Shahrar Ali at a demonstration

The Green Party of England and Wales leadership election now has a fourth candidate. Shahrar Ali – a former deputy leader of the party has announced he’s in the running for the top job.

Ali isn’t new to leadership contests. He unsuccessfully contested the 2018 and 2020 leadership elections. In 2018, he came a distant second, picking up 17.5% of the vote. In 2020 he received 24% of the vote, but had dropped to third place. Prior to this, Ali served one term as one of the party’s deputy leaders alongside Amelia Womack. Elected in 2014, he was unsuccessful in his bid to be re-elected two years later.

Ali has been a Green general election candidate in Brent on numerous occasions, and was fifth on the party’s list for the 2021 London Assembly election. In 2010, his book – Why Vote Green – was published in the run up to the 2010 general election.

Ali has also served as a spokesperson for the party. He was previously the Greens’ home affairs spokesperson, before taking on the rebranded “policing and domestic safety” brief in 2021. His appointment to the latter role has proved contentious. In July, the party’s youth wing – the Young Greens – passed a motion calling for the termination of his appointment. This followed Sian Berry’s decision not to stand in this year’s leadership election, citing what she sees as an “inconsistency” between the party’s position in favour of trans rights and the appointment of party spokespeople. Although Berry did not name him, it is widely understood that she was referring to Ali’s appointment.

Trans rights

Ali is not shying away from leaning into this controversy. In fact, he’s centreing it in his pitch for the leadership. In a tweet thread announcing his candidacy, two out of the three central points relate to the disagreement a minority of party members have with the Greens’ policy on LGBTIQA+ rights. He has pledged to prioritise ‘debating culture’ in the party, and ‘welcoming women’ who oppose the Greens’ pro-trans policies back to the party. In his announcement, Ali said:

Conflict evident in discussion of provision of services for transgender people & those who feel impacted by changes to services provided on same-sex lines, [especially] women. We must return to culture of open debate, where taking offence [is] not used to prevent those who do wish to debate.

He continued, suggesting others in the party have acted as “bullies” engaging in “lies” and “intimidation”. He also suggested that a large number of women had resigned from political parties – including the Greens – because of their position on trans rights. Ali said:

Party unity will not come from wishfully brushing problems under the carpet, or sitting on the fence while bullies continue their lies and intimidation, but from tackling challenges head on – and having those difficult conversations.

You need a leader not afraid to question, and to actively take a stand against, the abuse directed upon women – many of whom have been driven to resign from parties and others of whom are resisting from within.

I will not stand by as a novelist receives rape and death threats for publishing a thought piece. I understand that a rape victim has the right to choose to be examined by a clinician of her sex as a matter of basic human dignity.

The climate crisis

While these positions place Ali in clear contrast with the other leadership candidates, the third plank of Ali’s campaign is more in keeping with theirs. Stating “we are the last generation able save the to planet from ourselves”, Ali is also putting the climate crisis at the heart of his offer to members.

Ali said:

I’m standing through necessity. We are the last generation able to save the planet from ourselves. Despite decades of knowing that we were living unsustainably, we carry on trying to have our cake and eat it – with a return to post-Covid short-haul flights and overconsumption.

Millennia of technological advancement and unabated pursuit of desires have led to our standing on the edge of an abyss – collectively responsible for countless species extinctions, ecological devastation and now the prospect of universal death.

In a similar vein to other candidates, Ali has also claimed the party ought to be attracting wider public support. He said that the party’s progress has been “snail’s pace”:

We’ve enjoyed record local election results – but one MP & influence in a handful of councils is snail’s pace compared to political transformation required. With environmental consciousness & extreme weather calamities at all-time high we should be polling double-digit figures.

Bright Green approached Ali for comment on his candidacy.

Other candidates

Ali is the fourth candidate to step forward in this year’s election. His announcement comes within a week of announcements from two co-leadership tickets – that of Amelia Womack and Tamsin Omond, and Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay. In July, Tina Rothery and Martin Hemingway put themselves forward for the role too.

Without the full list of nominees having been published, there is an outside chance that more candidates are yet to announce. However, the number of people who could potentially be runners and riders is diminishing. 2020 leadership contender Rosi Sexton ruled herself out of the contest in July. And mere hours after Ali’s announcement, former Bristol Lord Mayor Cleo Lake also said that she wouldn’t be putting herself forward.

The Greens’ leadership election is taking place outside of the normal cycle. It has been triggered by Jonathan Bartley’s resignation at the end of July. His co-leader, Sian Berry, has continued as caretaker leader but ruled out standing in the by-election.

Nominations in the leadership election close on August 17. Members will vote between August 31 and September 21.

This article is jointly published by Bright Green and Left Foot Forward.

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