|5 July – 2 September 2016 2018 →|
The Green Party of England and Wales leadership election, 2016 took place from July to August 2016, with the campaign period taking place in July, and voting period in August. The incumbent leader, Natalie Bennett, announced on 15 May 2016 that she was not intending to stand for re-election after four years as the leader of the party, resulting in the first contested leadership election since 2012.
- Leadership endorsements
- Deputy leadership endorsements
Former Leader Caroline Lucas MP and Jonathan Bartley won the leadership election with a job share arrangement with 86% of the vote; the results were announced at the party's Autumn Conference from 2–4 September. Five other candidates contested the election; aside from filmmaker David Malone, no other candidate received above 5% of the vote.
The party has elections every two years for Leader and Deputy Leader roles; this was the fifth election since the party decided to switch from having principal speakers to having a leader and two deputy leaders, or co-leaders and one deputy leader. It saw the highest ever turnout in a Green Party internal ballot by quantity of votes (15,773).
Caroline Lucas, then an MEP for South East England, was elected as the first Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales in 2008 (formerly a system of two principal speakers was used). In the new Constitution of the Green Party, it was also mandated that there would be leadership elections every two years. Lucas was elected as the first Green Party MP, for the constituency of Brighton Pavilion, and in the same year she was re-elected unopposed as Leader. In 2012, she announced she would not be standing again as Leader, saying: "The reason that I've decided not to re-stand... is because I want to give other people the opportunity to get well known, to have some profile in the party, hopefully to use that to get themselves elected as well."
In the 2012 leadership election, Natalie Bennett, a journalist for The Guardian, was elected as Leader. She was re-elected unopposed in the 2014 leadership election, and then led the party in the 2015 general election. At the general election, the Green Party's vote share increased from 1.0% to 3.8%, but they did not increase their parliamentary representation. Following the 2016 local elections, in which the Green Party lost four local councillors but came third in the London Assembly and in the London mayoral election, Bennett defended her record as Leader. On 15 May 2016, Bennett announced she would not be standing again for election later in 2016, saying: "There have been times when I got things right, and times when I got things wrong, but that’s because I'm not a smooth, spin-trained, lifelong politician."
During the course of the leadership campaign, the UK held a referendum resulting in a vote to leave the EU. This led to leadership contests starting in the Conservative Party, UKIP and the Labour Party.
A series of hustings was held, including in London, Leeds, and Manchester (for the Leadership and deputy Leadership).
Caroline Lucas stated that she and Bartley "want to forge a new “progressive alliance” with other political parties willing to advocate electoral reform – potentially including deals over who would contest particular parliamentary seats." Rival candidate Clive Lord criticised the plan, noting the rejection of the idea by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Lord said, "What else did anyone think Corbyn would say to the Green Party’s Progressive Alliance? It makes sense for Labour – both factions – to eliminate Greens wherever we do well, because we only take what they regard as ‘their’ votes and nobody else’s. So the four or five seats (if you include Sheffield Central) where we would want a clear run, are the last that Labour would allow us."
Matt Townsend, a party executive member, expressed concern that Lucas's early entry into the contest would lead it to become a "coronation", as did other party commentators.
The campaign has been covered by various on-line and printed media, including Vice, Bright Green, Left Foot Forward, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post.
As part of the election process, all candidates have been invited to answer a diverse range of questions related to Green Party policy by various party organisations and affiliates. One consistent question at hustings and in the questionnaires is the question of identity, diversity and LGBT BAME representation in the party and how noticeably homogenous the leadership race is in particular. All candidates have acknowledged this and it is not a point of contention. The question was put in the Electoral Reform Society's questionnaire and all candidates answers and views on this issue were printed. A campaign to support Re-open nominations in the leadership vote was founded upon an alleged lack of diversity in the make-up of the leadership candidates.
Other major questionnaires were on Reddit from the UK Greens subreddit, The Green Party Trade union Group, and from Bright Green, one of Britain’s leading left-wing blogs.
According to the Constitution of the Green Party the leadership should be "the primary public faces of the party, responsible for presenting Green Party policy and promoting its electoral activity and campaigns to the public on a daily basis." Candidates must have been members of the Green Party for three years or more at the close of nominations, and must have signatures supporting their nomination from a minimum of twenty other party members. Elections are constitutionally mandated to take place every two years by a postal ballot of all members. The Constitution states that nominations for leadership will be open from 10:00 on the first week-day in June until noon on the last week-day in June. Polls will close either after the last mail delivery on the last week-day of August, or five week-days before Autumn Conference starts, whichever is sooner. The party elects a Leader and two Deputy Leaders, or two Co-Leaders and a Deputy leader (thus, as Bartley/Lucas won the leadership, only one deputy leader was chosen). Several other executive positions are also being chosen. Re-open nominations (RON) is included as a voting option. Votes are counted according to single transferable vote and alternative vote, as appropriate.
On 20 May 2016, the party announced a provisional timetable for both the leadership and deputy leadership elections. Further details were announced on 27 May 2016. On the 29th June 2016, it was announced that the close of nominations would be postponed from 30/06/2016 12:00 to 30/06/2016 22:00 due to a "technical problem".
Bartley/Lucas won the leadership contest with 86% of first preference votes, on an increased turnout from the previous leadership election and the previous contested leadership election. Womack was re-elected as deputy leader.
Significant endorsements are listed below. The candidates have noted additional endorsements.