Natalie Bennett: 'Politics is changing, Corbyn could be next PM'

Natalie Bennett

The Green party leader, Natalie Bennett, has said that she thinks Jeremy Corbyn has a realistic chance of becoming the next prime minister.

When asked whether she thought the suggestion that the Labour leader was unelectable was accurate, Bennet said “absolutely not”, adding: “The neoliberal project has failed and people are looking for alternatives.” Asked later if she thought Corbyn could become prime minister, she said: “Very much so”.

Bennett was speaking to the Guardian after giving a speech to about 500 Green party members at its autumn conference in Bournemouth, in which she told her audience that global politics was moving towards policies the Green party has consistently pursued for decades.

Bennett said historians would look back and see 2015 as the beginning of great political change, “the year that a fundamental shift in politics saw it move away from the mantra of ‘greed is good, the environment doesn’t matter’ that rose with Margaret Thatcher and will fall with David Cameron”.

She added: “[The] Greek leader Alexis Tsipras this week in his victory speech thanked the European Greens for their support for a different kind of Europe. The clear re-election of Syriza in Greece and the strength of Podemos in Spain are just two examples of the future of politics in Europe.”

Bennett, who has been the party’s leader since 2012, said that Corbyn’s landslide victory in the Labour leadership election, the Green party’s best ever election result in May and the domination of the SNP in Scotland were all evidence that politics was moving towards the Green party’s position.

In a veiled reference to the divisions that have emerged in the Labour party since Corbyn’s win, Bennett said: “In the Green party, we know what our policies are, we know that our values and principles are solid, unmovable foundations. We don’t tack around with the political winds: we stand up for what we believe in.”

The Greens retained their only seat in parliament in May’s general election, with Caroline Lucas – MP for Brighton Pavilion – increasing her majority from 1,252 to a shade under 8,000. The party increased its overall share of the vote four-fold, winning 1.1m votes and 4% of the electorate, their best election result ever.

The party claims that its conference, which has been overshadowed by the Ukip conference in Doncaster running concurrently, is its biggest ever and that more than 30% of those attending joined the party in the past year, while 42% were there for the first time.

The party’s position as the more leftwing alternative to Labour has been thrown into question by the election of Corbyn, who champions many traditional Green policies.

“I know that some commentators are asking: what’s the difference between Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour and the Greens?” said Bennett, addressing an audience in the same hall in Bournemouth that the Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, used for a speech to his party’s members on Wednesday. “Communities up and down this country who are dealing with Labour councils know one answer to that.

“They have Labour councils who aren’t listening to them, aren’t meeting their needs, are too often in the pockets of the developers and big business, who believe that despite all the evidence that ‘economic development’ comes from supporting an out-of-town supermarket that destroys local independent businesses by the score.”

The Green party currently has 65,964 members, an overall increase of about 4,000 since polling day, but a fall of just over 1,000 since August. Bennett denied that her party could lose members to a Corbyn-led Labour party, insisting that August was a time when “people are understandably thinking about things other than politics” and that she was confident they would see their membership figures increase again.

Politics was more diverse than ever before, said Bennett, who has called on Corbyn to put the issue of electoral reform at the top of his political agenda. “The government only has a majority of 12 – a fragile majority that’s already dissolved on a couple of issues. United in a just cause, we can win electoral reform.

“If we had a fair electoral system, Caroline Lucas would have 24 other Green MPs with her in the Commons, but she, like Jenny Jones in the Lords, does the work of at least that many average MPs, so all we can say to them is thank you.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Friday 25th September 2015 17.26 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010