The Green Party of England and Wales’ Autumn Conference 2021 opened today with a speech from newly elected co-leaders Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay, laying out their vision for the Party.
The co-leaders began by reflecting on their individual journeys towards leadership, and what initially drew them to the party. Adrian said: “As a 16-year-old, I joined the Green Party because I cared about the challenges facing us. Even then, I found myself standing to be a counsellor at the age of 21, the youngest age then allowed. Thanks to the work of the team we built up and the campaign we ran, I was elected first time.
“Nationally we had a handful of councillors and no MPs. By the time I finished my term as deputy leader, we had 12,000 members and 132 councillors. And of course, the party has grown much further since then. Now I'm delighted to be returning to frontline politics at a time when there's never been a greater need for green policies.”
Carla added: “I came to Bristol 12 years ago to work in the renewable energy industry, and I did so for six years, working on the plans for many of the awe-inspiringly massive offshore wind farms that now stand around the UK coastline generating evermore of our electricity. But it felt like I was only changing the world one wind turbine at a time.
“The barriers weren't in the technology, but in the lack of political will from the tired old political parties. So I joined the Green Party, the only people in politics who understood what we needed to do. Still, with no intention of becoming a politician, though, I just wanted to help to donate a bit to deliver a few leaflets, and to provide some support behind the scenes. But gradually, I got more and more involved and found more ways I could contribute. And well, one thing led to another, I guess.”
Continuing, Carla painted a picture of the electoral landscape currently facing UK voters: “We're at a crossroads. People have grown tired of choosing the ‘least worst’ option of being patronised, ignored, and told what to think. We are tired of a Tory government playing divide and rule. Tired of out of touch policies that ride roughshod over people tired of politics, which amounted to little more than an old boys club, serving the interests of its pals.”
She continued: “This country is sick and it is tired. We need better, we demand better. And we see none of it from an official opposition that fails. The party that ignores the votes of its own members and can't take a stand on the biggest issues of the day. Conference, there has never been a greater need for the Green Party.”
The co-leaders took a moment amidst the fervour of the speech for MP Sir David Amess, who was murdered earlier this week, with Adrian noting that there is work to do to ‘keep politics a space which is respectful and compassionate’.
Considering how the Party can support this aim, Adrian stressed the importance of diversity and inclusion: “Our party is made up of a diverse group of people, all of whom are genuinely trying to change the world for the better. We value democracy, we value our members, the people in this room and joining from their homes are our most valuable assets. You are the foundation of this party.”
Carla went on to highlight the strong support for environmental measures in the UK: “People want a carbon tax on the most polluting industries. They want those who fly frequently to pay more for it. They want proper funding for greening our homes. And they want ways to eat less meat and dairy day-to-day.
“Only the Green Party has the policies the public are looking for, not only on climate, but also on creating a fairer society, like public ownership of public services, a pay rise for key workers and a universal basic income to ensure no one is left behind. We do not accept that inequality is inevitable. We say that those with the most should pay the most. It's time to straighten out the tax system once and for all. That means that the richest people the COVID billionaires and the biggest corporations pay their fair share and the income from wealth is taxed properly. We have a plan and the public is with us.”
The co-leader also touched on the Green New Deal, emphasising the role that the Green Party can play in making its case: “We need to explain what a Green New Deal means – not just restoring 20 pounds per week to Universal Credit, but scrapping the heartless Universal Credit system, with its cruel sanctions, and replacing it with a Universal Basic Income, an unconditional payment enough for everyone to live with dignity.
“It means creating a well-being economy. Put another way, it's about saying there must be a better way to value people, and not measure our society by how much money we make. It means less reliance on cars, because the public transport system where you live is reliable and cheap. It means taking climate action in a way that benefits people. It means win, win.”
Adrian highlighted COP26 as a ‘crucial moment’, but also emphasised the need for real change: “We've been here before, of course, all the hype, the photo calls, the smiling politicians shaking hands as the chances of a decent deal slip away – this must be the politics of the past.
“One of our key asks for COP26 is for climate accountability. Countries need to be held to account for on and offshore emissions, and they need to be held to account for what they've already emitted, with suitable reparations.”
The co-leaders took time to reflect on one of the themes of their leadership campaign – compassion – and what this might look like in practice. Carla said: “It means treating all people as valued human beings, not statistics or inconveniences traces like unwanted baggage thrown in a band locked in storage and dumped on planes by home office handlers.”
Adrian continued, considering the role of compassion within the Green Party’s structure: “Our local parties at their best are welcoming and inclusive spaces driven to deliver change, making the most of everyone's talents, respecting the different lived experiences of our members, and being stronger for it. We want to make sure that every level of the Green Party looks like that.
“We're at our best when we stand together across our differences. And we build that togetherness on the foundation of respecting the diversity of others – no matter race, sex, gender, orientation, age, ability, spiritual belief or background. We must create spaces where we can engage with each other, learn from each other, and listen to each other, from a place of mutual respect, solidarity and community. And we do that by centering compassion in green politics.”
Concluding the speech, the pair laid out their electoral ambitions for the Green Party. Carla said: “We will support the party to get more great greens elected. Our strategy is simple. It's clear – win elections in every corner of Wales and England, and change our communities and our country forever. There's no way we can't win, from Bristol to Burnley Sheffield to Suffolk.
“We will make sure that the green message is heard in every town, village and city. In short, we're committed to transforming society to create a brighter future for everyone."