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Natalie Bennett has opened the Green Party conference, the first of the UK party conference season, in Brighton today, immediately outlining the party’s continued opposition to fracking, austerity and military intervention in Syria.
At her second conference as leader of the party, after Caroline Lucas, the sole Green MP, stepped down from the position of leader last year, Bennett proclaimed the party’s continued resistance to the coalition Government’s austere programme.
Praising the actions of elected Green Party members, Bennett declared it a difficult situation for Brighton and Hove Council, the only Green council in the country, under the continued strains of ‘brutal’ Government cuts. Bennett congratulated the councillors for their work on introducing a living wage, pay ratios, ethical investment and great GCSE results under their authority. She also commended Jenny Jones on her appointment to the House of Lords before announcing that Jenny will take a platform of abolishing the House.
Criticism of Ukip and Nigel Farage also formed a part of her speech, arguing to an applauding audience that ‘just waving a pint and grinning does not a political party make.’
Bennett reiterated the party’s stance on military intervention in Syria and fracking in the UK, highlighting the Green Party’s prominence at the near-month-long anti-fracking protest in Balcombe, Sussex. ‘We should not be looking for more fossil fuels,’ she firmly told the audience.
The Green Leader then moved on to condemn the Government’s cuts to the UK’s historic welfare state. Through its introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ at the same time as housing benefits cuts, she argued, the Tory-led government have pushed the number of people under the poverty line to over 13 million people.
Hitting out at the Government’s recent announcement of their plan to privatise Royal Mail in the coming weeks, Bennett declared that ‘privatisation has absolutely failed. It works only for the benefit of private profit’. She then committed to returning the railways and Royal Mail back into public hands.
The leader stated the party as an alternative to the status quo in British Politics. With the party’s complete opposition to the Tories well-known, Bennett criticised the Lib Dems for ‘fail[ing] to protect Britain’ from them, slamming their hypocrisy on tuition fees, fracking, trident and the environment. She abruptly moved on to attack Labour for not committing to bring the railways back into public hands, or ruling out fracking, as well as denouncing the current benefit cuts are not ‘deep enough’. This last comment was greeted by cries of ‘shame’ from the disgusted audience in front of her.
Before rounding of her well-received speech, Bennett called out for more ‘radical action’ to tackle climate change, having already argued against fracking and the use of nuclear energy: ‘We must do far more to preserve our world for the future and for those who live in it now.’
But the message that most stood out in her speech was this: ‘There is one alternative to the three virtually indistinguishable neoliberal parties. That alternative is the Green Party’.
In times of economic crisis, the Conservatives usually find themselves in Government (cheekily proclaiming themselves the ‘natural party’) and with the task of cutting the deficit and balancing the books.