What next for Natalie Bennett and the Green party?

Green party leader Natalie Bennett had a rough ride during the general election campaign. Her now infamous 'brain freeze' moment live on radio was followed by some rather mixed performances in TV interviews and the general election debates.

The Green vote did increase from just one per cent in 2010 to 3.8% this time, but Bennett's party won no new MPs and came second in just four seats. The much-touted "green surge" ended up being little more than a green swell.

With both Labour and the Lib Dems doing so poorly in the election, some are now asking whether the Greens could have done significantly better with former leader Caroline Lucas still at the helm.

Yet while most other opposition parties have gone into a soul-searching mode about their party leaders' election performance, the Greens have been relatively quiet.

So what next for Bennett? Well in a pre-election interview with Politics.co.uk, Natalie insisted that she plans to remain leader until the end of her term in autumn 2016. That still remains the case. However, another contest now looms for Bennett who has to decide whether she plans to run for London mayor next spring.

Earlier this year, senior Green party figures told Politics.co.uk that Bennett was all but certain to announce her bid for the job shortly after the general election. If she had, she would probably have been favourite for the nomination. However, there has been no announcement, and several other strong candidates have since emerged.

Well-respected Islington councillor Caroline Russell and London Assembly candidate and housing spokesperson Tom Chance have both joined the race, as has former Green mayoral candidate Sian Berry.

Berry is a formidable campaigner and accomplished media performer and has already won a crucial endorsement from Caroline Lucas. Rumours of strained relations between Bennett and Lucas have long circled. If Bennett were to enter the race now, it would be without the endorsement of the party's only MP.

So could Natalie still run? One party source told Politics.co.uk she remained undecided.

"She's 50/50. She obviously can't run for selection and lose, but she's still considering."

The Greens need a strong performance in the London mayoral elections in order to hang on to their two assembly members – already a diminished force from the three they once held.

Failure to hang on to both seats would leave the party looking like they're heading backwards. Is Natalie Bennett still the best woman to lead them into battle?