The likely suspects: a who’s who of the Green’s leadership contest

On Wednesday nominations will open for the contest to choose the next leader of the Green Party of England and Wales. Last summer, Labour’s leadership battle which dominated the news but now the Greens must choose their next leader. With Natalie Bennett announcing that she will not stand again for the leadership position, the field is open to a range of lesser known candidates – and Caroline Lucas. Nominations for the contest will be accepted until June 30th and campaigning will begin on July 1st.

Natalie Bennett speaking for Edinburgh Greens

Source: Garry Knight on Flickr 

As the time for nominations approaches, there’s a plethora of names being thrown around, from the probable, like South West MEP Molly Scott-Cato, to the less so, such as Larry Sanders, brother of Democrat candidate across the Atlantic, Bernie. But whoever takes the reigns will have a very different challenge facing them to that which Bennett took on when she began her role in 2012. Party membership has grown rapidly – as of April 2015 there were 61,200 members – gains have been made on councils across the country, and the party came third in May’s London mayoral contest. But in 2015 the Greens failed to win Westminster seats outside of the relatively safe Brighton, and must now decide what their relationship will be to the more left-leaning Labour party that has emerged under Jeremy Corbyn. With the 2020 election on the horizon the new leader will likely oversee a key period in Green Party history, so here’s a rundown of the possible contenders for the leadership position.

Caroline Lucas

The obvious contender is, of course, Caroline Lucas. She was elected as the Green’s first leader in 2008, holding on to that position until 2012 when she stood down from the post. Since 2010 she has been MP for Brighton Pavilion.

Caroline Lucas speaks at #StopTrident demo

Source: Edinburgh Greens on Flickr

Lucas is certainly the most recognisable face within the party, but for many this is precisely why she shouldn’t stand as leader again. If she entered the contest it’s unlikely she would lose, and there are fears this would reinforce any beliefs that the Greens are a one-woman party; in many ways she has remained the face of the Greens even whilst Bennett was leader. Within the party there are calls for the leadership position to be used to launch a new Green voice, rather than amplifying that of an already well known figure. With the Green Party now in the mainstream of British politics, the leadership position could provide a significant platform for a less publically known candidate, a boost which would be wasted on Lucas. Lucas herself has refused to rule out entering the contest, suggesting she is waiting to see who else will stand once nominations open.

Sharah Ali

Along with Amelia Womack, Sharah Ali is the current deputy leader of the Green Party, and seems to be one of the few candidates actually suggesting he will stand. On Twitter he has said that the party is ready for a BAME leader and Ladbrokes have given him odds equal to Womack and only beaten by those of Lucas.

If so, Ali will become the first BAME candidate in a major leadership campaign. Previously he has worked as a researcher in the European parliament, and is currently the Home Affairs spokesman. In this year’s London Mayoral Election he was the Green’s third candidate for the London Assembly, behind Sian Phillps and Jenny Jones who have ruled themselves out for leader, as well as having a PhD in Philosophy.

Amelia Womack

As deputy leader, like Ali, its no surprise that Womack is interested in the leadership position. However whether Womack will run seems to depend upon Lucas’ decision, with The Guardian reporting that she has said ‘I would certainly support Caroline if she ran and that would stop me from running’. Her statement demonstrates the loyalty to Lucas within the party, and is suggestive of how successful the Brighton MP is likely to be if she does decide to stand for leader again.

But it is thought that if Womack does enter the contest she will find a wealth of support, particularly amongst the Young Greens. And her achievements are not small either; at 31 she’s the youngest deputy leader of any UK party, she stood as the candidate for Camberwell and Peckham in the 2015 election, and was the South Wales Central candidate for this year’s Welsh Assembly elections. In all these ventures she performed well, tripling the Camberwell and Peckham Green vote to over 10% in the general election.

Jonathan Bartley and Jennifer Nadel

A unique element of the Green’s leadership contest is that it allows the leadership position to function as a job share, though in the short history of the role no-one has yet taken this up. But it seems that’s likely to change, with various green blogs reporting that Jonathan Bartley and Jennifer Nadel will stand together for the position.

Bartley is founder and director of the Christian think tank Ekklesia, is convenor of Lambeth Green Party, and lost out to Sian Berry to be the party’s London Mayoral candidate. Nadel is a writer, journalist, activist and trained barrister, and within the party is the co-convenor of the London Green Party. Though nothing certain has been said by either Bartley or Nadel their odds have been shortened considerably by Ladbrokes, suggesting that perhaps there is something in the various Green rumours.

If Labour taught us anything it’s that in a leadership campaign anything can happen – in fact, the whole process can become far more exciting that it may seem. As a partly newly emerging into the mainstream, the Green’s leadership contest will aquaint the public with party figures besides Lucas and Bennett. As a party which now needs to prove to the populace that it has substance and intelligence behind its popular policies this can only bode well for hopes of yet another Green surge.

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