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Anthony Slaughter’s speech to Green Party of England and Wales Autumn Conference 2022

Prynhawn da cynhadledd,

Good afternoon conference, greetings from Wales.

I’d like to start with a message on behalf of Wales Green Party to one of our Newport members, a member very well known to all of you, our outgoing Green Party deputy leader Amelia Womack.

Amelia, Wales Green Party would like to thank you for your many years of tireless work, dedication and commitment to our party across both nations. Working with you has been an inspiration and an education in doing politics differently, speaking truth to power and getting Greens elected.

Diolch yn fawr Amelia. Thank you.

Conference, as we have been hearing and discussing here in Harrogate, these are extremely challenging times as we face multiple crises, climate, energy and economic, all impacting heavily on the most vulnerable in our communities locally and across the globe. As Greens, we have long understood the interconnection between these crises and are the only party to have the genuinely joined-up policies to tackle these challenges and create a fairer, greener future. That is why it is so vitally important that we continue to build on previous successes and continue to get increasing numbers of Greens elected at every level of government, not incrementally, but with an acceleration of growth and ambition for our Party. Because if not now, when?

In Wales, we took an important step towards realising this ambition back in May when we made our historic breakthrough in the Local Authority elections, getting Green councillors elected across Wales, North, South, East and West. Eight Green councillors across the country and two councillors in Cardiff were elected on the Common Ground joint ticket.

Across Wales, these newly elected councillors are already making a difference to their communities, from Lauren James in Newport speaking up successfully for her constituents on local transport and planning issues to Nathan Goldup – John getting his Climate Emergency motion passed unanimously by Neath Port Talbot Council earlier this week, all of our new councillors are showing the real difference a Green in the room makes.

Congratulations and thanks to all those candidates and the campaign teams whose tireless efforts ensured these successes, but also to every individual candidate and local party activist who campaigned in their communities across Wales. We achieved record results in many areas and each and every one of you played a vital part in building a solid foundation for our future success. I have every confidence that many of you will be joining your colleagues as Green councillors in the future.

I would also like to thank our outgoing Wales Field Organiser Ian Chandler. During their three years in the role Ian’s professionalism and commitment played a crucial part in this electoral success.

We have come a long way, but there is so much more to do. We must now achieve electoral representation at every level in Wales, building on this year’s breakthrough to ensure we get elected Green representation in the Senedd in 2026. We punch above our weight in influence but we know that we can achieve so much more.

The recent electoral reform announced for future Senedd elections is a gift for the Wales Green Party that puts us within touching distance of real influence in the next Welsh Parliament. While the reforms are not the fully proportional system we would choose, the next Senedd election will be the first in mainland UK with no element of first-past-the-post and offers a real opportunity for a historic Green result at a national level.

Building on our 2021 Senedd campaign, where we came frustratingly close to electoral success in south Wales, a shift in vote share of less than 3 per cent in Cardiff could achieve this ambitious and necessary target. We can win Senedd seats and we will win Senedd seats.

This, alongside new Green MPs at Westminster, would be a truly transformative moment for the Green Party and we look forward to working together with colleagues across the border in the coming years to achieve both of these crucial goals. These challenging times demand no less of us.

We are entering a new era of Welsh politics. As already mentioned, society is facing unprecedented challenges, desperately calling for our Green policies and our joined-up solutions to fundamentally shift narratives and systems. It is code red for action on climate and nature and the time and devastating effects are being felt at home in our communities.

Wales is particularly impacted. Wales is being left behind with regional inequality hitting us hard. Wales has the highest levels of poverty in the UK with one in three children living in poverty. Over 60 per cent of people in Wales are facing fuel poverty this coming winter. Rent rises in Wales are higher than anywhere else in the UK outside of London. The cost of living crisis is having a real and immediate impact on the most vulnerable in our society.

The UK Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda has done nothing but widen already unacceptable levels of inequality in Wales while supporting Westminster’s ongoing ‘power grab’ attack on devolution. We can only begin to imagine the devastating impacts of the new ideologically driven, unelected Westminster administration. People are going to die.

This is why our radical, Green voice is so desperately needed in Wales. Wales Green Party will continue to stand with community organisations, tenants unions, trade unions and others campaigning for equality and justice and defending our communities. We fully support calls for the Welsh and UK Governments to freeze rent – not people – and an immediate six-month ban on evictions, a cap on fuel bills and a real windfall tax on the dirty fossil fuel industry. These current crises were not inevitable. They are the result of clear political choices. We know things can be different.

This moment is also a crucial time for Welsh democracy. The entire devolution settlement is at risk, threatened by a UK government intent on clawing back powers from the devolved nations. The post-Brexit power grab of the Internal Markets Bill and the Shared Prosperity fund undermine any efforts of the Welsh Government to maintain high environmental and food standards and makes a mockery of the Well-being of Future Generations Act.

Westminster isn’t working. Wales deserves better.

As a party that believes in the devolution of power to the lowest possible level, Greens in Wales will do all in our power to resist this attack on devolution, but defending devolution is not enough. Wales Green Party believes that an independent Wales is a vital and necessary step towards building a fairer, greener society.

An independent nation working together with others to build a truly equal, sustainable future. A nation in control of its ample sources of clean, renewable energy moving towards a zero-carbon future. Our vision of an independent Wales is that of a diverse, cosmopolitan and internationalist nation, committed to equality.

Independence could rid us of the toxic British class system, support for oppressive regimes, the international arms trade, nuclear power, corruption, and tax avoidance. All of which are hugely damaging both at home and internationally.

Wales Green Party is proud to work with other progressive organisations in moving towards this goal of Welsh independence. While I can’t be in Cardiff today joining thousands, including many Welsh Greens, on the biggest post-Covid pro-independence rally, I want to take this opportunity to send a message of support and solidarity from Wales Green Party and Conference.

At a time of multiple crises, elected Welsh Greens will make the difference that is needed.

Our vision for Wales will act as a global case study for what a truly equal, sustainable society can look like, with real investment in our communities – putting people and planet first.

Our aims are ambitious but necessary.

Working together we can, we must and we will get the electoral success at every level in Wales that our communities so desperately need.