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Greens pledge free social care

New wealth taxes would be introduced to pay for free social care for the over-65s under the Green Party, its leader has announced.

Workers earning over £100,000 would pay more and a "Robin Hood" financial transaction tax would be created to fund support for vulnerable pensioners, Natalie Bennett said.

The problem of how to resolve the enormous costs of care for the elderly will be one of battlegrounds of the general election campaign but Ms Bennett insisted that in a "decent, humane" society it must be free.

Addressing her party's spring conference in Liverpool, Ms Bennett said: "Free healthcare is the very cornerstone of our NHS. Whether you are rich or poor you have the right to the best that is available.

"That's something the Green Party will restore - and extend. For that same principle should apply to social care - the support and services that you need to lead a fulfilling life should be available when you need it, free at the point of use.

"We believe that to be a decent, humane, caring society, social care must be free.

"We believe those who have the most should contribute to help pay for social care. We need a range of new taxes aimed at making Britain a more equal society.

"We would introduce a new wealth tax, rigorously clamp down on tax avoidance and evasion and introduce a financial transaction tax - a Robin Hood Tax, and we are not ashamed to say that those on incomes above £100,000 should pay more income tax.

"Providing free social care for the over-65's means security and freedom from fear, suffering and loneliness for many, and it means 200,000 new jobs and training places.

"We will consult experts, users, and care workers on its exact design - but our manifesto will include this as a core pledge: social care is not a privilege, it is a right."

Ms Bennett said the disintegration of the two party system was paving the way for a new form of politics. She said: "The politics of the future is not a politics of transaction, that discredited politics which offers selected individuals and groups a bribe of short-term, unsustainable personal advantage."

She added: "In just nine weeks' time, you will have in your hands something miraculous... the possibility of a peaceful political revolution.

"Your vote can change the face of Britain. It can end the failed austerity experiment, end the spiteful blaming of the poor, the sick, the vulnerable for the mistakes of the wealthy.

"This election can be a turning point in history. The moment where we can deliver a better Britain, a Britain which works for all its people... a Britain which cares."

More than 1,300 activists are expected to attend the three day conference at Liverpool's ACC, making it the largest event the party has staged.

Ms Bennett will hope the event will help to draw a line under an embarrassing interview last month in which she appeared unable to answer questions about key policies.

After a grilling on LBC, which saw her repeatedly lapse into silence, have coughing fits and complain of a "huge cold", the leader admitted she suffered an "excruciating mind blank" and apologised to party members for her performance.

Party members greeted the start of her speech with a standing ovation and former party leader Caroline Lucas, the party's first MP, told conference she was "proud" of her "colleague and friend".

The party is planning to field candidates in 509 constituencies and is focusing on 12 key target seats at the general election on May 7.

It has ruled out entering a coalition in the event of a hung parliament in May but is "open to" supporting a Labour minority government.

Ms Lucas said: "With the rise of the SNP, and with our own Green surge, we have the chance to forge a new grouping in Parliament. A progressive alliance.

"Of course, in Scotland and in Wales we'll be fighting hard for our distinctive values and policies. Just as we do against those individual Labour and even Lib Dem candidates with whom we have something in common. That's the nature of British politics under the first past the post system."

The party has been recording similar levels of support to the Liberal Democrats in polls, and has seen its membership surge to more than 55,000.

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