NATALIE BENNETT said yesterday that voting Green at the general election can spark a “peaceful political revolution” as she bounced back from her “mind blank” radio embarrassment.
The under-pressure Green leader was cheered on by 1,300 members as she delivered a short but assured speech to her party’s biggest ever conference.
She pledged her party will “end the failed austerity experiment” if its MPs hold the balance of power after Britain’s most unpredictable general election in May.
And she announced the Greens will campaign for a new wealth tax to pay for free social care for over-65s.
“We believe that to be a decent, humane, caring society, social care must be free,” she said.
“We are not ashamed to say that those on incomes above £100,000 should pay more income tax.”
Ms Bennett also pledged her party will not only repeal the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act, but kick market mechanisms out of the NHS entirely.
The “green politics of the future” would also mean publicly owned rail, more council houses and a living wage for all, she said.
The party is standing candidates in 90 per cent of seats across England and Wales at the general election.
And Ms Bennett predicted the “Green surge” could create “something miraculous” on polling day.
In a direct appeal to voters, she said: “Your vote can change the face of Britain.
“It can end the failed austerity experiment, end the spiteful blaming of the poor, the sick, the vulnerable for the mistakes of the wealthy.
“This election can be a turning point in history.”
But Ms Bennett’s own chances of becoming an MP were dealt a blow on the eve of her conference speech.
Labour won a council-by election in the Holborn and St Pancras constituency in which she lives and is standing in at the general election.
The Green vote fell by a third as Labour swept to victory with 72 per cent.
Brighton MP Caroline Lucas insisted yesterday though that she and other Green MPs were needed in Parliament to make Labour stick to its principles.
“We can support Labour when they do the right thing, and block them when they ape the Tories,” she said.
Green steps forward are clear, but is it enough?
THE Green Party has made real political progress since I covered their 2013 spring conference.
Held in a building on a secluded Nottingham University campus, “conference hall” was a grandiose term for a lecture theatre.
Walking through the doors I was greeted by the sight of a bare-footed woman ambling around with the aid of a wooden staff. So far, so Green.
There was no press room because I suspect I was the only journalist present to see Natalie Bennett deliver her first spring conference speech since being elected to replace Caroline Lucas.
But things have changed since the “Green surge.”
More than 1,500 Green members arrived yesterday at their party’s biggest every conference in Liverpool’s top corporate conference centre.
And Britain’s political press pack turned out in force.
That most are here in the hope of witnessing more Green gaffes speaks to Bennett’s urgent new task — professionalising her party without compromising the principles behind its popularity.
Green policy most popular
Green policies are more popular with the public than any other party, according to the Who Shall I Vote For quiz launched yesterday.
More than 2,750 people had taken the survey when the Star went to press and 22 per cent of voters found they had most in common with the party.
But just 7 per cent said they would vote Green in the general election.
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