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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
In full: Caroline Lucas' speech
Here is the full text of MEP Caroline Lucas' speech to the Green Party conference in Weston-super-Mare on Friday.

Friends, I think I've been standing on windy street corners for too long during the Oxford by-election, because I've lost my voice - but I do have enough voice to say a heartfelt congratulations to the whole team in Oxford for a fantastic by-election result.

After the tragic death of my friend and fellow Speaker Mike Woodin, we kept his seat on the City Council - and it's a huge tribute in particular to Deborah Glass and our latest new councillor, Sushila Dhall.

But we have other recent successes to celebrate as well.

"In the European Elections in June, over one million people voted Green - that's an extraordinary achievement.

"If we got the same vote share in Brighton Pavilion in the General Election that we got in the European Elections, where we came first, beating Labour, Conservatives, and the Lib Dems, we'd win the seat. Even under first past the post. That's another extraordinary achievement.

"We held on to our Euro seats in the South East and London with hugely increased numbers of votes.

"In the local elections, we saw 17% more English councillors elected this year on top of a 30% increase last year.

Mike Woodin

Having mentioned Oxford, I'd like to pause for a moment to pay tribute to Mike [Woodin, former co-principal speaker who died this year], whom we miss and mourn so deeply.

This must be the first conference without his physical presence for well over 10 years, and it does feel very strange and very sad that he's not here, to share his wisdom and humour with us.

But actually, I think I can feel his spirit here with us, telling us, come on, shape up, there's a General Election coming up - where are the strategy papers, where are the core messages?

Well, one core message we have today, Mike, is that we value so much everything you did and everything you were.

At our Spring Conference just 6 months ago, Mike spoke with great courage of the enormous hole which cancer had punched in his life, and of his efforts to come to terms with it.

His early death has punched another enormous hole in the lives of everyone who loved him, and in the Green Party itself.

But while the Green Party and green politics will be much the poorer without him, he leaves a legacy that we can draw on and that we must take forward.

Because the best memorial we can give to Mike is to fill the hole that he has left by working even harder for a society that is socially just and environmentally sustainable, and that is based on peace, drawing on the inspiration which he has given us and which I believe lives on all around us.

Honesty

Over the past few days, while I've been campaigning in the Oxford by-election, so many people have come up to me to say what a good man Mike was.

And many made the observation that, at a time when our elected representatives are increasingly viewed as cynical and self-serving, his political career was an inspiring reminder that honesty and integrity can still thrive at the heart of public life.

And that personal and political honesty and integrity is part of his legacy that I know the Green Party will continue to champion in all of our work.

And never has it been more urgently needed.

'All the same'

You know, I was asked last week by a very nice interviewer on Radio 4, why the Green Party didn't just join one of the bigger parties - wouldn't that be a much more effective way of pursuing our policies, she suggested?

And so I explained - again - why, though I was grateful for her kind concern, the Greens have absolutely no wish and no need to be married off to a more established political partner.

Because at a time when the three main parties are becoming ever more indistinguishable, and at a time of increasing disillusionment with traditional politicians, it has never been more important to have a radical, distinctive, progressive alternative.

With New Labour striving to out-Tory the Tories (and now that Michael Howard has brought John Redwood back into the shadow cabinet, that is a truly horrifying prospect), and with the Liberal Democrats up to their old trick of being all things to all people, it is no surprise that people are desperate for a credible alternative to the Tweedledum and Tweedledee politics of three increasingly interchangeable parties.

And the Green Party is that alternative. We are the party of honesty and integrity. We are the radical and credible alternative.

Key policies

On Iraq, we have the choice between two parties of bomb and kill, and a third party of reluctant bomb and kill.

On public services, there's a choice of three parties of privatisation.

On globalisation, three parties entirely committed to neo-liberal free trade.

And on the environment, three parties which all completely fail to understand the absolute revolution we are going to need in our production and consumption patterns, in our politics and in how we measure success if we are to meet the challenge of climate change.

And when it comes to trust, three parties which - between them - have managed to lose the most critical prerequisite for true democracy - the trust and confidence of the voters.

And so on more and more issues, it is the Greens who are most in tune with public opinion.

From consistent and principled opposition to war in Iraq - to protection of public services from privatization.

From opposition to ever greater free trade - to better, more humane treatment for asylum seekers and refugees.

From opposition to tuition fees and top-up fees - to urgent action on climate change.

It is the Greens who are offering consistent and credible policies, backed up by the commitment to put them into action.

And crucially, it is the Greens who are bringing honesty and integrity back to politics.

'Resign'

And as far as New Labour's policies on Iraq are concerned, we could hardly need honesty and integrity more. With the publication of the Iraq Survey Group report, we finally know what we had long suspected. That Tony Blair took this country to war based on a lie. Because there were no weapons ready for use in 45 minutes. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no serious or current threat to Britain.

And establishing this truth has taken a bloody, illegal, unnecessary and immoral war in which over 20,000 people have already died in Iraq, with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands have been injured.

Many people have focussed on demanding an apology from Mr. Blair. I don't think we want his apology - who would believe him if he gave it anyway?

An apology is nowhere near enough. What the Greens are demanding is his immediate and unconditional resignation.

Because the deception and fabrication we have witnessed are on an epic scale.

Do you remember this war was supposed to be about making the world more secure? Yet the world is now infinitely less safe, as the events in Bali, Madrid, and the wider Middle East pay tragic testimony.

This war was supposed to be about getting rid of tyrants - so why are we still propping them up in other countries when it suits us, like Uzbekistan?

This war was supposed to be about democracy - so why are occupation forces crushing the Iraqi people's democratic rights, with a CIA-backed puppet government, trade union leaders detained, and the gagging of independent Iraqi media?

This war was supposed to be about getting rid of WMD - so why are we still selling them indiscriminately to countries like Syria at giant arms fairs hosted by this government in London?

Consequences

The conclusions of the Iraq Survey Group come as little surprise. The only surprise is that the Prime Minister, who took Britain into war on a lie, has not taken responsibility for the lives his decision has cost.

Tony Blair has committed the gravest error that a Prime Minister can. And so if he won't resign, then he must be impeached.

Because if this war is allowed to pass with impunity, the consequences will be enormous and far-reaching - not just for Britain, but for the world:

Pre-emptive wars will be deemed acceptable, even against countries that pose no risk.

International law will have become irrelevant and meaningless, to be broken by powerful states at will.

And in Britain, a precedent will have been established. From now on, a prime minister will be able to mislead Parliament and the public on the gravest matter - and pay no price.

He will be able to say something is "beyond doubt" when the underlying intelligence for his assertion is full of doubt - and still get away with it. Honesty and integrity in public life will have been completely destroyed.

That is too high a price to pay. And that is why the Green Party is right to demand his impeachment.

Falluja

And now Mr Blair has agreed to a major escalation of Britain's involvement in the occupation - this is a prime minister who just can't say no to President Bush.

Small wonder then that so many people believe that the request for a redeployment of British troops has little or nothing to do with operational needs, and everything to do with political ones. Nothing to do with Iraqi elections, and everything to do with American elections.

Because one of the aims of the proposed redeployment is to free up US troops for a massive assault on the besieged city of Falluja, which is already subject to daily - often very imprecise - bombardment.

Again, it is the Greens who are clear on this.

The last major exercise by the US against Falluja left over 1000 civilians dead - so much for smart missiles and precision weapons.

British troops should have no part in supporting what is likely to be yet another major and bloody offensive, with hundreds if not thousands of civilian deaths and injuries, - and no part in bolstering President Bush's election campaign.

And the fact that Tony Blair has dealt with this redeployment request in such a secretive and suspicious way - and the fact that he has refused to allow Parliament to vote on this hugely important issue - shows that he has learned absolutely nothing from his terrible mistakes on Iraq over the past two years.

And again, that we are right to demand that he goes.

Climate change

But if this is a government that has difficulty with honesty and integrity when it comes to the bogus global threat from Iraq, its record is little better with the far greater, and more real global threat from climate change.

This government, which is apparently so concerned about security that it would, in Gordon Brown's words "spend whatever it takes" to address the manufactured threat of terrorism in Iraq, is incapable of mustering the political will to address climate change - which even the Pentagon admits is the single biggest threat facing the world today - and it has failed to be honest about the scale of the changes we need to see in order to address it.

Because if only a tiny fraction of the time and energy and resources that have been expended on the Iraq war had been invested instead in tackling climate change, we might just have a better chance of building real security.

But although Tony Blair has said a lot about climate change in recent weeks, there is not a jot of evidence that he intends to put the policies in place to seriously address it.

So forgive my lack of joy at his latest pronouncements, but frankly we've had these environment speeches of his before.

Do you remember? - It took him four years in office to get round to making his first major environment speech.

He talked very eloquently then about "a fragile blue sphere suspended in space" - and then went back to his 30 billion road building programme and to giving the aviation industry 8 billion a year in tax breaks.

During the Johannesburg Earth Summit in 2002, he made another famous environment speech and again said all the right things.

And then again went back to the same road building programme, to the aviation tax breaks (now totalling 9 billion a year), and to a plan to at least double the UK aviation sector by 2020.

So I'm afraid we have to say we've heard all this before, and that words count less than actions.

What we should be judging is not the depth of sincerity in the prime ministerial furrowed brow when he's telling us how serious climate change is, but the abysmal record of the Blair government on delivering real progress on tackling it.

Tony Blair (and also Michael Howard, come to that, whose climate change speech outdid even Blair's in its lack of concrete commitments) have the wrong emissions reduction targets, the wrong policies and the wrong methodology.

Blair accepts the need for 60% global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. This was spelt out to him by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

What he doesn't seem to understand is that for this to happen in a globally equitable way, a high-polluting country like Britain needs to make more like 90% reductions.

He said in his climate speech "we need both to invest on a large scale in existing technologies and to stimulate innovation into new low carbon technologies for deployment in the longer term."

Nice words.

Action demand

But look at his actual record. In the July 2002 Comprehensive Spending Review, the DTI had bid for 350 million for non-nuclear renewables in 2005-6.

But the government had whittled it down to just 38 million by the time the CSR was announced.

Or contrast the 20 million subsidy for solar power - with the 500 million subsidy to British Aerospace to help it build a new airbus.

Tony Blair often speaks of "leading the world" on climate change, but he would do well to put his own house in order first.

While Japan is forecast to have 370,000 solar roofs by 2005, and Germany 140,000, the UK will have no more than 3,500 by that date.

In April 2001, Germany (which, let's remember, has a Green Party environment minister) approved 4,198 applications for solar support - almost 20% more in just one month than Blair's programme planned for a 3-year period.

And so if you look for honesty and integrity in New Labour's policies on climate change, they're simply not there.

Only the Green Party is prepared to tell it as it is. We're not afraid to be honest about the enormous scale of changes we're going to need.

Challenge

And that's why the Green Party is throwing down a Climate Change Challenge at this conference to all the other parties. If they want to show they're serious about addressing climate change, they need to:

  • Immediately adopt a Contraction and Convergence Policy - the only framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a globally equitable way, which doesn't penalize developing countries.

    Set a target of 90% reductions in UK CO2 emissions by 2050 or sooner

  • Pass the Home Energy Conservation Bill and the Air Traffic Reduction Bill

  • Scrap the 30 billion national road building programme

  • End all nuclear and oil industry subsidies, and all tax breaks given to the aviation industry

  • Establish 2 million solar roofs by 2010.

    Because only the Green Party has the political courage to say it as it is. And the only way to have truly Green policies is to vote Green.

    Public Services

    And on public services, again it's the Greens who stick to our principles, who demonstrate there are alternatives to ever increasing privatisation.

    And at this conference this weekend, we will once again declare our support for the commitment that Labour abandoned in 1997: a publicly owned, publicly accountable, properly funded rail network.

    How much more evidence does the government need that rail privatisation has failed?

    Private rail eats 5 billion in public subsidy, and one in five trains fail to arrive in time. No wonder that two-thirds of the British public believe it should be part of the public sector.

    Alastair Darling has claimed renationalisation would cost 20 billion. But again he is not being honest.

    Taking the Train Operating Companies back into public ownership as their franchises expire wouldn't cost a penny.

    This government's fixation with privatisation has led to poor services, high prices, and massive insecurity for anyone that has to travel on a daily basis.

    It is time that Britain's railways were run for passengers, not for profit.

    Or take health and education. Why is New Labour suddenly so obsessed by "choice" as the new buzzword for public service reform?

    Because when it comes to the basic public services of health and education, all the evidence suggests that what people want is ready access to good public services, not more bogus choices.

    Most parents don't want a choice of secondary schools an hour's travel time away - they want a high-quality school in their community. For them, and thousands across the country, choice acts as a cloak to deny them that basic right.

    Because New Labour's obsession with the free market has led it to view people as consumers instead of citizens.

    When someone's ill, they want to be treated as a patient by a health service they can wholeheartedly trust, not as a customer who is given a whole series of complicated choices at a time when, by definition, they may be less able to take critical decisions.

    For Greens, the NHS is a service, not a shop. And good quality public services, provided where people need them, are what we are committed to achieving.

    And all around the country, Greens are putting these policies into practice. In councils from Brighton to Bradford, from Manchester to Oxford, Green councillors are demonstrating that Greens are the radical, distinctive, progressive alternative.

    In the London Assembly, in the European Parliament, we have a track record of putting social justice and the environment at the top of the political agenda.

    On climate change, Greens introduced the Air Traffic Reduction Bill in the House of Lords, and Greens have championed more resources for energy conservation and renewables in the European Parliament, along with tougher phase out times for greenhouse gases.

    On public services, it was Green peer Lord Beaumont who proposed the renationalisation of the railways; it was Green MEPs who supported UNISON in their fight for better pay; it was the Green Party that was at the forefront of the campaign against the GATS agreement - the General Agreement on Trade in Services - which would liberalise and privatize key public services not only in Britain and Europe, but across the developing world as well, with devastating impacts for the poor.

    And it is the Green Party that brings honesty and integrity back to politics.

    Look at Councillor Gina Dowding who blew the whistle on a behind-closed-doors council decision to give secret financial assistance to struggling nuclear power company, British Energy - and for telling the truth, she was suspended from Lancaster City Council for 3 months.

    But her actions were clearly supported by a huge majority - because she was recently re-elected with a massive 60% majority in a 5-cornered election.

    Poll hopes

    And so, friends, I believe we are right to be going into the general election campaign with confidence

    Of course it's hard for us as a smaller party facing a hugely unfair electoral system. We'll be honest about that too.

    But the only wasted vote is a vote cast for a party you don't believe in, which stands for values you don't share, and implements policies you don't support.

    A vote for the Greens puts social justice and the environment at the top of the political agenda.

    And increasingly it elects Green politicians who demonstrate that it is possible to be radical and effective.

    To be progressive and competent.

    And to bring honesty and integrity back into politics.




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