflict with Green Party policy.

The first is described in the motion as a claim by Ali “that it is unprofessional to wear a badge advertising your sexuality in a ‘patient setting’.” This is referring to a series of tweets by Ali in February and March 2021 in which he claimed it would be “unprofessional” and “highly inappropriate” for clinicians to wear badges “advertising their sexuality”. These comments were in response to a tweet from the Care Quality Commission which included a photograph of a medic wearing badges stating that he was gay.

The motion passed by Young Greens convention is critical of this, stating:

being open about your sexuality in any workplace is in no way unprofessional. This includes in the context of providing care work.

Sexual orientation is a protected characteristic and so it would not be appropriate for clinicians or care
workers to be asked to hide their sexuality under the Equalities Act of 2010 and so the [Care Quality Commission] would be wrong to do so.

It goes on to claim that given these comments, Ali’s continued role as a spokesperson would be “taking a step back” in the party’s drive for workplace equality for LGBTIQA+ people.

By having a spokesperson who has made these prior statements and by [the Green Party] not acting upon this, we would be taking a step back from trying to achieve equality in the workplace especially for those with sexualities that are marginalised in mainstream society.

The second area raised by the Young Greens’ motion is in relation to Ali’s support for an emergency motion proposed – although not debated – at the 2020 Autumn Green Party conference. Ali’s motion called for the prohibition of the privately run online transgender healthcare clinic GenderGP and claimed that GenderGP is “putting patient safety at risk” by – among other things – “providing puberty blockers to children as young as 10”.

The motion passed by Young Greens Convention claimed that the motion to prohibit GenderGP proposed by Ali, “seeks to undermine” the right of young people and children to access gender-affirming therapy – which the party supports – “by claiming that GenderGP is acting inappropriately, when in fact it is following standard NHS practice with regards to the age of children accessing puberty blockers.” The motion adopted by the Young Greens also claimed that prohibiting GenderGP from operating would create an additional barrier to trans people who need to access services that provide gender affirming therapy.

Bright Green contacted Shahrar Ali and The Green Party on July 17 to respond to the claims made in the motion but had not received a reply by the time of publication. Ali has consistently denied allegations of transphobia and homophobia.

On July 19, Ali released a statement responding to the motion passed by Young Greens Convention. In the statement, Ali said:

I contest the notion that I have said or done anything contrary to Party policy or acted in a way to harm our good reputation. I do not doubt that I have sometimes put motions, as is my right, that may incite passions on either side of a debate (and I wouldn’t be alone in that). But nor do I think the job of a politician is to shirk difficult conversations, including internal ones, especially where patient safety or dignity is concerned.

Wider context

The motion is the latest in a range of criticism Ali has faced since his appointment. Immediately following Ali’s appointment, people both in and outside of the Green Party drew attention to comments he has made in recent years that have been described as transphobic. At the time, Ali responded to these allegations, telling Bright Green:

I have fought for the human rights of the marginalised and voiceless in our society for decades, and will continue to do so, for the LGBTIQA+, disabled and ethnic minority communities and for the rights of women and children, too.

I will engage with all who wish to have a mature, respectful debate about equalities legislation or the impact of its reform on the well-being of all, within the best tradition of green politics.

I am proud that our party allows the space for debate on sometimes complex matters, just as wider society often falls short in terms of misrepresentation or groupthink about people and politicians. I feel humbled to have been entrusted to serve as a Green Party spokesperson.

On July 14, party co-leader Sian Berry announced that she would not be re-standing in a forthcoming leadership by-election due to an “inconsistency” between the party’s position and her own views that are in support of trans rights, and the party’s “choice of frontbench representatives”. In an interview with openDemocracy, she went further, describing a member of the party’s new spokesperson team as someone engaged in “organised campaigning within the Green Party to reduce our commitment to trans rights”.

Berry has not named any individual person appointed to the list of spokespeople either in her initial statement, or in any subsequent comments. However, both party members and journalists have suggested that it is Ali’s appointment that she has taken issue with.

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Editor’s note: This article was amended at 21:44 to include a link to Shahrar Ali’s statement responding to the motion passed at Young Greens Convention as well as a quote from that statement.