On behalf of the Green party of England and Wales, it is an enormous pleasure to welcome you all to Liverpool, to the Global Greens and the European Greens Congress.
As the one and only Green MP elected so far at least to the British Parliament, I must confess I sometimes feel a little lonely. But today I feel exactly the opposite. Looking out at all of you is a reminder that each and every time each and every one of us practices Green politics, we are part of a vast global movement, that we stand with millions alongside us, that our values are shared by a huge Green family, and that a passion for environmental and social justice unites people from Britain to Burkina Faso, from Peru to Pakistan. And we are joined here in Liverpool by delegates from all of those countries and countless others besides.
And as we meet over the next few days, I am confident we will find many causes for radical hope in the amazing work that Green colleagues are undertaking. When we leave Liverpool and travel home, let's take these with us – a constant reminder that, in fact, we are never alone. That, even in the bleakest of times, hope persists, hope not as some kind of warm, fuzzy feeling, but something much stronger – what Rebecca Solnit calls: an axe you break down doors with in an emergency.
Here in Britain, hope is behind our renewed commitment to healing the divisions laid bare by the EU referendum. Our Prime Minister triggered article 50 just 24 hours ago. And overnight, every crisis has become even more acute.
Particularly, the one facing our environment. The planet is burning, and we are walking away from the cooperation and the urgency that ought to be the rational response. Theresa May has no mandate to scrap environmental protection. She has no mandate for this government’s ideologically driven anti-immigration extreme Brexit.
Conference, it is not Europe that we should be turning our backs on that of those stoking the fires of xenophobia and fear.
Yet our Prime Minister is effectively driving us off the cliff edge with no regard for the lives of EU citizens living here or for British citizens living in the EU. She is tearing down bridges at a time when everything from the climate crisis to the refugee crisis demands we build bridges, so it is up to us to pick up the pieces and find hope among the rubble. The challenge of our time is to stand tall at this moment of change, not just for the EU, but for the rest of the world, and I'm pleased to welcome Greens from across the globe at this time of all times to plan for a future we can all be proud of. It is precisely at times like these that the politics of hope, the politics of the environment, of equality and justice becomes ever more urgent, evermore necessary. Hope is why we are all in this room today. It is why we turn up, why we stand up.
The politics of hope isn't just some kind of blind optimism. It doesn't fob us off with false platitudes that things will be OK. Hope is hardheaded and it makes warriors of us all. Hope radiates the energy we need for our struggle. It is grounded in the analysis of how to make the desirable first feasible and then achievable.
It's what Patrice Colours, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, explained as being behind collective action, to build collective power, to achieve collective transformation. The politics of hope lights a candle rather than curses the darkness. When it feels like darkness is overwhelming, we light a candle and another candle. We actively look for others lighting the way with us, and we actively find ways to build community and common cause. We defy the politics of hatred that would divide us and bring us down. Just by doing that alone, we become positive examples of the change we need to see. And just as those who inspire us, may never know the effect they’ve had nor can we ever know all those who might be moved by the actions that we take, when we literally lay down our bodies on the line to physically resist the fracking industry or the builders of roads and dams. When we use our wheelchairs to block inaccessible buses. When we protect trees, when we defend people’s homes and their dignity. When we are doing any of these things, we aren’t just trying to shake the here and now, we are also writing a new history for our planet and the people that inhabit it.
Our politics, politics of hope, is about knowing that last year was the hottest year on record. It’s about knowing that the future of our planet is at risk and yet not giving up. Because we owe it to the generations that precede us and those to come. And because the politics of hope knows that there is always a choice, and with the right political will, right choices can be made.
The politics of hope is fierce and it is colourful. It rages and it endures. It is in this room and it is wherever we choose to take it. It is ready. It has always been ready. And if we are ready too, the power of together means the politics of hope is only going to get stronger.