6 March 2015
Check against delivery.
Thank you, Conference.
And thanks to the Liverpool Green Party for once again hosting what will, I'm sure,be one of the most enjoyable conferences in recent years.
It’s a tribute to the vitality, and the hospitality, of the party in Liverpool that we are back here again.
As Peter Cranie, our excellent candidate in Liverpool Wavertree has pointed out, this is the fourth venue we have used in Liverpool in recent years.Each one bigger than the last. And at the rate we're growing, even this wonderful venue won’t be enough. In fact, if all our current members came to Conference, even Anfield couldn’t hold us all.
I also want to welcome those new members for whom this is your first Conference.
Now the Green Party is different. You’ve probably noticed that already. You’ll have spotted the absence of stands for arms dealers like BAe Systems. Sorry about that.
There are no lobbyists from pesticide firms or multinationals domiciled in tropical islands too small to appear in any atlas. We just couldn’t fit them in.
Instead, we offer politics as it should be.
Your voice counts for just as much as mine or anyone else’s. We are a truly democratic party. So if you don’t agree with a particular policy, then please – speak up, make your case, and it will be for the party as a whole to decide.
And we do leadership differently, too.
In the Green Party, leadership is a duty. A responsibility. Not something you run after for personal gain or ambition.
When I stood down as Leader, I knew that the Party would find someone who could help us grow. To reach out to new members. Build our profile. I just didn’t guess how well she would do it.
In Natalie, we have a Leader who has done all of that and more. I’m proud to call her a colleague and friend. She’s doing a fantastic job, and we all owe her our thanks and support.
Friends, today I want to say a few words about the General Election.
It’s different from any we have faced before. First, we are challenging from a position of strength. Candidates in almost every seat. Our standing in the polls. And above all the thousands of new members who have joined our cause.
But it’s also different because we have something to defend. Our victory in Brighton in 2010 came against all the odds. And it was a victory won by the party as a whole, so many people, over so many years.
Members coming from local parties around the country to campaign, hand out leaflets, knock on doors. And those who could not come helped too: telephone canvassing, or helping to fund poster sites to challenge the big three parties.
That victory has given us a platform in Parliament. A right to challenge legislation. To speak up for those with no-one else to represent them. To hold the government to account. To show that you can be a force for good in politics, without selling out your principles.
This is more important now than ever. With the rise of the SNP, with Plaid Cymru, and with our own Green surge, we have the chance to forge a new grouping in Parliament. A progressive alliance.
Of course, in Scotland and in Wales we’ll be fighting hard for our distinctive values and policies. Just as we do against those individual Labour and even Lib Dem candidates with whom we have something in common.
That’s the nature of British politics under the first past the post system. But in Parliament, we have worked closely with the SNP and Plaid on those causes where we agree. Above all, our opposition to austerity and cuts to essential services. And after this coming election, we can do far more.
Whether we have one Green MP or 10, we can be part of a progressive force for good.
And if, as many polls are predicting, we end up with a Labour minority Government, then we can work to ensure they abandon their commitment to austerity and to pandering to big business, and instead promote urgent action on climate change.
We can support Labour when they do the right thing, but block them when they try and ape the Tories and Lib Dems.
We can say yes to investment in green jobs; no to cuts to welfare. Yes to better protection for our precious countryside; no to tax breaks for multinationals.
That’s what at stake. And that’s why Labour are so fixated on Brighton. Why it is high on
Ed Miliband’s hit list of target seats. They don’t like the competition. The way we show there could be a better way. Politics without austerity. Without Trident and nuclear power. Without demonising those who need the support of the state or those who come here from abroad.
Labour want to end our presence in Parliament because, deep down, they are ashamed at how they have abandoned their principles.
But rather than change, they want us gone.
So on behalf of the election campaigns in Brighton Pavilion, I'm asking for your help.
In canvassing, leafleting. Anything you can do to support us.
I am asking that, as well as campaigning in your own communities, you spend some time helping us to hold on to Brighton.
In doing so, you’ll be helping the Green cause across the country. Maintaining our voice in Parliament. Because even with one seat, look at what we’ve achieved together.
It was the Greens who fought and won for the first proper debate in Parliament on Iraq.
The Greens who put forward legislation that would bring our railways back into public hands.
The Greens who are championing a ban on fracking and an understanding that, if we're to avoid dangerous climate change, we need to leave around 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
The Greens who shaped the agenda in Parliament in everything from imports of tropical hardwoods to statutory P.S.H.E. in schools.
And Conference, I'm proud to announce that it will be the Greens who will be championing the NHS Reinstatement Bill, which not only repeals the Government's deeply damaging Health and Social Care Act, but which also reverses 25 years of marketisation, driven by Labour too. Abolishing the purchaser-provider split,
ending contracting and re-establishing public bodies and public services accountable to local communities.
Together, in 2010, this party made history by electing our first Green MP.
With your help, in 2015, we can make history again, with the first Green MP to be
And just imagine how much more we could do, if we elect more MP's too.
And now, the person who is putting us on course to achieve just that. It gives me the greatest pleasure to welcome Natalie Bennett - Leader of the Green Party.