The race for the leadership of the Green Party of England and Wales has stepped up a gear. Today, the party’s current deputy leader Amelia Womack announced she’s standing for the top job, on a co-leadership ticket with climate activist Tamsin Omond.
In their announcement, the pair have begun to set out their pitch to over 50,000 Green Party members. Their platform will be centred around prioritising electoral success and diversifying the party.
Womack is a familiar face for Greens. She was first elected as the party’s deputy leader in 2014, and was re-elected in 2016, 2018 and 2020. Having served seven years in the deputy post, she has had the longest tenure of any member of the leadership team since the party adopted the positions of leader and deputy leader in 2008. During Womack’s time as deputy leader, the Greens have more than doubled their tally of Councillors and recorded their three highest general election vote shares.
While Omond has a lower profile inside the party, they are well known in the environmental and climate movements. They have been a founding member of a number of environmental campaign groups, including Extinction Rebellion, Climate Rush and the Momentum Project. They previously worked as head of global campaigns at Lush, and have participated in high profile climate actions – including in 2008 when they and four others of campaign group Plane Stupid scaled the roof of parliament to protest Heathrow’s planned third runway. Omond is also a writer, with Rush! The Making of a Climate Activist published in 2009, and a forthcoming book Do Earth: Healing Strategies for Humankind due to be published in September 2021.
Speaking on the pair’s candidacy, Omond said they wanted to “capture hearts and minds”. They said:
“There has never been a more urgent moment to join the Green Party and to get involved in building a future that leaves no-one behind. The climate emergency is now a leading political concern and the Green Party is ready to capture hearts and minds, and deliver radical policy change.”
Unsurprisingly for Green leadership contenders, Womack and Omond are putting addressing the climate crisis high on their agenda. They reference both the forthcoming climate negotiations at COP26 in Glasgow, recent extreme weather across Europe and the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report as indicating an opportunity for the Green Party to steer the conversation on the climate in the UK. Claiming that current political leaders are “letting us down” and “dragging their feet” on the climate, the pair want to use their leadership to take the Green’s views on climate to the public at large – with the message that “there is no climate justice without social justice”.
In their pitch to members, they emphasise that getting Greens elected is key to their vision of turning that message into a practical change. Stating that when it comes to the Greens’ electoral success, “incremental progress just isn’t going to cut it anymore”, Womack and Omond are promising to “build a movement” that gets Greens elected to public office across the country.
But the focus of their bid isn’t solely external. Acknowledging the conflict that has emerged in the Green Party in recent years over the party’s strong position in favour of trans rights, the pair are committing to address “the harm done to trans members” and push the party’s “excellent trans inclusive policies”.
Speaking on their bid for the leadership, Womack brought together these key planks and said “there has never been a more important time for the Green Party”. She said:
“The most recent IPCC report on climate change states that this is code red for humanity. We’re witnessing devastating fires in Turkey and fatal flooding across Europe. With COP just around the corner, there has never been a more important time for the Green Party.
“Together Tamsin and I – will build a Green Party that wins electorally – council seats and MPs up and down the country, stands up for trans liberation and racial justice, and bring[s] marginalised and diverse communities to the heart of our party.
“We will oppose the coming austerity budget and inspire more people than ever before to join and vote for the Green Party.”
So far, only one other candidate has come forward for the leadership election. Tina Rothery and Martin Hemingway threw their hat into the ring on a co-leadership ticket at the end of July. Rothery is a prominent anti-fracking campaigner, and Hemingway is a former Labour Councillor and a member of the Green Party’s standing orders committee.
Other potential candidates are yet to come forward. On August 3, former Lord Mayor of Bristol Cleo lake tweeted “I am deciding on whether to go for @TheGreenParty leadership”. Former deputy leader Shahrar Ali, who stood unsuccessfully for leader in 2018 and 2020 has not yet declared whether he will be standing.
Ladbrokes has opened a market on the Green Party leadership contest, with Womack (alone) the bookies favourite, on 11/10 at the time of writing. Rothery and Hemingway sit at 12/1, while Ali and Lake sit at 10/1 and 20/1 respectively. Good odds can also be found on Bristol Councillor Carla Denyer and former deputy leader Adrian Ramsay (3/1) and Green MP Caroline Lucas (5/1).
The Greens’ leadership election is taking place outside of the normal cycle. It has been triggered by Jonathan Bartley’s resignation at the end of July. His co-leader, Sian Berry, has continued as caretaker leader but ruled out standing in the by-election due what she sees as an “inconsistency” between the party’s position in favour on trans rights and the appointment of party spokespeople earlier in 2021.
Nominations in the leadership election close on August 17. Members will vote between August 31 and September 21.
This article is jointly published by Left Foot Forward and Bright Green.
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