2 September 2016
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Resistance and renewal
It’s a huge privilege and an honour to address you this afternoon, conference, as your new Co-Leaders.
Thank you for putting your trust in us. For your confidence in a Green Party that is not bound by tradition.
That embraces and pioneers a bold new future.
We are incredibly proud to be the first leaders of a political party in this country to be job-sharing.
Demonstrating both the power of working together and the importance of striking a healthy balance between work and family and other commitments
We stand here, more united with two leaders than other parties are with one.
So, to everyone who wants more than divisions and uncertainty, we say this: Come and Join the Green Party.
The Green Party can talk with authority and authenticity about doing things differently, because we are.
Conference, it’s a great pleasure to be in Birmingham.
The city that was the home of the Cadbury family.
Important to me personally, and I am sure for Caroline too.
And not just because of our love of chocolate!
The Cadburys were part of a social revolution.
A revolution that began with one of my own ancestors, the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry.
Working together, the Quakers brought radical change.
They set up the town of Bournville, just a few miles from here.
They showed the world how decent housing and a green environment were vital to everyone’s wellbeing.
This region is also home to a quiet but just as impressive Green revolution today.
In May, the West Midlands Green Party broke through onto a new council and erased a Tory majority on another.
27 councillors on 11 councils.
A clear signal that the West Midlands trusts the Green Party with their future.
A future that is possible only because of what has happened in the past.
Under Natalie Bennett, our party has grown from strength to strength.
And we want to say an enormous thank you for her steady leadership, her energy and her tireless campaigning.
2. Fallout from referendum
Conference, since we last met as a Party, our country has been shaken by the bitterly fought EU referendum campaign and its political fallout.
A divided country scarred in so many places by fear, inequality and hopelessness.
Trust has been shattered and the truth lies buried.
And at what point did it become OK to produce posters so dehumanising, so degrading and so despicable that they are compared to 1930s propaganda – even by a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer.......?
Our political class – so gravely out of touch that they are surprised when years of scapegoating migrants for our social and economic ills come home to roost.
Conference, I’m proud of the campaign the Green Party ran to keep this country in the EU.
I’m proud of the countless public meetings we spoke at, the stalls we set up and the doorsteps conversations we had.
I’m proud that ours was a uniquely positive and wholehearted campaign.
And I thank every one of you for the part you played.
But I will never forget the heartbreak in the early hours of the 24 June, when the results of the referendum started to come through.
That sense of utter devastation – it felt to me like the death of something, that whilst flawed, was still infinitely precious.
So much could be lost, but I have one immediate fear about what might happen next.
It’s for the people from other EU nations who have built their lives here in good faith.
People whom the Government is now cynically using as bargaining chips as it tries to negotiate its way out of a mess of its own making.
So Conference, we give a guarantee today, to the EU nationals who have made their home here:
You are as much a part of Britain’s future as we are.
You help make our country great and we will continue to fight for your right to stay.
The new Prime Minister may claim, Brexit means Brexit, but that means nothing until we know what the terms of any Brexit deal will be.
We cannot accept a deal that doesn’t offer hope and security to both those who voted to Leave and those who voted to Remain.
Whether it’s the environmental protections, workers’ rights, a culture of peace and free movement that the EU has delivered - all these must be at the heart of any future outside Europe.
We have to turn the defeat of the referendum into a gain for real democracy, based on truthful debate.
We stand by our guarantee to give people a voice.
That’s why our Party says, loudly and proudly, we the people should continue to have our say.
And once the principles of any new deal have been set out, we want them put to a second referendum.
3. Why People Voted to Leave
Friends, it’s time to ask some uncomfortable questions.
We need to confront the depth of anger and alienation felt by many of those who voted Leave.
It wasn’t only about the EU.
It was a howl of rage against exclusion.
An expression of powerlessness.
It came from those who have been ignored by successive governments over successive generations.
One of the reasons people feel disaffected is because our democracy is broken.
This country has a completely dysfunctional electoral system where – outside a handful of marginal swing seats – your views, your voice – and your vote – count for nothing.
Conference if we’re to set about healing the deep divisions, which this referendum has laid bare, then we urgently need to build a more representative, inclusive democracy.
And Conference, that can only be brought about by reforming our antiquated, outdated, redundant electoral system.
We must also listen to concerns about deindustrialisation.
In places like Stoke On Trent, where employment in the potteries and the culture around it has shrivelled to almost nothing.
In Yorkshire and Humberside where whole communities have been left high and dry by the decline in manufacturing.
In South Wales where privatisation and running-down the coal and steel industries have denied generations the chance of a decent job at a decent wage.
We must listen to concerns about housing, about health, about crime.
And yes to people’s fears about immigration too.
A fear stoked up by those using it as a convenient scapegoat or distraction.
But let’s be clear.
Here and now.
Free movement is not to blame for low wages.
Migrants are not to blame for stretched public services.
Our neighbours are not to blame if we cannot get a school place,a job or a home.
4. We want our country back
The politics of fear has delivered everything we were afraid of: a political, social and economic crisis.
The leaders of the Brexit campaign lied about money for the NHS.
They lied about immigration.
They lied about a post referendum plan.
And they lied about giving people back control.
And then they ran away.
Our message to the Tory and UKIP fear mongers, the haters and the cowards is this:
Green politics is about giving people real control – and that means looking forwards not backwards.
Taking control of our democracy
Taking control of our railways so they are owned by the public.
Taking control of the NHS, and keeping it firmly out of private hands
Taking control of our energy systems, our banking system, our schools, and our communities.
They belong to all of us and the politics of hope will give all of us control.
In Lambeth in South London, where Jonathan comes from, Greens have been battling a Labour council that is ignoring local people.
It’s closing libraries and destroying people’s homes and communities.
One older resident, Barbara, came to the Green Party, and told us that the Council planned to bulldoze her sheltered housing.
Well, we Greens helped the residents save their homes.
They elected a Green councillor.
And Barbara has joined the Green Party.
Greens up and down the country are helping people find their voices.
Our tireless and talented councillors, from Sheffield to Bristol, are proof that elected Greens will stand up for what matters.
And our newly elected London Assembly Members
Sian Berry and Caroline Russell are blazing a trail on everything from transport to housing.
Conference, from the North to the South, together with local communities, we are taking back control of our future.
5. Age of Insecurity
The EU referendum held up a mirror to modern Britain, and showed us with startling clarity just how deep the divisions in this country have become.
Not just between different areas of the country, but between different generations.
It exposed an Age of Insecurity marked by vast inequalities of opportunity and aspiration.
A world where globalisation, centralisation and new technologies leave so many behind.
Where a shocking one in three working families are just a month’s pay packet away from losing their homes.
Where Sports Direct, Uber and Deliveroo are getting rich off workers who aren’t even guaranteed the minimum wage.
Where turning up for a training session with Byron Burger is a fast track to deportation.
Friends, Britain is crying out for real opposition and the Green Party must be it.
We have the policies to make our vision a reality.
The enthusiasm to take it to the streets.
And we are united in our determination to realise the power of together.
To move forwards together.
If we do disagree we talk about it and resolve the problem.
We don’t throw the country’s security and stability away to settle an internal squabble.
And we don’t throw bricks through one another’s windows.
We are united in our passion for doing politics with people.
For doing politics with hope and optimism.
Opposition that’s for something.
Today conference, we want to set out how those same principles can transform modern Britain through a programme to heal, build and share.
A cast iron pledge to put people in control.
A Green Guarantee for the future.
6. Green Industrial Strategy
Firstly, a Green Industrial Strategy that will deliver real security and prosperity.
My parents grew up during the Second World War.
They were part of a generation that came together to stand up for what they believed in.
We urgently need that unity of purpose and spirit once again, as we rise to face the greatest threat to our security today – the accelerating climate crisis.
A year which is now on record as the hottest ever and where half the Arctic Sea ice has disappeared, demands immediate investment in a green and prosperous energy future.
And conference that also means a solid commitment to leaving fossil fuels where they belong – firmly and safely in the ground.
No fracking, no nuclear, no compromise.
Instead, imagine a new plan that will meet our obligations to future generations.
A plan that will create jobs in every part of the country.
Imagine modernising the UK infrastructure so Britain’s future can be energy lean and time rich.
Local communities, empowered to take control of their own energy futures.
The security of an affordable – and solar panel clad - roof over everyone’s head.
And imagine not just our ground breaking Green New Deal, but a ‘Blue New Deal’ for the 11 million people who live in coastal communities like my constituency of Brighton Pavilion.
The first Green-led council in Britain helped secure one of the country’s biggest off-shore wind farms.
Imagine Britain as a world leader in renewable technology, investing in green power.
Just down the road, in Dudley, where my Mum grew up and my granddad worked as a taxi driver, St Mary’s parish church is showing how it's done.......
The 12th century rectory is at the cutting edge of the 21st century energy revolution.
A passivhouse that is actively demonstrating what the future could look like.
Our Green Guarantee means a new industrial revolution that will work for everyone and where work is properly rewarded....... Pulling together not growing apart.
Conference, we know, a green industrial strategy makes vital environmental sense, good economic sense and complete common sense.
Second, we need a radical redistribution of both wealth and power.
When I was younger, we were promised that one day everything would change.
New technology would mean we would all be richer, and work fewer hours.
But today’s economy has not delivered security or wellbeing.
Baking a bigger pie so a few more crumbs will fall from the table, doesn’t work.
Modern capitalism has delivered excesses that are not just divisive, but morally unacceptable.
Only a great realignment can narrow the inequalities gap that is fracturing Britain.
Inequality is a criminal and cynical loss of human potential.
We know more equal societies perform better and only a truly green economy will enable everyone to flourish.
An economy in which people are not only paid a real Living Wage,
but where there is a maximum pay ratio between the highest paid and the lowest.
Where paying tax is welcomed as a way to share in the society we are building together.
And where a universal basic income offers genuine security and opportunity to all.
They used to laugh when we talked about this idea, but our Party – and, to be fair, some members more than others - persisted.
And now, as with so many of our policies, and thanks to your work, on councils, in the media, in your communities, the ground has shifted.
For those for whom the ground is always shifting, the British welfare state, set up in momentous times, is a lifeline.
In these equally momentous times, we want to reclaim our welfare system from the clutches of those using it to attack and threaten those in need.
In just a few generations, instead of being something to be celebrated and cherished, it has become something to be dismantled and destroyed.
But the welfare state is about the kind of world we want to live in.
A contract we strike with one another, to stand together when the going gets tough.
It’s based on collective agreement and consent.
And Conference, as the government weaponises welfare in pursuit of a corrupt and morally bankrupt ideology, we say loudly and clearly, we do not consent.
Green ownership is about having a stake in what matters, because how else are people supposed to care?
It means democratising the economy, with banks to serve the people not the other way round.
Corporate taxation back under control, and financial structures that answer to you, not to the City of London and its shareholders.
We need an economy of, by and for the people.
But conference, tackling inequality has to start here too – in this room and across our party.
So we are pleased to pledge our commitment to increasing diversity and equalities within our own party.
And we have asked Tooting member Esther Obiri Darko, to advise and help us.
Together we can do much better and build a Party that reflects modern Britain, by working with each and everyone of our members to make that a reality.
We are distinctive, we are determined and we are united behind a shared purpose, and in our belief that we are all leaders.
So let’s build something we can all be proud of, together.
A country, where nobody is shot in the street, or beaten in a prison cell because of the colour of their skin.
A country, where Black Lives Matter.
Where taking back control is sharing it.
Where aspiration recognises that we all stand on someone else’s shoulders.
Where we are not afraid to express political commitment in terms of our common bonds of humanity, not just in terms of a fixation on ‘growth’ or ‘the market’.
Where we recognise that progressive politics means organising so that all of us have a better chance to live a larger life.
Conference, let’s build a new future for our country defined by solidarity and shared purpose.
9. New Political Settlement
We can do this with a new political settlement - that will crack open the system and pave the way for a radical new relationship between the regions and the centre.
Conference, there have been decisive times in our nation’s history when the momentum for major changes in the contract between our government and the governed has been unstoppable.
We are at such a moment today.
The cry to ‘take back control’ was a raw and angry one.
It was a reaction to the way power and money have drifted to the centre.
Greens value, know and understand the power of local and the power of place and we can be at the forefront of re-balancing democracy.
A constitutional convention that involves the whole country and explores everything from an English Parliament to a new constitution that entrenches our fundamental rights.
We should not be frightened of English democracy.
New, civic parliaments and assemblies can bring power closer to the people.
We want to ensure that from Sunderland to Southampton, from Liverpool to the Isle of Wight, towns and cities and regions have more power.
More control over circulation of capital.
More of a stake in local democracy.
That lies at the heart of our Green Guarantee and our promise to Britain.
And as part of this new settlement, everyone’s voice must be heard – not just the swing voters in marginal seats.
Every vote needs to count.
So we are resolute in wanting to explore the potential for progressive alliances with other parties that will deliver fair votes......
That will deliver more elected Greens than ever before.
We are the Party of ideas and this is a big one.
So we need to have a proper conversation.
Starting here at conference and continuing in our local parties, and in our communities.
Over a million people voted Green at the last General Election.
They deserve to have their views represented in Parliament.
We owe it to them to be more ambitious than achieving just 1 MP -however formidable she is!
A progressive alliance can mean different things in different constituencies.
But it will not be top down and it will be up to you.
This doesn’t mean letting go of what makes us distinct.
We remain resolute in our opposition to Trident, to fracking, to airport expansion – at Gatwick, Heathrow or anywhere else.
Resolute in our determination to make every home a warm one.
Every wage a living one.
And everyone’s future more secure.
And our message to others who share a belief in a progressive modern Britain is this.
Old tribal loyalties are dying and voters can no longer be taken for granted. The era of two party politics is over.
It’s the voting system that is still stuck in the past.
Change politics and we change people’s lives forever.
It’s often said, “You get the Government you deserve”.
Well, no one deserves this.
We deserve so much better than a Government elected by just 24% of those eligible to vote.
We deserve a Government that puts environmental and social justice first.
We deserve a Government that puts our security first.
That puts you first.
Conference, it’s been said that “We write history with our feet and with our presence and our collective voice and vision”.
We write history by resisting the climate crisis.
By resisting the cruelty unleashed by the unbridled capitalism of May and Cameron and those who came before them.
And by standing up for the majority currently locked out of politics and denied a voice.
In this unprecedented post-truth, post referendum world, our resistance is more important than ever.
The distinctive Green Party message matters more than ever.
Our Party is forging a new model of 21st century citizenship.
A common purpose, rich with the renewal that’s possible when we have leadership shared with tens of thousands of members.
A shared vision that can – and will - change everything.
Conference, let's seize this moment.
Let's be the natural home of all those who want a fair, equal and Green Britain
Let's write history by moving forwards together.