Sian Berry, is to quit as leader of the Greens, citing conflict within the party over transgender rights and claiming it had been a “failure of leadership” on her part that the party was sending “mixed messages”.
Berry, who was the party’s candidate for mayor, had been co-leader with Jonathan Bartley, who announced he was stepping down earlier this month. She said she had been agonising over whether to stand in the forthcoming leadership byelection but said she felt divisions in the party were too great.
A vocal supporter of trans equality, Berry had said one of the first things she would do as mayor would be to set up a commission on the rights of trans Londoners. In her resignation letter on Wednesday, Berry said there had been significant disagreement with colleagues elected to the party’s frontbench team. However, she did not give further details.
She said the party’s democratic structure meant decisions could be made that leaders did not agree with and she felt it was irreconcilable with her own position.
“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 frontbench representatives,” she said.
“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.”
Berry said she believed failing to change opinion within the party was a failure of her own leadership. “Failing to win the confidence of a majority of my colleagues to reflect these is also a failure of leadership,” she said.
“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.”
She said the forthcoming leadership election would mean serious questions must be asked of the party. Berry said: “Will we continue to embrace the principles of listening and solidarity when minority groups are singled out for attack?”
The Greens had a record showing in the delayed local elections in May, with a net gain of 91 council seats in the local elections, taking its national total to a record 444. The party has a role in running 18 councils, and took council seats almost equally from the Conservatives and Labour: 45 of its seats were won from Tory incumbents and 49 from Labour, with a further four from the Liberal Democrats.