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Sian Berry says Greens are ‘more radical’ than Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party

Highgate councillor begins work as party's co-leader

07 September, 2018

SIAN Berry said the Greens can be “more radical” than Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party as she became co-leader of the national party.

The Highgate councillor will retain her seat at the Town Hall and continue as a London Assembly member, but her workload has been increased after winning an internal leadership contest on a job-share ticket with Jonathan Bartley.

Cllr Berry and Mr Bartley had a landslide victory in a ballot of members, taking 74 per cent of the vote.

She said that she wanted to take on “vapid centrist politics” during her time as co-leader, adding: “There are people talking about the need for a new centrist party, as if that is the answer to everything, everything to be controlled by a centrist blob. This leads to a technocratic approach, where the answer they come up with is often just to knock something down and start again. You see that with housing developments, or the railways: this centralised idea Labour has is just to build HS2 for billions of pounds rather than asking communities what is really needed.”

Cllr Berry added: “We are more interested in empowering communities. It might look a little messy. It might not always be neat, but it’s about what works for people, asking them what’s needed at a local level.”

Asked if left-wing politics was now a crowded field due to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, she said that her party did not see politics through the traditional left-right prism, but added: “I think on many issues we are more radical than Labour. Certainly on workers’ rights and even on nuclear disarmament, which was one of the things Corbyn has worked on for all these years, but now he is in a position to change Labour’s position we still do not have a clear policy from them on Trident. Maybe he is held back by centrist MPs.”

She also said she thought too many Labour MPs were weak on road-building and airport expansion to establish climate change credentials. Any potential discussions about electoral pacts with Mr Corbyn’s party – the Greens did not put up a candidate in Ealing last year – were being “park­ed”, she said.

The party was concentrating on winning as many seats as possible. Teased as “three-jobs Sian” by local Labour rivals earlier this summer, Cllr Berry conceded she would have less free time – the 44-year-old said plans to get a new cat have been abandoned – but said the roles were compatible with each other, particularly as she was co-leading.

Mr Bartley has spent the last two years sharing the leadership with Caroline Lucas, the Brighton Pavilion MP who announced that she was stepping down from the role in June.

Cllr Berry was re-elected in Highgate at the council elections in May, but Labour held the other seats in the ward and the party made no further gains.

This means that in both Camden and Islington, the Greens are stuck with only one councillor. She conceded the party had not invested any resources anywhere else in the borough, but added: “We had to run a defensive campaign because Labour were fighting the ward so hard. They threw everything at us when I think they could have been trying to unseat Conservatives.”

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