9 September 2014
Amelia Womack's debut speech as Deputy Leader. The speech was delivered at the Green Party's Autumn Party Conference at Conference Aston.
ON behalf of Shahrar and I, it's a pleasure to address you as deputy leader at such an exciting time in our party's history. I'd like to extend a very warm welcome to all of those members who are joining us at Green Party conference for the very first time – this is our biggest conference ever and it is playing out to be our best yet.
I would also like to thank everyone who voted for us – our party is built on our members. Through engaging with our democracy, developing our policy and being the faces of the party on the doorstep then it's you – our members and volunteers – whose hard work and dedication have made the party what it is today, and made the current green surge possible.
And your engagement is vital. We're living in a time of overwhelming voter apathy where just 34% of people turned-out to vote in the recent European Elections. People are disillusioned with politics and parties that work around the edges of policy to make something “less bad”. They are looking for a party that is striving for systemic changes that will make another world possible.
For years, Greens have been calling for massive, fundamental changes to the way that our society and economy operates.
But the extent to which we need radical change in Britain is clearer now than ever: a change for equality, and a change for the common good.
As a result, when people choose policies rather than parties – The Green Party consistently leads the way.
This is because people are passionate about our vision. No-one wants want to see their NHS auctioned off the highest bidder. People are frustrated at cuts to public services when companies such as Amazon don't pay tax, and they are forced to fight fracking even though we all know there are better and safer energy alternatives.
Our commitment to social and economic justice shows that the Green Party is more than an environmental party: we are the only Party tackling the tough issues of the times such as austerity, youth emancipation and spiralling inequality.
And we lead the debate on these issues. Our policies capture the imaginations of the public. Our policies set the agenda rather than chase the opinion of the electorate.
66% of people want our railways renationalised, 64% of people want our minimum wage to be a living wage, 81% people want a reduction in air pollution and 66% of people want more social housing. These are Green Party policies.
It was funny – the other day I logged on to Facebook to see Owen Jones talking about these very issues. I was pretty excited to hear him talking about Green Party policies.....however they were really his aspirations for the Labour Party... but increasingly Labour party members are realising that if you want your party to represent the 99%, if you want your party to campaign for the future of the NHS and if you don't want your leader to hold up copies of the Sun then you need to be involved in a party that actually respects the opinions of its membership.
But it is not only disaffected Labour and even Lib Dem activists and voters that we are appealing to.
The Green Party has the policies, the vision, and the conviction to inspire previous non-voters to turn out and vote. Our elected representatives such as Caroline Lucas are proving that the Green Party isn't afraid of opposing Westminster’s status quo – and represents the views of the people.
We are proving that there is more to politics than business as usual. That not all politicians are “in it for themselves” and that politicians don't have to be part of the elite and can work at the grass roots to strive for a better future for all rather than a better today for politicians.
Our approach resonates with those left out by modern politics, and proves that “voter apathy” is a symptom of out of touch politicians fighting on the middle ground, appealing only to the marginal voter, all within the constraints of pleasing the Murdoch press.
The solution to voter apathy is to give people community leadership. Democratic decision making that focuses on the long term future, of our country and our planet.
Young people are central to any vision of the future. Yet these are the very people who are so often overlooked in politics, brushed aside and ignored by politicians, because they know they can get away with it.
Other parties think they can get away with forcing young people to bear the worst of austerity Britain. Massive tuition fees, cuts to education maintenance allowance, proposals to abolish job seekers allowance for young people, the prospect of a lifetime of low paid, low skilled, insecure employment while saddled with tens of thousands of pounds of debt for doing nothing more than seeking a decent education.
It is only the Green Party who offer a real future for young people.
We are fighting for free education, for a right to rent and even a citizens income – which will provide people an opportunity to strive for quality employment.
That's why a poll last week put the Green Party at a record 18% of the youth vote.
And it is why young people are flooding into the Green Party – with a massive 70% - that's seven zero percent – increase in the Young Greens membership since the start of this year.
Our policies make voting “worth it” for young people. With our deal on the table, they do not need to ignore politics any longer.
And these are the aspirational policies that will drive the social and political change of the 21st century.
We can, and we must, inspire a new generation that is politically engaged, and inspired to tackle the massive problems facing our world.
More and more young people see the impending climate and ecological crises and are joining with us in the Green Party. Together, we can work for the common good. It is our future, and our children's future, and we must not let self-interested political and business interests from selling us down the line.
Shahrar and I being elected reminds me of a line from a speech by political commentator Caroline Heldman. I hope you will forgive me for repeating it now: You are the architects of your future. Sometimes, architects need to destroy paradigms in order to build a better world. What better world would you build?