Green Party members publicly refuse to campaign for Sheffield parliamentary candidate
Members of the Green Party of England and Wales have been publicly announcing their refusal to campaign for a parliamentary candidate in Sheffield. Dozens of members – including five Sheffield City Councillors – have posted a graphic on Twitter which reads, “I am a Sheffield Green Party member and I support trans rights. I will not campaign for any candidate who discriminates against trans people.” Green Councillors Ruth Mersereau, Angela Argenzio, Alexi Dimond, Brian Holmshaw and Martin Phipps all shared the graphic. Collectively they make up over a third of the Green Councillors elected to Sheffield City Council.
While most members who have shared the graphic have not named a specific individual, it is widely understood that the public comments are in response to the selection of Alison Teal as the Greens’ candidate for the parliamentary constituency of Sheffield Central. Some have explicitly named either Teal or the Sheffield Central constituency in their tweets, and both Teal and her supporters have conceded that while the graphic itself does not name her, it is nonetheless directed towards her candidacy. Bright Green understands that some members chose not to name Teal specifically because the Green Party’s code of conduct prohibits public criticism of other members.
Teal was selected as a candidate for Sheffield Central in an internal ballot of Green Party members in Sheffield. Beating three other candidates, she received 56 per cent of first preference votes. 273 voted in the selection, a turnout of 28 per cent.
Sheffield Central is a constituency that has brought the Greens some of its highest levels of support anywhere in the country in recent general elections. In 2015, the Greens received 15.8% of the vote and the constituency was the seventh strongest for the party in terms of the number of votes cast for the Greens.
Teal has been a high profile member of the Greens for a number of years, and has been the party’s candidate for Sheffield Central once before, in 2019. She came to prominence as a forthright campaigner against the felling of trees in Sheffield, and was elected as a City Councillor in 2016. Following the 2021 local elections, as Labour lost overall control on Sheffield City Council, Teal entered the Council’s cabinet, covering sustainable neighbourhoods, wellbeing, parks and leisure. In this year’s election to the Green Party Executive, she stood on a job-share ticket with anti-fracking campaigner Tina Rothery for the position of chair, finishing in third place. When Teal stood down as a Councillor, she was publicly critical of her party. She said, “We’ve seen the party move from being tolerant/thoughtful to authoritarian/dogmatic underpinned by racism”. She also said that “I don’t think party politics is helping anymore” and “I think my energy might be better spent outside the system than in it.”
In recent years, Teal has increasingly been embroiled in controversy surrounding her statements on trans rights. She has on a number of occasions tweeted her opposition to what she describes as “gender ideology”, which she has said has a “frightening impact” on children and has branded “regressive”. Most recently, Teal was heavily criticised after sharing an article which repeatedly referred to the comedian Eddie Izzard as a ‘man’ and ‘he’ and opposed her use of women’s toilets. Izzard, who is currently seeking selection as the Labour Party candidate for Sheffield Central, is genderfluid and uses she/her pronouns. The text Teal quoted from the article in her tweet read, “The loss of women’s rights starts with looking the other way for an Eddie Izzard and ends with a society that doesn’t flinch at placing a male sex offender in jail with women.”
One of the members who has said they will refuse to campaign for Teal told Bright Green, “People are entitled to their personal beliefs, but they are not entitled to use the Sheffield Green Party as a springboard to launch a gender critical campaign against a trans public figure, campaign against [Green Party] policy”. They went on to claim, “shortly after the selection for Sheffield Central she very publicly criticised a potential Labour candidate, comedian Eddie Izzard, not on the basis of any differences in party politics – but because she used a women’s toilet.” The member also alleged that Teal’s candidacy risked “forever damaging the reputation and sustainability of the local party”, adding that they believed, “we cannot afford to alienate members, voters and activists who will reasonably expect a parliamentary candidate who supports the [Green Party] and its trans inclusive policies.”
Members who have shared the graphic told Bright Green that Teal’s candidate statement contained no indication of her views on trans rights, or any conflict between her views and the party’s policies.
Despite a significant proportion of the Sheffield Green Group sharing the graphic expressing their refusal to campaign for Teal, this is not a universal opinion among the Group. One Green Councillor in Sheffield – Peter Garbutt expressed a different view. He retweeted a post from a former deputy leader of the party – Shahrar Ali – which defended Teal and said that she had received “disgusting abuse”.
Bright Green approached Alison Teal in advance of the publication of this article, but she declined to comment. Teal has, however, consistently denied that she is transphobic.
Sheffield Green Party was also approached for comment, but had not responded by the time of publication.
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Image credit: Krystyna Haywood – Creative Commons