In the aftermath of the surprise Conservative victory in the UK elections, three party leaders – Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage – formally resigned from their parties to withdraw temporarily from the chaos of British politics.
Natalie Bennett, the Australian born leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, has made no such declaration. She has resiliently refused to stand down as party leader and has announced that she will dedicate herself to continuing with the momentum of a ‘Green surge’.
The party quadrupled its share of the vote in this month’s UK general election, finishing second in four seats and seeing a surge in votes in Brighton for Caroline Lucas, their only MP in Westminster. Bennett was not as successful in her own London electorate (she came third in the seat of Holborn and St Pancras) but did improve her position in what is a Labour stronghold and remains confident in her party’s prospects in 2020.
Like her political rival Nigel Farage, Ms Bennett is unimpressed with the electoral system in the UK, stating that she feels it to be a travesty that “over a million people voted Green up and down the country and yet that’s been translated into just one seat.”
How does an Australian come to lead a political party in the UK?
Natalie Bennett first arrived in the UK in 1999, after spending 4 years in Thailand working in the Office of the National Commission of Women’s Affairs. She dedicated her time to journalism, writing and editing for The Guardian Weekly, The Independent and The Times newspapers until she voluntarily resigned from the profession in 2012.
Her political career began in 2006 when she joined the Green Party and stood for election as a councillor. She was then promoted to internal communications coordinator from 2007 – 2011, and was selected to run as a candidate it London for the 2010 general election.
Bennett replaced Caroline Lucas as party leader in September 2012, and was re-elected as leader in 2014 (due to the Greens having a 2 year leadership term agreement). Since then she has proudly defended her feminist beliefs and fearless approach to leading the Green Party.
Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, Natalie Bennett is undoubtedly an important figure in contemporary British politics and positive role model for ex-pat Australians with their eyes on Westminster.
Good onya, Natalie!
IMAGE: UK Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett campaigning in the 2015 general election. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)