Green Party co-leader Sian Berry quits over ‘failure’ on trans rights

Siân Berry is stepping down as co-leader of the Green Party citing an “inconsistency” between the party’s promises and actions on trans rights.

In a statement shared on Wednesday (14 July), Siân Berry confirmed that she will not be standing as a candidate for the Green Party in the upcoming leadership by-election, following her co-leader Jonathan Bartley, who also stepped down last week.

Explaining her decision, Berry said she must hold herself to account for her party’s “failure” to reflect the inclusive attitudes of “our membership and wider society” on the matter of trans rights.

She accepted that, as co-leader, she had a duty to represent decisions made by governing bodies that she did not agree with. “However,” she said, “I must also stand by our policies and my pledges made to Londoners in the recent election, and 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 front bench representatives.

“This inconsistency has left me in a very difficult position,” Berry continued. “I can no longer 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.

“Failing to win the confidence of a majority of my colleagues to reflect these is also a failure of leadership. Green leaders do not hold power but we do hold a duty to influence, so I must apologise to you all for this failure and hold myself to account.”

A personal statement from me on the upcoming Green Party leadership by-election.

Read as pdf here, and find alt text in images: https://t.co/uG1Ah0HC5V pic.twitter.com/PXN8sII1pp

— Sian Berry (@sianberry) July 14, 2021

Berry’s decision to step down comes after the party selected Shahrar Ali, the party’s former deputy leader, as the spokesperson for policing and domestic safety. Ali was heavily criticised after he embraced definitions of women that exclude trans and intersex women from womanhood.

He maintains that he has always fought for LGBT+ rights and will continue to do so.

Siân Berry condemned ‘toxic transphobia’ in London Assembly

Siân Berry has long been outspoken about her support for trans rights, and as candidate for London mayor she vowed to make London the “most trans-inclusive city in the world“.

Among her many inclusive pledges was a promise to set up a commission on the needs of trans Londoners and create an action plan to address barriers to healthcare, employment and housing.

Speaking to PinkNews ahead of the election earlier this year, she highlighted a worrying regression in trans rights since she joined the London Assembly in 2016, saying she was witnessing the conversation move in the “wrong direction”.

“Since I’ve been in London Assembly, there’s a growth in particularly toxic transphobia,” she said.

“Attempts being made at a national level to rollback trans rights, and objections to things that I would never have imagined could be objected to. Things like provision of gender-neutral toilets, it just seemed like common sense to me.

“There’s been an enormous amount of toxic rhetoric that I do not like… I just think it’s upsetting that we’ve seen anyone’s human rights pushed back on, but it’s particularly upsetting to me how toxic the attempts are that are being made at the moment to alienate and exclude trans people.”

Commenting on Wednesday about the upcoming Green leadership elections, Berry warned her colleagues that “we must all ask ourselves important questions about the values our party upholds at this pivotal moment.”

“Will we continue to embrace the principles of listening and solidarity when minority groups are singled out for attack?” she asked. “Will we continue to work for a more co-operative politics? Will we maintain our ambitions and put the resources needed behind the teams who support elections and campaigning?

“As members we will need to answer these questions and then find the right people to represent our choices.”

Berry will continue to serve as acting leader through the leadership election.