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Natalie Bennett: We Need a New Economic Model

We’ve now had a flavour of the 2015 election campaign, with the Labour conference completed, and the Tories well under way.

And what a contrast, on this evidence, this is going to be to the recent Scottish referendum campaign, with its excitement, its hope, its sense of possibility.

We’re being offered by the Tories more, biting, austerity, more suffering for the poorest, often the young, both children and young adults.

The children will see parents, many of them working, pinching and scraping, stressed, tired and desperate, with benefits (going to at least half of households with at least one adult in work) getting lower and lower in real terms, or slashed for those affected by the drop in the benefit cap, while wages are stuck at inadequate levels.

Young adults will face the danger of unemployment combined with homelessness, those who go to university face the massive weight of student debt dogging the next 30 years of their life, in a labour market where even when they’ve done everything society told them – the degree, the masters, the unpaid internships – face ending up with a zero-hours contract at a local chain coffee shop that doesn’t pay the taxes needed to maintain our social fabric.

And Labour, well it is offering the same austerity, just, it hopes, with a slightly smilier face.

Understandably, this is going to leave a lot of voters feeling depressed and angry.

But it needn’t. The poverty of ideas, the sheer inhumanity of political offerings, is a sign that change is coming.

Our current economic model is broken and the status quo will not continue. After almost four decades of Thatcherite ideas dominating our political debate, the neoliberal model is clearly broken even in its own terms.

What we have to build is a society in which everyone has access to the resources for a decent quality of life, and do that within the limits of our one planet (severely overstrained as the recent news of the 50% decline in wildlife brought crushingly home).

That’s what the Green Party is offering. A new model: one where the minimum wage is a living wage (if you work full-time, you’ll earn enough money to live on), in which decent benefits are available to everyone who needs them, not grudgingly, not in a way that makes people feel like this is charity, but because we are a humane society that supports all of its members.

Of course, the business-as-usual parties would cry that we can’t afford this.

But we can, if the parasitical multinational companies, the rich individuals stashing their millions in tax havens pay their way – pay their taxes, pay decent wages, and pay a wealth tax. And if we rein in the fraud-ridden, risk-loving financial sector, so that it doesn’t break the global economy again.

It’s a long overdue rebalancing, tackling the huge increase in inequality that we’ve seen in recent decades, making work pay (instead of making work pay much less, as this government has done). And rebuilding strong local economies around small businesses and cooperatives.

And it offers hope – a way to build a better future for all of us.

Every day more people are coming on board with this message – Green Party membership is up 40% since January 1; we’re polling more strongly than ever before.

There’s no need for despair, let’s work together to build a stronger society.

Natalie Bennett is the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.

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Published 1st October 2014

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