Covid-19 has legitimised once-radical ideas in UK, say Green leaders


The peak of the coronavirus lockdown showed how the UK can become a better country, with wages subsidised, rough sleeping almost eliminated and proper recognition of health and care staff, the co-leaders of the Green party have told their annual conference.

Siân Berry and Jonathan Bartley, delivering the speech in parallel, as the party has done since its first co-leadership four years ago, said the government action to cope with Covid-19 had demonstrated the viability of seemingly radical ideas.

“In the middle of all the horror of the pandemic, we glimpsed that a different world might be possible,” Bartley said. “Communities coming together in solidarity and compassion to care and support one another; our most valuable workers recognised as the key workers that they are, running the vital services on which we all rely; intervention to support people’s incomes; rough sleepers off our streets. In the middle of all the tragedy, all the heartache and the hardship, we had a glimpse of something new.

“Where you have a right to work from home. Where everyone has a home. Where renters have the right to fair rents and cannot be evicted. Imagine if our response to an emergency like coronavirus was to plan and build that better world from the things we learned.”

The pair, who lead the Greens in England and Wales, made their speech from a cinema in London, streamed to members as part of the online conference. A repeated refrain was that the coronavirus emergency had shown that once-mocked ideas advocated by the Greens were being adopted by others.

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At their conference last week, the Liberal Democrats adopted the idea of a universal basic income, which guarantees a fixed sum to all, regardless of circumstances. This was, Bartley said, “an idea whose time has come”, adding: “We can eliminate poverty. Right now.”

Berry noted how the Greens had “dissented in a big way” over austerity from 2010 onwards, “and we were proved right”. She also recalled how one newspaper derided the Greens’ proposals to invest £100bn a year to transform the UK economy to a more sustainable model, printing 11 zeros across the headline.

“We planned last year to invest this much because, in the face of inequality, injustice and the climate emergency, the right answer was to think big and invest – to transform the way we live and work, for the better,” she said.

“And guess what? The government has already committed over three times that amount to grappling with coronavirus over just six months. Because in the face of such an emergency, you do whatever it takes.”

Citing the example of grassroots activists such as the school climate strikers, the pair said it was vital for people to push for such changes. Berry said: “Because we – and you – know that better is possible.”



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