Labour’s seeming shift to the right under Keir Starmer will make the Greens’ chances of holding their sole parliamentary seat easier, but is ultimately bad for the country, the party’s chosen successor to Caroline Lucas has said.
Siân Berry, a former Green co-leader who has been selected by local party members to fight the Brighton Pavilion seat held by Lucas since 2010, said Starmer’s decision to maintain the two-child benefit limit provided a powerful argument to keep an alternative perspective in parliament.
“Keir Starmer is abandoning so many pledges so quickly, it’s sending a real message to people on the left – that they are no longer the party for things like improving child benefit policies, things like controlling rents,” said Berry, after it was announced on Wednesday that she had won 71% of first preference votes among Brighton and Hove Green members.
“It will only be Green MPs arguing for these things in the next parliament, standing up for things like repealing the horrendous Public Order Act, which Labour wouldn’t vote against.
“That does make our job easier in terms of getting elected. But it makes our job harder if we haven’t got a decent government – it’s concerning on a good-of-the-country level.”
Lucas, who had three stints as the Greens’ leader or co-leader, campaigned heavily in the seat before first winning it in 2010, with a majority of just over 1,000.
While this has grown significantly, reaching nearly 20,000 in 2019, Labour – which held the seat before – has hopes of retaking it after Lucas announced in June that she would not be seeking re-election.
While Lucas was long the party’s best-known figure, Berry has some prominence, spending three years between 2018 and 2021 as co-leader alongside Jonathan Bartley. She also stood three times to be London mayor, twice beating the Liberal Democrats to come third.
Berry is a London assembly member and a councillor in Camden, north London, but said she would be predominantly living in Brighton, seeking to replicate at least in part what was an often very personal vote for Lucas.
“None of us are underestimating the task ahead. Caroline has been absolutely amazing, and the shoes that we need to fill collectively are really, really huge. But we’re up for it. You know, campaign starts now,” she said.
“Caroline didn’t come with a personal vote at the beginning. She had to earn it. And that is my job, too. We absolutely adore Caroline, but she didn’t fall from the sky. She and the Green party worked so hard to create an MP that effective, and we know that we can do that for me and for some more people in different constituencies.
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“My goal as of right now is to knock on every door, to have spoken, ideally, to every single voter and make sure that they’ve looked me in the eye and seen how committed I am, to know me as a person.
“Why Caroline Lucas ended up with such a huge majority is that almost everybody has met her and appreciated how genuine she is. While I don’t have her fame and recognition, the fact that I’ve been around someone’s house should help.”
In the meantime, Berry added, she would have to regularly travel between Brighton and London, giving her a personal insight into a regular topic of conversation among locals.
“I will be getting huge insights into the state of the railways,” she said.