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Green Party co-leader Sian Berry to step down over trans rights row

The politician says the party's "inconsistency" over the issue has left her in a "very difficult position".

2021-07-15

Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: wiki

The Green Party's Sian Berry is to step down as co-leader over in-party disputes on trans issues, she has said.

She claims the party is sending "mixed messages" on trans rights, adding: "This inconsistency has left me in a very difficult position."

The politician, 47, made the announcement in a personal statement published via social media yesterday (14 July 2021). Berry - co-leader of the Greens since 2018, and a candidate for Mayor of London this year - joins co-leader Jonathan Bartley, in his role since 2016, in bowing out of this autumn's leadership election.

Berry previously outlined her support for trans people in a blog post last February, saying she would "launch a commission into the needs of trans and non-binary Londoners, and create a trans rights action plan for London," if she became Mayor.

"I can no longer make the claim that the party speaks unequivocally, with one voice, on this issue"

Berry's statement in full: "I have been considering my position as co-leader since the decision was made to announce our new front bench spokespeople. And though I will stay on as acting leader through the leadership by-election, I am writing today to say that I have decided not to stand as a candidate in that by-election.

"Working with Jonathan Bartley for the past three years has been incredibly rewarding. He has been a tremendous colleague, alongside our brilliant deputy Amelia Womack. I am so proud of the progress the party has made, not just recently but also through the past decade with the earlier leadership of Caroline Lucas and Natalie Bennett.

"Green leaders rightly do not exert control over all our party’s actions, and our principles of internal democracy are very important to me. These mean accepting that decisions can sometimes be made by our governing bodies that leaders do not agree with, but which we are bound to represent. However, I must also stand by our policies and my pledges made to Londoners in the recent election, and 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 front bench representatives.

"This inconsistency has left me in a very difficult position. I can no longer make the claim that the party speaks unequivocally, with one voice, on this issue. And my conscience simply cannot agree with the argument that there is anything positive in sending these mixed messages, especially when the inclusive attitudes of our membership and wider society are clear. Failing to win the confidence of a majority of my colleagues to reflect these is also a failure of leadership. Green leaders do not hold power but we do have a duty to influence, so I must apologise to you all for this failure and hold myself to account.

"In the coming elections for new members of the party executive and leadership, we must all ask ourselves important questions about the values our party upholds at this pivotal moment. Will we continue to embrace the principles of listening and solidarity when minority groups are singled out for attack? Will we continue to work for a more co-operative politics? Will we maintain our ambitions and put the resources needed behind the teams who support elections and campaigning? As members we will need to answer these questions and then find the right people to represent our choices.

"I love the Green Party. I am proud of our growing strength and influence and, though sad to be leaving this role in the Autumn, I say all this with sorrow but not weariness. After an exciting election in London, and Green success in towns, cities and regions across England and Wales, my energy and drive for speaking up for our values and putting our policies into action are undiminished. More urgently than ever, we need a transformed society that brings us together, respects everyone’s rights and leaves no gaps for people to fall through, and a transformed economy that respects environmental limits.

"From the Autumn I will be able to put even more energy into my role as a Green London Assembly member to achieve these goals, and I will always wish all my colleagues well."