‘A bigger, bolder party’: Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry aim high

Fresh from their election as Green Party Co-leaders with 74 per cent of the vote, Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry speak to Green World as they look back on the election process and lay out their ambitions for the Green Party over the next two years.

Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry
Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry
Green World

1. What have you enjoyed most about the campaign and election process?

Meeting so many party members and hearing perspective and key issues from people around the country has been so useful as well as just nice to see so many committed people working for the party. It wasn’t just about local issues though, and we heard some great ideas for ways in which they want to see the party develop and grow, which we’re listening to keenly. One of the biggest calls was for more help to campaign on climate breakdown, which we’ve taken up already.

2. What do you hope to achieve during your leadership? What should be built on and what should be improved?

We want to set the party firmly on course to being the UK’s third party and get a Green on every council in England and Wales. This means putting forward brighter, more radical ideas and being bolder and fiercer about how we campaign for them. We’re growing as a party – in numbers and in experience – and this year we have a record number of councillors, and the biggest monthly growth in membership across July since the Green Surge of 2015.

To make sure every campaign is as effective and efficient as possible, we want to invest more in successful training programmes like Campaign School. We’re also going to need as many Greens as possible taking the most effective election campaign messages to the doorsteps in the 2019 council elections, and having well-organised and well-trained teams on the ground makes all the difference, as we both saw in the London council elections this year. We’ll be bringing our own experience to your doorsteps soon and look forward to seeing you there!

3. How will you balance your duties as councillors with your leadership roles?

Jonathan is now the leader of a large Green group on Lambeth Council and Sian combines being a councillor in Camden with a seat on the London Assembly, which is why we’re sharing the leadership, but also why we’ll be good leaders, we hope, too. We know how hard getting elected is, and how being a councillor works in small and larger groups. Andrew Cooper’s campaign to be Deputy Leader impressed upon us the need for more councillor support, but by job-sharing we’re confident the party will get the best from both of us, and we can’t wait to get going.

4. How do you think having Co-leaders sets Greens apart from other political parties, and what benefits does this way of working bring?

Having Co-leaders was regarded as a novelty two years ago but has really worked for Caroline and Jonathan, and we have seen far less bemusement from reporters after the announcement we’d won the post this year. It’s also something that embodies our Green values by not putting all our faith in one figure (and we’ve committed to developing more new voices to represent the party too) but also the way in which we have two people leading together who wanted to stand as a team and then work as a team – it embodies our Green values in many ways.

5. In what ways have you worked closely in the past – are there any specific projects you have collaborated on?

We were of course rivals to be candidates for Mayor of London in 2016 and learned a lot from each other in the debates during that election, and we now work together closely on many issues, not least the disgraceful treatment of council estate residents across London. Lambeth Council has proved to be an awful example of how not to do estate regeneration, and Sian has worked as a London Assembly Member with campaigners and local Greens, including Jonathan, to fight against demolition and get the council listening to residents’ own plans for their estates.

We’ve also both worked on the long campaign against library closures in Lambeth and the Mayor’s plans to close the Streatham police base in the ward Jonathan represents, which Greens fought hard to open just a few years ago.

6. Which issues does the party need to focus on in the next two years?

We want to see the party come up with bigger, bolder ideas for government and councils, and we also want to see an increased focus on issue-based campaigning and direct action. With only one MP in Parliament, we need to fight with every tactic and every ally we can find in the battles to stop fracking, HS2, airport expansion, nuclear weapons, deportations and many other terrible Tory schemes. We want Greens to be different not just in what they stand for but how they campaign – not only at the ballot box but also by putting their bodies on the line when democracy fails. If we need to organise peaceful disruption to prevent the worst impacts of disastrous decisions then we will.

7. What sets the Green Party apart from other mainstream parties?

No other party gets that economic breakdown and climate breakdown are two sides of the same coin or the fundamental changes that are needed to the economy to get it working properly for people and planet. What the Greens offer is real action on climate breakdown, a totally new Green economy and a vision for Britain within a re-imagined European Union. No other party offers our policy platform. Not the Lib Dems with their soggy centrism, not Labour with their hand-wringing on Brexit and certainly not the Conservatives whose policies have greatly damaged both our society and our economy.

8. How important is a Green voice in UK politics and what difference can it make in the current context?

As the gap between the rich and the rest of us grows, as the Brexit negotiations continue to go nowhere and, most alarmingly, as our climate continues to become more volatile and erratic, we need a party who will stand up and say “this isn’t good enough.”

We believe the Green Party has the clearest voice, the strongest arguments, the brightest ideas and the fiercest passion in British politics and we promise that as Co-leaders we will make sure our members have the inspiration and tools to shout louder than ever before.