EXCLUSIVE: Green co-leader rules out Remain merger as party sweeps up council seats

Bartley hailed 'phenomenal' results for the Greens in the local elections - and laughed at claims they should merge with other pro-Remain parties.

The Green Party’s co-leader has ruled out merging with other Remain parties, following a surge in support for the party in the local elections.

In an interview with Left Foot Forward, Jonathan Bartley said the Greens had seen ‘phenomenal’ results in the local elections, sweeping up over 50 new seats and breaking onto new councils across England.

The Green co-leader also rebuffed calls to join forces with the Liberal Democrats or Change UK, following reports on social media that Lib Dem frontbenchers were discussing the idea.

Bartley said the ‘Brexit factor’ played a large part in the party’s success on Thursday, alongside the ‘climate emergency’, with groups like Extinction Rebellion putting green issues in the spotlight this past month.

“I wouldn’t say this was a referendum on Brexit – we’ve taken seats in Leave areas as well as Remain areas, from Labour and the Conservatives…It is clear however that there’s a frustration [with the main parties].

“We’ve cemented our place as the fourth party of local government,” Bartley told LFF.

The Green co-leader refused to make predictions about the upcoming European elections, but said the Greens would have a clear message: “We want to say yes to Europe, no to climate change and no to austerity.”

“Labour’s equivocation – their fudge – on Brexit so close to the elections has angered a lot of Labour supporters…We’ve had a lot of people tell us they were not voting Labour but voting Green because of that.”

Remain cooperation

Bartley laughed when asked to respond to calls for a merger with the Lib Dems or Change UK: “No merger. We’re very clear. The Lib Dems got a kicking in 2015 for a reason – because they teamed up with the Conservatives, and people haven’t forgiven them. We have a much stronger position on austerity and climate change.”

“Our door is always open…but a vote for the Greens is a very different vote to the Lib Dems or Labour for that matter,” he added.

Asked if the Lib Dems or Change UK had approached the Greens to discuss running joint lists for the European elections, Bartley said: “No….I was stunned when I read Vince Cable saying he approached us…No one has come to talk to us.”

“We will be flying the flag as the Remain party with the most [MEP] seats going into the European elections.”

Bartley said the main parties were in ‘long term’ decline. “We’re starting to see Labour and the Conservatives down to 60% between them. People want more and more options…They are seeing Greens make a difference.”

See also: “Big gains for Remain parties as local elections see ‘substantial shift’ against Brexit

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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