Natalie Bennett Green Party leader was speaking at Leeds Taking Soundings meeting on the 23rd April 2013 at Broadcasting Place on:
Natalie Bennett is the new leader of the Green Party, elected in 2012. She has a scientific background in Australia and has since worked with the National Commission on Women’s Affairs on its report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
Natalie also worked as a consultant with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on child labour issues and World Health Organization (WHO) on women’s health. She has also had a strong engagement with feminist politics in Britain, and she is a trustee of the Fawcett Society and the founding chair of Green Party Women.
Natalie stood for the Greens in the 2010 general election for the seat of Holborn and St Pancras, and was selected for the London Assembly list in May 2012 on the London-wide list for The Green Party
There were over 40 people at the meeting from different left political traditions.
Natalie Bennett’s talk was a refreshing description of the main points of the Green Party’s opposition to the government’s programme of privatisation and austerity. It was made in language largely free from the cliches of the left.
She argued for defence of the NHS, the re-nationalisation of the railways, against zero-hour contracts, for the scrapping of trident, the removal of tuition fees, against benefit reforms and the bedroom tax: and that she would support a general strike against government policies. Clearly standing to the left of Labour in a significant way. One person at the meeting commented that the Greens talk about every issue other than environment!
The discussion was interesting: with the question of the Green’s position towards the idea of socialism being one of the key points of debate. The experience of Green’s in government in Ireland, Germany and Holland was broached where they have ended up in supporting neo-liberal government policies. Our own UK experience of the Greens in power in Brighton where the council have ended implementing severe cuts rather than to resign and fight them. In Leeds we have seen Green councillors supporting a Tory/Lib-Dem administration.
Natalie Bennett’s response to these questions was to explain that because of the lack of any organisation to the left of an essentially neo-liberal Labour Party; that the UK Greens would avoid the pitalls of their other european green parties. The question of the experience in Brighton was largely left unanswered
Natalie questioned the need for an organisation such as Left Unity: suggesting that the Green Party is an adequate left-wing political representation of the opposition to government policies. Urging people to consider the Green Party prior to embarking on the Left Unity project.
What is apparent is that the Greens are a mix of politics. Many of their best members identify themselves as left wing and as socialists. They are active opponents of cuts and operate within the mileu of the local trades unions and the left. Natalie Bennett herself is an excellent spokesperson against austerity and the night after this meeting her appearance on BBC Question Time illustrated this. The Brighton Green MP Caroline Lucas has been one of the most consistent opponents of the war.
There are obvious key points of difference in the politics of ‘red or green’ but there is also a clear need for engagement. We cannot ignore the experience of European Green Parties in government or indeed the Green Party adminstration in Brighton; but this should not be used as a means to score sectarian points. Within the context of trying to acheive left unity we need to continue these discussions and maintain our work along side our Green Party colleagues in opposition to austerity wherever we can.