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‘A Growing Number of People Believe in the Same Values As We Do’: The Greens Look Ahead to the Next Election

Siân Berry, former Co-Leader of the Green Party, is hoping to be Caroline Lucas’ successor as MP for Brighton Pavilion

Siân Berry (left) hopes to replace Caroline Lucas (right) as the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion at the next general election. Photo: Stuart Spray

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The Green Party launched its campaign to increase its number of MPs from one to four at the next general election at this year’s Conference. 

Greens Co-Leaders Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay described the Government as “climate vandals” for granting permission for the West Cumbria coal mine, failing to get a single bid for offshore wind projects, weakening net zero commitments, and opening up the Rosebank oilfield.  

They also accused the Labour Party of being complicit by not providing effective opposition and of “radio silence” when asked if they would reverse any of the decisions. 

“We know we can do better than this,” said Denyer. “And with more Green MPs in Parliament we will.” 

Having quadrupled the number of Green councillors since 2019, the Green Party plans to target resources on winning the seats at Brighton Pavilion, Bristol Central, Waveney Valley and North Herefordshire.

Siân Berry, former Co-Leader and current Green councillor on Camden Council, hopes to replace Caroline Lucas, who will be standing down after 13 years as the Green MP for the Brighton Pavilion constituency.  She spoke to Byline Times about the party and her prospects at the next election as the climate emergency rapidly escalates.

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The Green Party is aiming for four seats in the next general election. Why do you think it’s important that the Green Party is represented in Parliament?

Well, it’s incredibly important that there is a green voice in the next Houses of Parliament. There needs to be someone holding the next government to account. Whether that’s another Tory government, and we’ve got to get rid of them as soon as possible, or a Labour-led government. 

We know that Keir Starmer’s rowing back on a lot of the principles that we thought were embedded in the Labour Party. Things like supporting workers. Things like rent controls. We fought really hard as a campaigning movement to get that into the Labour agenda. They’ve rowed back on that. They’re not getting rid of the right to buy, they confirmed that again.

We have a real challenge with the next Labour government that is going to be that mushy middle-ground that we’ve seen far too much of for decades now.

We want to have a group of four Green MPs holding that next government to account, bringing that green voice in, listening to communities that are often ignored, particularly by Labour councils, and making sure that we’ve got a government that will actually solve the ecological crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis in housing and the cost of living. 

And all the people who are feeling left out of politics at the moment – we will be their voice in the next Parliament. 

Green Party MP candidates Ellie Chowns, Carla Denyer, Adrian Ramsay and Siân Berry (left to right) with Caroline Lucas (middle). Photo: Stuart Spray

You have been selected as the Green Party candidate for Brighton Pavilion at the next general election. What do you have to offer people as their next MP? 

I aim to be as hard-working an MP as Caroline Lucas has been. We know that each time Brighton Pavilion has voted, they’ve increased the number of votes they give to Caroline Lucas because they can see her on the ground listening to people and taking the issues they care about into Parliament.

I want to work like that, and I’ve shown on the London Assembly and as a local councillor, that I work in that way too.

The issues I’ve brought to the Mayor of London, where I’ve actually changed his policy including things like funding youth services, on rent controls, on giving a voice to residents facing demolition on housing estates. All of those issues are things that really need a green voice and resonate with people in Brighton and Hove just as much as they do with people in London.

The housing crisis here is absolutely huge. On the doorstep, I’m hearing that from so many people. Even if they own their own homes, they will have children just going into the rental market here, which is like the Wild West. We need action. We need people speaking out for those things as well as holding their feet to the fire on the climate emergency as well.

We need the Green New Deal that was promised in the Labour Manifesto in the last election, and to an even greater extent in the Green Manifesto. Labour have rowed back on that. They’ve said they haven’t got the money to invest. We say we cannot afford not to invest in new green skills, new green jobs and the real transformation of our economy so that it prioritises what matters and not just economic growth, which seems to be Kier Starmer’s new catchphrase.

The Greens have shown right across the country, whether it’s a Labour council or a Tory council or even a Lib Dem-led council, we can be the constructive opposition that council needs in order to be bolder and better and go back on bad decisions as well.

We’re winning votes off Labour, we’re winning votes off the Conservatives, we’ve got more councillors than ever, and there are seats right across the country, Labour and Tory held at the moment, that we can take. And we want to keep the seat we’ve got in Brighton Pavilion because that has been an absolutely vital voice for this area, but also for a number of issues in Parliament right across the country.

Are you worried that votes for the Green Party might split the left and allow the Conservatives to win seats?

The areas where we’re the main challenger, the choice is very simple between Greens and Labour, or Greens and the Conservatives. There isn’t a problem with any kind of tactical voting. You should just vote for what you believe in.

We believe a growing number of people believe in the same values as we do. I want to see Green representatives for their area in Parliament.

What can the Green Party do to combat the Conservative Party’s plans to weaponise net zero in the run up to the next general election? 

The Conservatives at the moment are treating the environment as a political football: they are going out and deliberately cancelling good green policies and being condemned by the business community for doing it! 

The electric car manufacturers are absolutely furious with the Conservatives for changing the target for phasing out petrol and diesel cars because they are still mandated to build electric cars and the Conservatives have taken away their market. Even on the Conservatives’ own terms of building a strong economy, they are failing by using this this political tool of trying to tie the environment in with the ‘culture wars’ that they’re trying to stoke. It’s absolutely disgraceful to see. 

We are passionate about making sure that we keep the progressive majority that there is in the UK on-side and we don’t get involved in these culture wars. It’s just an awful, awful thing to see. 

We stand absolutely for human rights, for trans rights, for migrants rights, for the rights of  people of colour, for dealing with systemic discrimination. The Conservatives trying to turn that into woke buzzwords that they say they want to oppose – that is something we’re not going to be involved in. We’re not going to take their terms of reference and stick within them.

We believe in bringing people together, not dividing them. And we’re not going to give in when they try and create division in our society. 

What so you think of Rishi Sunak’s recent announcement to scrap phase two of HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester?  

It’s a real shame that we are where we are with HS2. We’re in possibly the worst place we could be in. They have pursued the London to Birmingham route, which is the most ecologically damaging part of the route. But they’ve abandoned the part that leads to the north, which is the one that could have brought the most benefit to people, the most increase in resilience for those areas of the north, increased the agglomeration, the ability of different cities to support each other and cross-fertilise.  That has been scrapped, but the bit that was damaging the Chilterns and going through ancient woodland has been kept.

An argument the Green Party has been making for ages is that the design speed was so high it was very hard to mitigate the environmental impacts. Railways are good, building new railways is good. Opening old railways, again, is good. But you have to bear in mind that you shouldn’t be just always taking the fastest possible route and starting up north would have been a much better idea. 

I’ve been following this for a long time as a London Assembly member, as a councillor in the London Borough of Camden, and the Euston site has been cleared. There’s a gigantic hole in the middle of that borough, which is in one of the poorest parts of London, one of the poorest parts of the country where people live in overcrowded homes, where there’s very little green space. And apparently, they’re handing that whole area over to private developers. 

There’s a real risk that we could get the worst of all possible worlds at the end of this project. And it’s a real shame that we didn’t pursue better policies in the first place and high-speed rail in a different kind of way. That would have been what the Greens wanted from the start, and it’s just it’s just awful that we’re where we are now, having wasted so much money, in a position where it’s really hard to get something positive out of it .  

What are your plans in the run-up to the next general election?

I have started on the campaign trail in earnest. At the moment I’m the only candidate selected to fight for the Brighton Pavilion seat. I’m not under-estimating at all the job that I have to prove myself to the residents here, that I can be as good an MP as Caroline has been, that they can trust me to be that green voice in Westminster and the way they’ve trusted Caroline over the years. Her majority has increased every single time. It’s such an impressive record that she has. 

My job is to knock on every door with my team, speak to every resident, make sure they get to know me as a person, as a potential MP. And make sure that the Greens are a genuine choice in the other seats as well.

Make sure we’ve got the right manifesto, make sure we’re challenging Labour and the Conservatives in the right way so that they know what a green voice will mean in Westminster and the difference that we can genuinely make in making the next government bolder.

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