After a long summer, children are back at school, the festival season is ending and the World Cup is a distant memory. For us, as the newly elected co-leaders of the Green party, we’re about to enter the most exciting period of our political lifetimes.
We’re ready to mobilise a fiercer Green resistance than ever before. In council chambers across the country, brave, independent Greens are already leading a political revolt against the status quo. We want to put the Green party on course to become the third party in Britain, building on this year’s local election success, and get a Green on every council in England and Wales.
But politics isn’t confined to council chambers or the halls of Westminster, and we are not afraid to join protesters taking direct action for what is right. We have just lived through the joint hottest summer on record. Despite environment secretary Michael Gove’s claim to have painted the government green, all he has offered are empty promises, while his government wreaks as much destruction as any Tory government, with fracking, airport expansion and new roads gouging out chunks from our countryside. Yet the scale of the climate crisis calls for a system overhaul. That is why we will always stand with those risking arrest to protest against the environmental destruction of fracking or airport expansion.
Meanwhile, the Windrush scandal has exposed just how deep runs the cruelty and incompetence of the Home Office. We believe there needs to be root-and-branch reform of an immigration system that is rotten to its very core. We are proud to support activists and campaigners who are putting their bodies on the line in the fight against the inhumanity of indefinite detention and the forced removals of refugees and migrants. Not only are we proud to say migrants and refugees are welcome here, but we will always celebrate the gift of freedom of movement.
Then there’s Brexit. After being laughed at, derided and called delusional, it looks increasingly likely that our calls for a People’s Vote could come to fruition. You’d be forgiven for not immediately thinking of the Greens when it comes to Brexit, because the media has maintained a wall of silence when it comes to our longstanding call for a democratic conclusion to this debate. But we’re not just another party opposing the government’s Brexit fantasies – we’re the only party who can be trusted to oppose Brexit and also offer genuinely bold and radical policies to fix the ailments in this country that led to Brexit.
With a government in chaos and a Labour party that’s split down the middle, we could well be on the cusp of another political revolution. But while we will always campaign with others to oppose Brexit, we think it’s time to say loudly and clearly that the Green party will never be part of any vapid centrist blob. Nor will we join the multimillionaires trying to start new parties in an attempt to return Britain to the centrism that so utterly failed people earlier this century. We stand firmly and unequivocally against the forces of racism that whipped up a culture war with so little opposition from the political mainstream in the run-up to the referendum.
We want to overhaul the world of work so it is fit to face the challenges of our times, from the role of automation to the rise of insecure working in the gig economy. With the autumn budget fast approaching, we think it’s time to take stock and ask again whether the economy is the master or the servant of the British people. Specifically, we think it’s time for politics to shift away from an obsession with economic growth and a culture of work that sees people slaving away at jobs that offer little material or emotional reward.
That’s why our party was the first in Britain to propose a four-day working week, and why we are continuing to think of ideas that will give people more free time to live the lives they choose. While governments must of course focus on the scourge of low pay, precarious work and joblessness that too many people face, they must not do so at the cost of refocusing the economy away from a culture that sees people working themselves to the brink.
This country is not broken, but our governments have been for many years. We won’t heal our wounds by facing backwards and grasping for an economic and political settlement that has failed for so long. Instead, we must be fresh in our thinking and bold in our actions if we’re to get the country facing a future that people feel hope about, and where they know that every citizen and their wellbeing will be valued.
The Green party will be bold, or we will be nothing, and we will always be up for picking a side in the debates that define this country. Our leadership won’t be shackled by the chains of old-school politics, and we’re starting our leadership as we mean to go on, by putting the big questions at the heart of what we do.
• Jonathan Bartley and Sîan Berry are co-leaders of the Green party