Three key messages from Natalie Bennett’s speech to the Green Party Conference

The Greens are launching a positive campaign on EU membership, but don't want to let the Tories off the hook


Green Party leader Natalie Bennett opened the party’s spring conference in Harrogate this afternoon. Here are the three key messages of her Leader’s Speech.

1. The Greens are gearing up to make the positive case for Europe

The Green Party supported the call for a EU referendum because it presented an opportunity to create a more accountable and democratic Europe. But according to Bennett, their campaign will be resolutely positive, focused on:

“…the positives of Europe – the way in which free movement of people enriches all of our lives, the defence of human rights and peace, the environmental standards, the workers’ rights, the limits on bankers’ bonuses.”

2. But they don’t want it to overwhelm domestic debate

While advocating an ‘In’ vote, Bennett also cautioned against allowing the referendum (and, presumably, gossip about Tory civil strife) to overwhelm other important political debates. While Brussels need to be made more kinder and more accountable, so does Westminster.

“We cannot, we must not, let David Cameron and his friends in the still out-of-control financial sector, in the oil and gas industry, in the tax-dodging multinationals, continue on the current path under the cover of the EU referendum. We must not be distracted.”

3. Council seats are a party priority

Though Bennett paid tribute to Green mayoral candidate Sian Berry and candidates for the London Assembly and Senedd, when it comes to ‘turning the Green surge into Green seats’, the focus appears to be very much on local councils. Powered by a clutch of new local party branches, the Greens hope to grow their representation, which currently stands at 168 councillors.

“For many communities, there’s the opportunity to elect their first Green councillors – the huge appeal of a new broom sweeping through dusty corridors, a challenger asking tough questions, scrutinising…Greens are a breath of fresh air – a new hope for communities that need strong, principled, innovative local councillors to care, to find alternatives, amid the horrors of Westminster’s Tory austerity.”

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