Election 2016

Greens' Natalie Bennett defends leadership after elections

Natalie Bennett

Natalie Bennett has defended her leadership of the Green Party of England and Wales - saying membership had soared since she took on the role.

She spoke out after the Greens lost four councillors in local elections across England and failed to make significant gains in Wales.

Ms Bennett said they had lost "great councillors" in Oxford and Norwich.

The best Green showing came in Scotland where the separate Scottish Green Party now has six MSPs.

The results pushed the Lib Dems into fifth place after the most successful showing for the Scottish Greens since 2003.

'Positive stories'

The Green Party secured its best ever result in the London mayoral election, with candidate Sian Berry coming in third with 5.8% of the vote - up from 4.48% in 2012.

It also claimed third place in the London Assembly elections, equal to UKIP and ahead of the Lib Dems, with two London Assembly members, Caroline Russell and Ms Berry.

Elsewhere in England the Greens held six seats on Oxford City Council, but lost two, while numbers in Norwich have fallen from 14 to 10.

Ms Bennett told the BBC: "I'm very disappointed to lose some really great councillors obviously, in Oxford and Norwich, but if you look around the country, there are really positive stories, particularly in the West Midlands.

"In Solihull, Chris Williams got 75% in the vote in his seat, which is what you could call a ringing endorsement.

"More broadly, Worcester Council... fell from Tory to no overall control and there Louis Stephen fought a brilliant campaign with the Tories throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it and he won that seat... with some great ideas."

"We're very much looking to the Scottish Greens who have had a good night, doubling their representation in Holyrood, electing some great people - Andy Wainwright, a real campaign reformer - and also Ross Greer [aged 21], who's going to be the youngest MSP in the Scottish Parliament."

Voting system

The results for London were "looking very good", following Green candidate Sian Berry's "very positive campaign" compared with that of Zac Goldsmith, which Ms Bennett said had been "99% Lynton Crosby and 1% ecologist".

This was a dig at the Australian election strategist who ran the Conservative candidate's London mayoral campaign.

Asked if her role as leader had impacted on the results, Ms Bennett argued that since she took over as leader of the Green Party of England and Wales three and a half years ago, membership had increased from 12,000 to 60,000, and the party was now standing in 90% of seats, up on her aspiration of 75%.

She said also cited the first past the post voting system as being "no longer fit for purpose" and a hindrance to smaller parties.

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