‘It is the same system destroying our lives that is destroying our planet,’ say Green Party leaders

'Change will happen if we come together. The time is now.'

Sian Berry Jonathan Bartley

There is no doubt that despite it being our busiest and most challenging period, the last two years have also been the most successful ever for the Green Party. 

We more than doubled our number of councillors, making more gains in one election than all the previous years put together.  We went from being the official opposition on five councils, to playing a part in running 17.  We beat the Conservative Party in the European elections, breaking records. Over 150 councils passed climate emergency motions. The fracking industry was shut down.  

And at the General Election we didn’t just pull off the first genuine electoral co-operation in decades. We set the bar for transformational policies. 

The climate crisis featured in every debate and there was also whole leaders’ debate devoted to it. This breakthrough would not have happened without the action of Greens across the country campaigning inside and outside town halls, taking direct action and pushing for change. And at national level the other parties had to become bolder because there were Greens in the room. 

In our manifesto we were proud to put forward plans for wealth redistribution and a Green New Deal that outstripped every other party’s ideas.  Just as we stood firm against Austerity in 2015, we stood firm on the need to borrow to invest on an unprecedented scale. And these transformational plans stood up to every scrutiny and every interview.  

This wasn’t just because of the Green Wave that is sweeping across Europe.The party’s success has also come because we have invested. The years spent building a school for campaigners and a network of field organisers. We have been strategic.  And we have learned to work with others.

We need to make the links even more clearly between the climate emergency, rampant inequality and institutionalised injustice.

But something very special has happened in the past two years that has been less visible, too.  More and more people have begun to see the Green Party as the natural expression of their political values and their political home. Our membership has steadily increased, and is higher now by 50 percent compared with when we became co-leaders – Green Party growth that is only speeding up since the change in Labour’s leadership. 

And it is on this firm foundation that we must now build. This is a moment we must seize to grow a new mass-membership movement, with the Green Party as its political wing.

How will this happen? First, we must argue with vision and passion for real system change. We need to make the links even more clearly between the climate emergency, rampant inequality and institutionalised injustice. We must show that it is the same system destroying our lives that is destroying our planet.  

This requires us to be unashamedly internationalist in our outlook. To point out that it is those beyond our borders who will suffer most from climate breakdown. To say that we must build bridges not walls. To stand up for refugees and migrants. To push back against the division of populist nationalism. To make the links between the exploitation of the planet and the exploitation of colonialism. To say that Black Lives Matter. To call for climate justice. 

As with previous crises, coronavirus has laid bare the injustices that have for too long been unacknowledged. The unacceptable health inequality which sees disabled people and those from BAME communities disproportionately impacted. The paltry levels of sick pay.  The sanctions. The evictions. The insecurity of workers in the gig economy. We must show that we are on the side of all those who are exploited by the same system that is exploiting our planet.

Second, we need to be the change we want to see and build up our credibility to deliver. Not just say clearly that there is an alternative but demonstrate in practice what that alternative is.  The effectiveness of voting Green needs to be visible and tangible to everyone if we are to build a mass movement behind it.  Credibility is the key: we know that the Green Party is the most liked party, we know that our policies are popular, but we also need to stake our claim as the team of people who do deliver.

This requires us to be unashamedly internationalist in our outlook. To make the links between the exploitation of the planet and the exploitation of colonialism. To say that Black Lives Matter.

Our record shows that we made the right calls on the limits of the planet, on air pollution, on the Living Wage, on fracking, on a four day week, a Universal Basic Income and a Green New Deal, when others doubted and thought these issues too radical to consider. Recent failures show that those wedded to the old economic system and business as usual can lay no claim to competency. We are the pioneers who are on the right side of history.  

And the pandemic has given us all a glimpse of how it is possible to adapt and change at a speed that few – except Greens – imagined. Who would have thought six months ago that welfare sanctions and evictions could be suspended, or that the Government would intervene to pay people’s wages? Who imagined that space could be claimed back from the dominance of the car and air pollution could be brought down so suddenly?  

These ideas are now accepted as necessary in the crisis, but think of what could be achieved if these things were done in a proactive way, with a plan that protected everyone’s wellbeing too. 

In the coming months, Greens need to be pushing hard for permanent transformation in every town and city. Our job now is to cement change and, on the climate and ecological emergency, we have the hard and necessary task of getting those fine words passed in motions turned into real practical policies on the ground. 

Building our credibility and capacity to make these changes means we must continue our exponential progress in elections too.  Next May we have elections to elect new Assembly and Senedd members in London and Wales, elections for Mayors across the country and a bumper set of council elections. We want to be up all night again celebrating more Green wins across the country when those votes are counted and we know our members are ready for this.    

Third, we must keep developing our party to build a new political movement that shakes the foundations of the political establishment. 

This is an emergency. We said throughout the 2019 elections that the country needed the same urgency as in war-time to face down the climate threat, and people responded to this urgent call to action in greater numbers than ever before.   

An emergency means action now and a critical mass behind radical change, which means working better with our allies in the wider green and social justice movement. 

Across the country, our councillors have been working through the crisis with civil society to make sure no-one is left behind in the coronavirus crisis. At a national level we have taken up the calls of campaigners and NGOs to leave no-one behind.

It is only in that solidarity that we can bring about the change – the transformation – that we all need. 

Now is the time to continue our leadership on how to do politics differently, and forge deeper and closer alliances.  To reach out beyond the traditional green groups and work more closely with those who stand for system change.  Those standing up for migrants and refugees, for workers rights, for the disabled and for Black lives. To unions, campaigners, community groups and interest groups. Not just take their evidence and calls to action and give them a political voice. Not just take their calls for change into the council chambers, parliaments and assemblies where we have a voice, but also work in solidarity with them in their campaigns, in the streets, and in our communities.

Our struggle is their struggle.  Their struggle is our struggle.  And it is only in that solidarity that we can bring about the change – the transformation – that we all need. 

Hope is there in our collective passion for the possible. Change will happen if we come together. The time is now.

Sian Berry is co-leader, Green Party of England and Wales and Green candidate for Mayor of London. Jonathan Bartley is co-leader, Green Party of England and Wales.

Voting runs until the end of August. Left Foot Forward is providing a platform for all the leader and deputy leadership candidates.

See also: Greens announce leadership candidates

Leadership pitch: The Green Party needs to represent ‘the outsiders

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