In fact, I would like to take this moment to acknowledge the fact that I can stand before you here at all. It is a unique strength of our party that a non-MP is able to stand for co-leader and generate what has been a robust and healthy debate about who we are as a party and where we are going.
I have asked a question that is a perennial one for the Green Party. Are we a left wing party that includes the environment as part of its policy mix? Eco-socialists? Red Greens?
Or are we a true party of sustainability – environmental, social, cultural and economic – willing and able to be an independent entity with a decisive influence on government policy? Whichever parties may comprise the government. The left-right spectrum is only one aspect of political action and if we limit ourselves to only being able to deal with one end of that spectrum we are far less able to move the focus of politics to genuine sustainability.
The urgency of interconnected local and global crises – climate change, biodiversity loss, mass extinctions, inequality – all demand that we work across political lines.
It is easy to glibly dismiss such a question as mere philosophical speculation, or ‘just about political positioning’. But it is far more fundamental than that.
My vision for the Greens is that we be the sustainable axis around which governments turn. I am not advocating that we become a Blue-Green Party. It is a real failure of imagination to think that this is the only alternative to a Red-Green political project and it fails to appreciate that the old, stale politics of the left-right axis are of limited use when facing the unprecedented challenges of the 21st century.
To many younger voters (and potential voters) left and right hold minimal appeal; we will only win them over with evidence-based, problem-solving approaches rather than coming from a position of political ideology. What I am advocating is that the Green Party return to its original Charter values as a Green-Green Party that is neither left nor right and able to work across the political spectrum.
This does not mean abandoning our social policy. It does require us to articulate the charter principle of Social Responsibility – grounded in an eco-centric ethic – which encompasses Social Justice but also situates us as part of the natural world with responsibilities not just to ourselves but to all other species.
That is the essential contribution we have to make. We can no longer content ourselves with waiting on the sidelines. We need to get over ourselves and put the planet first.