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Labour councillor attacks Sian Berry over Green Party leadership bid

Greens say Highgate councillor can take on three roles within the party

01 June, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Sian Berry with Caroline Lucas during election campaign

LABOUR campaigners in Highgate have accused the Greens of misleading local voters after Sian Berry announced she wants to become the co-leader of the party nationally.

The New Journal reported earlier how Councillor Berry, who was re-elected to the Town Hall in the ward four weeks ago, has put her name forward to replace Caroline Lucas. She is standing on a job share ticket with the existing co-leader Jonathan Bartley.

It follows a daggers-drawn council election contest in which the Greens and Labour squared up in the split Highgate ward at Camden’s local polls, one of the few sharply-contested wards in the borough.

The ruling Labour party, already holding a dominant majority in the council chamber, was accused of running a kitchen sink campaign to unseat the only Green councillor in Camden rather than targeting vulnerable Tory-held local authorities. Many ballot papers were split, however, and Cllr Berry ended up topping the polls in Highgate, although without seeing her the party expand on its single seat.

Labour councillor Oliver Lewis said today (Friday): “She [Sian] must have known this was coming. They had a leadership website ready to go. It’s a pretty disingenuous campaign in the local elections if so. The whole Green campaign was about a Green councillor who works hard for the people of Highgate but they’d never see her if she becomes leader.”

He added: “Highgate residents will be surprised to learn she was planning to run for leader all along while telling them how committed she was.”

Highgate Labour councillor Oliver Lewis

Cllr Berry, one of the most high-profile Green politicians in the country who fronted the party’s local election broadcast on prime TV, would continue her role at Camden Town Hall and as an assembly member at City Hall regardless of the result of the leadership election.

The Greens do not see this as an issue, viewing all three positions as “compatible”. Members say they will not be lectured on the issue by Cllr Lewis, taking the line that he too works three jobs as a lawyer, councillor and the chairman of a Town Hall scrutiny committee.

Sian Berry at her flat in Tufnell Park, appearing in an election broadcast in April

“I know that Caroline will be a hard act to follow but I’m ready for the challenge,” said Cllr Berry, who was the party’s ‘principal speaker’ in 2006, essentially a leadership role. “We have the most organised and talented set of people in this party that I’ve ever seen, and hard-working local parties everywhere getting people elected.”

Nominations for the Green Party leadership opened today with the contest scheduled to run to the conference season. No further candidacies have been announced so far. Ms Lucas, the Brighton Pavilion MP, said she was stepping down from the post on Wednesday.

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