The party's relentless focus on identity issues will come at an electoral cost
The British Green Party should be flying high right now. For decades the party has been warning about a looming climate crisis, the results of which are now grimly playing out.
Politically, Boris Johnson’s mixed record in office and Keir Starmer’s lacklustre leadership have left an opening for challenger parties. And having secured nearly a million votes in the 2019 election and a record number of council seats in this year’s local elections, this could be the Greens’ moment.
And yet in the polls, the Greens are still on single digits, languishing below the Liberal Democrats. The party is also leaderless, following the resignations of its two co-leaders last month.
Now a leadership contest is in full swing. One leading candidate, Tamsin Omond, who identifies as trans and non-binary, is attracting attention. Together with fellow candidate Amelia Womack, they promise to offer the party “young, intersectional feminist leadership”, citing New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Annalena Baerbock, co-leader of the Green party in Germany, as examples.
Considering that neither Ardern nor Baerbock describe themselves as ‘intersectional’ feminists, these might seem like strange examples. And yet, Omond and Womack trumpet their intersectional feminism as a key plank in their Green Party pitch — what this entails is anyone’s guess.
Over the last 12 months, the Greens’ relentless focus on identity issues has caused the party more problems than anything else. Just last month, former co-leader Sian Berry, who led her party to a record number of council seats, resigned over a trans rights row; before her, former Green party deputy leader Shahrar Ali triggered outrage in the party after he tweeted ‘what is a woman? A woman is commonly defined as an adult human female and, genetically, typified by two XX chromosomes’; and Emma Bateman, co-chair of the Green party’s women’s committee, was suspended for questioning whether transwomen are female.
According to prominent environmental figures like Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam, fixating on niche social justice issues like the trans row is the British Greens’ big mistake. In an interview with UnHerd last year, he argued that defending the environment was a fundamentally conservative idea and that both sides of the political aisle needed to rally behind it:
The data supports this idea. The environment regularly features as a top three priority for British adults and has cross-political support. But for as long as the Greens keep focusing on trans over trees, its brand of hyper-liberal politics risks alienating large sections of the country — as it has already done to its own party.