The Green party co-leader Jonathan Bartley will claim that Boris Johnson’s undiplomatic language about Libya, Barack Obama and people living in the Congo amounts to no more than old-fashioned bigotry.
He will use a flagship speech to his party’s conference in Harrogate on Monday to claim the Conservative party is “led by a zombie prime minister” and “rotten to its core”.
But Bartley, who runs the party alongside Caroline Lucas, will save his biggest attack for the foreign secretary, who he will describe as a “poison” at the core of the Conservative movement.
“In many ways he is a joke. But then you listen to what he’s actually saying. Let’s not pretend that Boris Johnson’s comments about dead bodies in Libya was an aberration. It wasn’t,” Bartley is expected to say.
“This is the man who calls Barack Obama ‘part Kenyan’ with ‘ancestral dislike’ of the UK. Who describes people from the Congo as having ‘watermelon smiles’. Calls Commonwealth citizens ‘flag waving piccaninnies’.”
Referring finally to the controversy when Johnson was editor of the Spectator and the magazine suggested Liverpudlians were wallowing in their “victim status” after the Hillsborough tragedy, Bartley will say: “This is not new bigotry. It’s old. It’s unacceptable. And it’s time the Conservative party took collective responsibility for this human wrecking ball and kicked him out of the cabinet.”
Bartley will also use the speech to try to grasp back credit for the Greens for policies that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party have taken hold of, resulting in a successful boost with the electorate.
“Where we lead, others follow. Our London assembly members forced a living wage. Our MEPs stood up for refugees when others stood back. And in parliament, we have consistently kept climate change on the agenda.
“And you know what? I believe we will be the most influential party in 21st-century politics.”
However, Bartley knows the Greens have a fight on their hands to re-establish their relevance after losing voters to Labour at the last election. The party slipped backwards in the June poll, gaining just 1.6% of the vote, compared with 3.8% in 2015.
The Greens also made no inroads in target seats such as Bristol West and Norwich South, where the incumbent Labour MPs increased their majorities and the Green candidates lost vote share.
Bartley will say that it was his party that was standing “against the establishment consensus that austerity was necessary” after the financial crash seven years ago, long before Corbyn placed the issue at the core of the Labour message.
“We warned that the system was unsustainable. And then there was the financial crisis. In 2010 we were told by the Tories, by Labour, by the Lib Dems that austerity was the only answer. We said no. And we kept saying no. We joined UK Uncut on the streets. We marched to Downing Street. We bravely dared to be different. And seven years later, the agenda has changed.”
He will also claim that the Green party changed minds on fracking and had triggered a debate on the universal basic income.
The issue of Brexit is also likely to be widely discussed at the conference, after Molly Scott Cato MEP reaffirmed the party’s commitment to a “ratification referendum” as a means of reversing the referendum vote.
She told delegates that promising such a vote could help “bring an end to this damaging and dangerous chapter in our country’s history”, as she called on the room to “stop Brexit!”
The Greens argue that it is not undemocratic to ask for a further vote. “We are asking for more democracy, not less. We are asking for a democratic choice between two real, possible futures at the end of the Brexit negotiations: the deal, or remaining a member of the EU,” added Scott Cato.
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