Sian Berry has received Caroline Lucas's backing. Photo: YouTube screengrab
Show Hide image

A blow for Bennett? Caroline Lucas backs Sian Berry for the Greens' London Mayoral candidate

"Dynamic, articulate and engaging."

Caroline Lucas has announced she is backing Green politician Siân Berry to be her party's candidate for the London mayoralty.

Berry was the party's candidate in the 2008 mayoral election, and has held high-profile positions in the party for a number of years. She served as principal speaker (what is now a leadership position) from 2006-7, and is a Green councillor on Camden Council, for Highgate ward.

She has burnished her environmental credentials in the capital, through campaigns such as a drive to reduce 4x4s being driven in urban areas, a campaign to replace inefficient boilers, and a position covering roads and sustainable transport for the Campaign for Better Transport.

An experienced London Green then, and one who Lucas clearly deems worth endorsing. She commented:

Sian Berry has all the qualities and experience to make a really effective London mayoral candidate for the Greens.

Dynamic, articulate and engaging, she’s well known and widely admired, particularly for her outstanding work on environmental issues in the city. An experienced and effective local councillor and campaigner, she has a strong track record of promoting equality and social justice as well as sustainability.

Sian has used her position to forge excellent links with a wide range of groups in the city, and is committed to running a grassroots, open and inclusive campaign to reach and engage as many Londoners as possible. I’m delighted to endorse her candidacy.

But a side-effect of this endorsement is a blow for party leader Natalie Bennett. The talk is that Bennett is deliberating whether or not to run to be the Green candidate for London mayor.

It would be a high-stakes move for her to do so, because if she were to lose to another contender then it would surely mean the end of her leadership when it comes to the Greens' internal elections next year. Lucas's endorsement of Berry suggests that Bennett would not be the party's first choice for the mayoral race.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Picture: ANDRÉ CARRILHO
Show Hide image

Leader: Boris Johnson, a liar and a charlatan

The Foreign Secretary demeans a great office of state with his carelessness and posturing. 

Boris Johnson is a liar, a charlatan and a narcissist. In 1988, when he was a reporter at the Times, he fabricated a quotation from his godfather, an eminent historian, which duly appeared in a news story on the front page. He was sacked. (We might pause here to acknowledge the advantage to a young journalist of having a godfather whose opinions were deemed worthy of appearing in a national newspaper.) Three decades later, his character has not improved.

On 17 September, Mr Johnson wrote a lengthy, hyperbolic article for the Daily Telegraph laying out his “vision” for Brexit – in terms calculated to provoke and undermine the Prime Minister (who was scheduled to give a speech on Brexit in Florence, Italy, as we went to press). Extracts of his “article”, which reads more like a speech, appeared while a terror suspect was on the loose and the country’s threat level was at “critical”, leading the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, to remark: “On the day of a terror attack where Britons were maimed, just hours after the threat level is raised, our only thoughts should be on service.”

Three other facets of this story are noteworthy. First, the article was published alongside other pieces echoing and praising its conclusions, indicating that the Telegraph is now operating as a subsidiary of the Johnson for PM campaign. Second, Theresa May did not respond by immediately sacking her disloyal Foreign Secretary – a measure of how much the botched election campaign has weakened her authority. Finally, it is remarkable that Mr Johnson’s article repeated the most egregious – and most effective – lie of the EU referendum campaign. “Once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350m per week,” the Foreign Secretary claimed. “It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS.”

This was the promise of Brexit laid out by the official Vote Leave team: we send £350m to Brussels, and after leaving the EU, that money can be spent on public services. Yet the £350m figure includes the rebate secured by Margaret Thatcher – so just under a third of the sum never leaves the country. Also, any plausible deal will involve paying significant amounts to the EU budget in return for continued participation in science and security agreements. To continue to invoke this figure is shameless. That is not a partisan sentiment: the head of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, denounced Mr Johnson’s “clear misuse of official statistics”.

In the days that followed, the chief strategist of Vote Leave, Dominic Cummings – who, as Simon Heffer writes in this week's New Statesman, is widely suspected of involvement in Mr Johnson’s article – added his voice. Brexit was a “shambles” so far, he claimed, because of the ineptitude of the civil service and the government’s decision to invoke Article 50 before outlining its own detailed demands.

There is a fine Yiddish word to describe this – chutzpah. Mr Johnson, like all the other senior members of Vote Leave in parliament, voted to trigger Article 50 in March. If he and his allies had concerns about this process, the time to speak up was then.

It has been clear for some time that Mr Johnson has no ideological attachment to Brexit. (During the referendum campaign, he wrote articles arguing both the Leave and Remain case, before deciding which one to publish – in the Telegraph, naturally.) However, every day brings fresh evidence that he and his allies are not interested in the tough, detailed negotiations required for such an epic undertaking. They will brush aside any concerns about our readiness for such a huge challenge by insisting that Brexit would be a success if only they were in charge of it.

This is unlikely. Constant reports emerge of how lightly Mr Johnson treats his current role. At a summit aiming to tackle the grotesque humanitarian crisis in Yemen, he is said to have astounded diplomats by joking: “With friends like these, who needs Yemenis?” The Foreign Secretary demeans a great office of state with his carelessness and posturing. By extension, he demeans our politics. 

This article first appeared in the 21 September 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The revenge of the left