Rosie Rawle and Lily Fitzgibbon

On Friday 5 March 2021, the Young Greens co-chairs Rosie Rawle and Lily Fitzgibbon gave a keynote speech to the Green Party of England and Wales conference, held virtually due to Covid restrictions. Below, Bright Green has published a transcript of that speech in full.

Rosie Rawle:

Good afternoon conference, 

The last time the Young Greens co-chairs spoke to conference, we told you how the Young Greens had mobilised hundreds of people across the country to knock on doors and deliver leaflets. 

We were celebrating the election of a record number of Young Green councillors.

And we were setting out the impact those councillors were having just months after entering their council chamber. 

Some things have changed quite a lot since then. The action days we organised have been put on hold by the pandemic. We just can’t send dedicated activists across the country in the same way to help get Greens into office.

But some things have stayed the same. We’ve still got incredible Young Green councillors doing phenomenal work.

Whether it be Jamie Osborn and Nannette Youssef in Norwich pushing for a pioneering Basic Income pilot, or Kai Taylor in Knowlsey forcing the council to fund free school meals during the holidays, or Hannah Clare – Brighton & Hove Council’s deputy leader pushing back on the government’s ill-advised plans to send children back to schools when it just wasn’t safe. 

When Young Greens get elected, they hold those in power to account when in opposition, and transform their communities when they’re in power.

Other things look similar to the last time we spoke to you too. Because from Oxford to Bristol, Bolton to the Isle of Wight, come the 6th of May 2021, we’ll once again be celebrating a record number of Young Green councillors elected across the country.

Why does this matter? It matters because we’ve never needed Greens in office more than we do today. 

The Covid crisis has laid bare just how badly our current neoliberal capitalist system is failing all of us. 

It’s no surprise that government ministers have handed out billions in contracts to their mates in the private sector. 

It’s no surprise that those companies – from Serco’s disgraceful handling of contact tracing to Ayanda Capital’s catastrophic PPE delivery – failed to deliver in the most basic of service.

It’s no surprise that outsourcing giants, management consultancies and private hospitals have lined their pockets at the public’s expense.

It’s no surprise that workers have been hung out to dry – with inadequate furlough schemes, and rising unemployment.

It’s no surprise that if you’re a shelf stacker, a nurse, a doctor, a student, a bus driver, a teacher, the Tories have treated you as disposable. 

It’s no surprise because this is how our economy, politics and society are built. Private profit is put first, while public health, people and the planet always come last.

On top of all of this, our planet is on the cusp of catastrophe. 

The science tells us we have less than a decade left to stop the worst effects of the climate crisis.

And just last week, the Environment Agency said that we are on track for the worst case scenario of the climate crisis. 

Meanwhile, we have councils looking to approve new coal mines. 

We still have plans to build a third runway at Heathrow. 

We have a privatised energy industry failing to invest properly in renewable energy. 

That’s not how you respond to the climate emergency. That’s not how you respond to the covid crisis. That’s not the action we need.

The Covid crisis and the climate crisis are two sides of the same coin. The government’s appalling handling of Covid is entirely in keeping with its exacerbation of the climate crisis. 

And it is young people who are facing and will face the brunt of these crises. 

Students packed into campuses to protect the bottom line of increasingly privatised universities and outsourced accommodation providers. 

Those same students forced to self isolate with no mental health support time and again as Covid outbreaks spread throughout campuses

School students sent free school meal hampers with totally inadequate food while private companies cream off profit from their government contracts.

Those same school students confronted with an algorithm which would have determined their future.

Young workers struggling to make ends meet as jobs disappear in collapsing industries.

Those same workers falling into rent arrears with no support, constantly threatened by the lift of the eviction ban.

And it is our generation who will be living with the worst effects of the climate crisis. We’ll be the ones living with more and more extreme weather, with ecological collapse. 

The stakes are incredibly high, and the challenge is overwhelming.

But these crises aren’t inevitable. And nor is our government’s and councils’ response. 

There is an alternative. 

But you definitely won’t get it from Boris Johnson and the Tories, who have shown throughout the pandemic that they are incapable and unwilling to take any action to protect people or the planet if it puts private profit at risk. 

You definitely won’t get it from Keir Starmer and Labour, who seem to have decided that effective opposition means sitting on your hands, staying silent and abstaining on votes in parliament. 

And you definitely won’t get it from Ed Davey and the Lib Dems, who you might not have heard of for a while – because they have no ideas, no vision and no concept of what we need to do to tackle these crises.

Lily Fitzgibbon:

You’ll only get it from the Greens. That’s why we desperately need to put Greens in office. That’s why we desperately need to put Greens in power. 

Imagine if in May, local councils across the country were packed full of Greens. Imagine if we put Sian Berry in London’s City Hall. Imagine if we sent Amelia Womack to the Senedd. 

We’d be in a position to deliver a transformative change of people’s lives and their communities.

For too long, local government has been slashed and local communities have been ignored. Greens in office would fight tooth-and-nail against the hollowing out of local government, and stand up for their communities. 

We’ve seen that in Brighton & Hove, with the Green run council demanding the government fund local, publicly run test and trace, and playing a crucial role in forcing the government to close schools in the interests of safety earlier this year. 

We know that the climate crisis and the Covid crisis don’t effect us all equally. Historical and ongoing injustices have a major impact on how those crises are felt. 

Which is why Greens in office would organise against oppression and for liberation of all. 

Whether it’s Sian pledging to make London the most trans inclusive city in the world, or Cleo Lake’s incredible work to meaningfully address Bristol’s legacy of colonialism – Greens are working hard to stand fully in solidarity with those facing oppression.

With the economy in tatters, our future looks bleak. We all know we need a major economic recovery to the Covid crisis. But we can’t let that recovery be built on the backs of workers or on the backs of the planet. 

That’s why we need Greens in office – to truly build back better. 

Greens in office could be building pioneering programmes of municipal Green socialism. Think housing and utility co-operatives, reclaimed public land and local, community run public transport. In every town and city across the country.

But in spite of the bleakest of backdrops, people have been fighting back – and they’ve been winning. School students defeated the GCSE algorithm. Uber drivers took on their employer and won their rights as workers. University students are coordinating the largest rent strike in decades and winning rent rebates. 

Greens in office harness the radicalism of these movements. It’s Greens in council chambers across the country that stand shoulder to shoulder with grassroots campaigners, who bring their voice to the fore and who work to ensure their demands are met. 

These are the kind of ideas we need to be delivering on. These are the kind of policies our country – and our planet need. 

And, Conference, we will deliver on these policies. 2021 will see more Greens elected than ever before. We’ll see Greens in the Senedd for the first time. We’ll see more Greens in the London Assembly, and more and more people will live in areas where their local council is a Green local council. 

We’ve seen from the polls that support for the Greens, our politics, our vision is going up and up and up. 

We’ve seen that the other parties don’t have the understanding or the ideas we need to tackle the challenges facing us today. 

And we’ve seen that when Greens do get elected, we deliver for people and the planet. 

We need a better world. Conference, together, as Greens, we can deliver it. 

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