UK Politics

Green Party conference: Natalie Bennett calls for Iraq war apology from Labour

Natalie Bennett
Image caption Ms Bennett outlined her party's "alternative vision" of high wages and "ungrudging" benefits provision

The Green Party has called on Labour leader Ed Miliband to apologise for the "disastrous" Iraq war.

Opening the party's spring conference in Nottingham, party leader Natalie Bennett said Labour had "utterly ignored the views of millions" when it declared war just under 10 years ago.

"The Iraqi people are still struggling, and dying, as a result of the consequences of that attack," she said.

In a wide-ranging speech, she also focused on inequality and social care.

There was a "tragic anniversary I have to highlight", she said, "for it is a little more than 10 years since the great, two-million strong anti-war protest took to the streets of London, and a little less than 10 years since the Labour government utterly ignored the views of those people, and millions of others, and started the Iraq war".

A survey had shown that 55% of people thought that the anti-war marchers "were right", she said.

"Yet Ed Miliband, while he has apologised for the Blair government's immigration policy, has failed to apologise for the decision to take Britain into an unjustifiable war."

'Orchards and fields'

Criticising the government's austerity programme, she said: "Up and down the country, as I've travelled around, I've found groups and individuals saying 'no more'.

"'No more' to poverty wages - people working full-time, yet unable to meet the cost of even the basic necessities. Or stuck in a part-time job they can't survive on, unable to get any more hours.

"'No more' to child poverty - children who go to school hungry, children who don't have a proper winter coat, children who can't go on the school trip their peers will be talking about for weeks.

"'No more' to shivering pensioners shivering under layers of quilts in drafty, cold homes they can't afford to heat."

She also argued that unemployed people were being "forced into such alleged 'educational' roles as stacking for Poundland for not just low wages, but no wages at all", while the public was "increasingly saying 'no more' to the demonisation of benefit recipients".

"The Green Party has a positive alternative vision," she concluded, "of a country where the minimum wage is a living wage, where benefits are set at a level allowing a decent life and granted ungrudgingly to all who need them.

"Where there are warm, comfortable low-carbon homes for all, including the one million empty homes now found in parts of the country blighted by the unbalanced overdevelopment of the South East. A country living within the limits of our one planet.

"A country with a jobs-rich, low-carbon economy, with orchards and richly growing fields, vibrant manufacturing industries, and strong local economies built around small businesses and cooperatives. A country fit for the 21st century - and a country that can look forward to a stable, comfortable 22nd."

The party's spring conference coincides with its 40th anniversary.

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