Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay have been elected as the new leaders of the Greens in England and Wales, arriving with a self-stated mission to professionalise a party with an ever-growing councillor base and polling at up to 9%.
In a race prompted when the previous leaders, Siân Berry and Jonathan Bartley, decided to step down, Denyer and Ramsay beat another pairing, Amelia Womack and Tamsin Omond, by 6,273 votes to 3,902 after second preferences were added.
The only other candidate to gain more than a few hundred votes was Shahrar Ali, a former deputy leader of the party whose views on trans rights were behind Berry’s decision to step down. He received 21% of first-choice votes.
The election was loosely billed as a choice between two approaches to the party’s future. Denyer and Ramsay, both longtime activists who have served as councillors, were seen as having a more electorally focused remit, and won the sought-after endorsement of Caroline Lucas, the party’s sole MP.
Womack and Omond, in contrast, are associated more with direct activism and younger members. Womack is the current deputy leader and Omond is a well-known climate activist who co-founded Extinction Rebellion.
Speaking after the result, Denyer and Ramsay stressed that despite their long experience in the party – Ramsay was first elected as a Green councillor nearly 20 years ago – they are only 36 and 40 respectively and by some way the youngest leaders of a mainstream national party.
Both stated their desire to build on recent electoral successes, with the party now having a role in running 14 councils.
“We’re looking to build on that, and to bring in my and Adrian’s experience of winning elections, and that professionalising force,” said Denyer, a Bristol councillor who is the party’s parliamentary candidate in the target seat of Bristol West, one she called “eminently winnable”.
Ramsay, who first became a councillor in Norwich when he was 21 and is a former deputy leader of the party, said the pair’s experience would stand the Greens in good stead.
“What we can highlight is that we both have experience of being elected as Greens and representing communities on a wide range of issues,” he said. “It’s about taking our distinctive agenda and seeing how we can apply that to people’s everyday lives.”
This week Labour pledged to spend £28bn a year on climate-related measures. However, Denyer said this did not mean the Greens’ role was in any way diminished.
“It is progress that the other parties are starting to talk about climate change, but we’re not yet at the stage where they’re acting on it,” she said. “And that’s the real difference we see – in council chambers, for example. Their approach still often tends to treat climate change as an add-on, rather than being a thread that runs through all policies.”
Ramsay said the party would also campaign vigorously on economic policies such as a four-day week and universal basic income, saying their approach was “just as much about social justice as it is about tacking the climate and ecological emergency”.
While the party usually elects or re-elects leaders every two years, this race came just a year after the previous one. Berry had served three years as co-leader and Bartley five, initially as co-leader alongside Lucas.
Berry announced she was stepping down after Ali, whose views she considered transphobic, was promoted to the frontbench against her wishes, a factor of the limited power wielded by Green leaders.
Ali then decided to stand for leader, saying the party should become a beacon to “politically homeless” women put off by the tone of the trans rights debate.
The other candidates in the race were Martin Hemingway and Tina Rothery, who stood as a pair and received 342 first-choice votes, and Ashley Gunstock, who won 212.