Kelsey Trevett and Jane Baston

On Friday 4 March 2022, the Young Greens co-chairs Kelsey Trevett and Jane Baston gave a keynote speech to the Green Party of England and Wales conference, held online. Below, Bright Green has published a transcript of that speech in full.

Jane Baston:

The last time the Young Greens Co-Chairs spoke to you, we talked about our vision for a green future and how elected young greens were helping to deliver that. We’ve got a radical vision for the future but this year we wanted to take a short moment to pause and look back. The Young Greens are turning twenty. Twenty years ago, at a Spring Conference just like this one, young people within the Green Party were given a voice and opportunity to organise together. We’re proud to carry that on today in a time when the voice of young people has never been more important.

As crisis after crisis develops, from the pandemic of the last two years, the cost of living crisis we’re seeing unfold, and the on-going ecological destruction, we’re inheriting a world that is ripe for change— and calling out in desperate need for it. And we know that young people are going to seize that opportunity. The Green Party has the vision, and more importantly, the policies to bring into being a better world that isn’t based on the exploitation of people and planet. We’re taking these policies to young people. Talking to them on the issues that they care about, in the spaces where they’re organising for change.

In our Universities, we’ve seen students and staff rising up against managers who are determined to exploit them by cutting pensions, freezing wages and demanding unpaid overtime. Students occupying buildings, standing in solidarity with staff on picket lines and just this week mobilising across the country to demand a new vision for education. We’ve had Young Greens organising teach-outs on food poverty, tuition fees and a Green New Deal, and even more out on picket lines, showing solidarity with their lecturers and university staff. 

As this Tory Government attempts to close off education by increasing loan repayments and imposing minimum entry requirements, we’re part of the student movement pushing back against this neoliberal model of education.

And education isn’t the only place where young people are being exploited at the risk of our own futures. Employers like Deliveroo and JustEat exploiting young workers of colour on less than minimum wage with no pay for waiting times. Student nurses who started work during the pandemic being offered a pay rise below levels of inflation and young people being exploited by their landlords through sky-high rents while living in mould infested and poorly ventilated conditions. For so many young people, this is a daily reality, and under this Tory government, or the Labour opposition, there’s no sign of change for the better.

All of this for profit. For the bottom line of a company that doesn’t care about the people who are doing the work. To fill the pockets of those who sit at the top of our system, while they know that they’ll be protected from the fall out of the climate crisis we’re facing. It’s a system that is doing exactly what it’s designed to do. A system that extracts wages, and time, and natural resources from wherever it can. This capitalist system views our planet as a commodity and people as nothing more than workers to produce profit. 

Young people know the impact of this. It’s why we’ve been out on the streets demanding change in the school strikes. It’s why we’ve been creating radical new ways of organising in work spaces. It’s why we know that we need to move forward from a system that cares about a bank account balance to one that puts people at the heart of it.

Kelsey Trevett

With crisis after crisis landing on our shoulders, and the alternatives being ignored, young people aren’t just calling for change: we’re creating it too. 

Young Greens elected as Councillors in over fifteen different councils are taking young people’s priorities into the place of power. In Brighton, Councillors Hannah Clare, Martin Osbourne and Amy Heley have been fighting against government budget cuts to deliver on their priorities for the city. From reducing pesticides to investing in youth services. In Oxford, Lucy Pegg and Chris Jarvis have been working to make their council more trans inclusive, and in Norwich Jamie Osborne and Nanette Youssef have been calling to stop the Wensum Link that’s going to damage so much of their local environment. 

This year, we’re going to put even more of them into council chambers. From Newham to Norwich, Sheffield to Southwark, whenever we get Greens elected this year they’re going to bring about the change young people want to see. 

We know that local democracy can be inaccessible to young people. Inadequate pay serves as a barrier to participation for those without the rare financial security to support them, and even when elected, it can be difficult to know where to start. The Young Greens are delivering political education, skills training, and workshops to guide young people through the process of joining the party, getting involved in campaigns and social movements, right through to becoming a local councillor, elected in their trade or student union, or creating transformative change in their local area. With our flagship 30 Under 30 programme returning in the spring, we’re excited to find and support the next generation of Green Party activists: we hear they can go on to become co-leaders of the party.

As we turn twenty, the Young Greens have a lot to be proud of. But more importantly, we’re excited for what’s to come. The outlook for young people under this government is bleak, but unlike ever before, young people are taking to the streets, to the ballot box, and to elected office, to say that enough is enough. We have the energy, the creativity, and the drive to deliver transformative change for a radical new vision for our country, with young people, and liberation, at its heart. We know that the Green Party is the only party prepared to back young people and students in our joint fight for a fair, inclusive, and eco socialist society. We appreciate that solidarity, and look forward to continuing to deliver on twenty years of Young Green success.

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