People up and down the country are turning to the Green Party in record numbers. Our membership, now at 70,000 UK-wide, is growing and we’re standing more candidates than ever.
Our swelling membership, and record showing in pre-general election polls, reflects the fact that people in this country are increasingly sick and tired of business-as-usual politics. The same old tired politics of the same old tired politicians is no longer good enough.
People are turning to us because we offer something unique: hope.
When others wrestle for the mantle of being toughest on migrants, or most willing to make cuts, Greens are putting forward a positive, progressive vision of what Britain could look like.
I know for the people of Bristol there is no clearer signal of Government failure than the inadequate and overpriced local transport system here. People spend far too much time and money on getting around.
And this Government failure on local transport is an indication of the type of politics we have in this country. Prices of tickets rise faster than wages, private companies make vast profits at the expense of passengers – and people are driven into using their cars to get around – adding to air pollution and climate change emissions because they have no other choice.
Public transport is a public good – it should be affordable, reliable and act as an incentive for people to leave their cars at home. But warm words alone won’t build us a local transport system fit for the 21st century.
That’s why today I’m pleased to announce our plan to re-regulate the buses.
Outside London, where private bus operators choose their routes, timetables and fares, with no regulation or fare cap, services have got worse and bus use has gone down by more than 30% since 1986. Over two-thirds of local transport authorities have cut bus services due to local government cutbacks.
We will give local authorities the power to regulate bus services – ending two decades of decline in this most vital of public services.
And, with one in five young people in further education considering dropping out because of costs, we are also pledging to make local public transport free for under 18s and students. If we’re serious about tackling climate change, and ending our reliance on car use, then we need to give young people a real incentive to use public transport.
And if we’re serious about making these changes than we need to be honest about how we’re going to pay for them. The Green Party is the only party that’s talking openly and honestly about tax. We’re not ashamed to say that the richest individuals and biggest corporations should be paying more. That’s why we want a higher rate of income tax for the highest earners, it’s why we want a wealth tax on the richest 1% and it’s why we will shut down the tax loopholes that allow big business to get away without paying their fair share.
Because we won’t bring about equality in this country, we won’t bring about stronger local communities, and we won’t tackle the vested interests that continue to dictate our politics unless we are bold and honest about who is going to foot the bill.
And it’s this boldness and this willingness to challenge the status quo that runs through the veins of this city – and our candidate here Darren Hall.
I’m so proud to be standing alongside him here – and to be joining him once again on the campaign trail. Our message today is clear: for a different kind of Britain, for affordable and efficient local transport, for a decent future for young people in this country, and for a real alternative – vote Green on Thursday, and send a message to the Establishment.
[Speech delivered by Natalie Bennett at 10am Saturday the 2nd of May in Bristol]
[With thanks to Aaron Chown for providing photos]