Sian Berry

The race to be the Green Party’s next parliamentary candidate in Brighton Pavilion kicked off today, as the party’s former co-leader Siân Berry has announced she’s putting herself forward. The news follows Caroline Lucas – currently the Greens’ only MP – announcing last week that she would not be seeking re-election in the constituency at the next general election.

Berry is currently a member of the London Assembly, a councillor in Camden, and has stood three times to be Mayor of London.

Berry announced her candidacy in a letter to Green Party members in Brighton & Hove. She wrote:

“The question of how we collectively build upon the tremendous and inspiring record of Caroline Lucas in Parliament comes at a crucial moment for the Greens, and I know we will all work together to meet this challenge.

“Since Thursday’s announcement from Caroline, I have spoken with many local members in Brighton and Hove and listened to their thoughts, concerns and hopes for the future. These conversations have been productive, instructive and overwhelmingly positive.

“I will have the chance to speak with many more of you in the coming weeks, but I am writing to you today to say that I am planning to submit an application to be your next MP candidate for Brighton Pavilion constituency.

“In more than two decades working in the Green Party, I have been in awe of the achievements of you all. I believe that the energy, focus and determination of your members, combined with support from South East region and the Green Party of England and Wales, with the addition of my long experience as an elected Green, leader and candidate in the highest-pressure elections, can together forge the winning team we need.

“The choice of the right approach to the next election lies one hundred per cent with you as a local party, and I will be offering you a choice and a promise of commitment that I hope you will take up as the selection continues.

“Through the coming weeks of that process, I will be based in Brighton and Hove, aiming to meet and talk with as many local members as possible to listen, answer questions and secure nominations and support for adding me to your team.

“I hope to see you soon to hear what you think, and huge thanks for considering me.”

Lucas’ decision not to re-stand came as a shock to many both within and outside the Green Party. She has served as MP for Brighton Pavilion for 13 years, making history when elected in 2010 by becoming the first ever Green MP in the UK. She has increased her majority at every subsequent election and now has the largest majority of any MP for the constituency ever and has generated a reputation as a hard working parliamentarian and as a fierce advocate for action on the climate crisis, for progressive social policies, and for a left wing economic agenda.

In her announcement, Lucas said that her parliamentary and constituency commitments had meant that she had “not been able to focus as much as I would like on the existential challenges that drive me – the nature and climate emergencies”, going on to say that she has “struggled to spend the time I want on these accelerating crises. I have therefore decided not to stand again as your MP at the next election.”

Like Lucas, Berry has had a stint in the leadership of the party prior to putting her name forward for Brighton Pavilion. Her spell as co-leader of the Green Party lasted for three years, from 2018-21.

Following the resignation of her co-leader Jonathan Bartley in 2021, Berry did not stand in the subsequent by-election, stating “there is now an inconsistency between the sincere promise to fight for trans rights and inclusion in my work and the message sent by the party’s choice of frontbench representatives.”

It is widely understood that her decision not to re-stand related to the appointment of Shahrar Ali as the Greens’ policing and domestic safety spokesperson. Ali has repeatedly faced allegations of transphobia, allegations which he has denied. Ali was subsequently removed from his position and has since lodged a legal claim against the party, alleging the party has discriminated against him for his so-called ‘gender critical’ beliefs.

Berry’s announcement may be controversial among some local party members, given her lack of recent connection to Brighton. No local member has yet confirmed they are seeking to be nominated as the Green Party candidate for Brighton Pavilion however, although a number are understood to be considering throwing their hat into the ring.

While on paper, the size of Lucas’ majority might make Brighton Pavilion appear to be a safe seat, there is a degree of trepidation among party members about the next election. Labour will no doubt be optimistic that securing a majority on Brighton & Hove Council in this year’s local elections, combined with Lucas’ departure and boundary changes will provide a recipe with which they could take back the seat they lost to the Greens 13 years ago.

Nominations for the Green Party’s candidate selection close on June 30, with local party members voting for their candidate in July.

This article is jointly published with Left Foot Forward.

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