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Green 'vision of a fair economy'

The Green Party is pledging to create one million quality and stable jobs as it promotes an end to austerity and the rebuilding of public services.

Launching the manifesto, leader Natalie Bennett told an audience in London 400,000 of the jobs would be in the NHS and social care.

The Greens are urging voters to back a "peaceful political revolution" at the General Election on May 7.

Ms Bennett said: "At the heart of this manifesto is a vision of a fair economy.

"That fair economy demands the end to austerity. It demands we restore and enhance the essential public services we all but particularly the most vulnerable.

"That restoration of the public realm combined with investment in renewable energy and energy conservation, that can create one million quality, stable jobs.

"Rebuilding our public sector, 400,000 of those jobs are in the NHS and social care.

"That fair economy is paid for by the rebalancing that we so desperately need, to see multinational companies and rich individuals paying their fair share in taxes as they are simply not paying now."

Ms Bennett told activists this was a landmark election for the party, its first with a foothold in Parliament and with polls indicating a five-fold increase in their support on 2010.

She said it was a "new kind of politics" where the economy and society could be run for the many and not the few.

The leader said: "It sees the end of the disastrous policy of austerity that is making the poor, the disadvantaged and the young pay for the greed and the fraud of the bankers.

"This is a vision that is exciting increasing numbers of Britons."

Turning to her jobs policy, Ms Bennett said: "That fair economy demands every worker is paid a living wage. It is really not a radical statement to say that if you work full time you should earn enough money to live on.

"And yet we are the only UK party who is saying the minimum wage should immediately be lifted to a living wage and should reach £10 an hour by 2020."

The Green leader said protection of the NHS was at the heart of the party's election offer as she vowed to strip all private operators from the organisation.

She said the "expensive, destructive" market would be removed from the health service.

Ms Bennett said: "Behind that is an understanding of what privatisation has really meant for so many of our public services.

"It's meant the cutting of the pay and conditions of workers, it's meant the cutting of the quality of services and it has meant the shovelling of public money into private hands."

Other policies include re-nationalising the railways and policies to tackle climate change.

Caroline Lucas, former Green Party leader and the only Green MP in the last parliament, said tackling the environmental crisis is not "some luxury that is only possible when there are good economic times".

She added the issue could not be discarded when times are tough "like that extra cappuccino on the way to work".

On the "scandal of cold homes", Ms Lucas went on: "We will provide a free nationwide retro-fit insulation programme, concentrating on areas where fuel poverty is most serious.

"Our programme is designed to insulate nine million homes in total, delivered by local authorities, creating more than 100,000 jobs.

"And there would be the option of a further £15,000 in subsidised loans from the Green Investment Bank for further green energy improvements.

"We would invest around £45 billion over the course of the Parliament and that could be paid for by using some of the £12 billion a year that we raise by increasing corporation tax or we could redirect some of the Government's current £100 billion infrastructure budget.

"Extraordinarily not one penny of that budget is earmarked for energy efficiency measures."

Ms Lucas said the money existed but the issue was one of political choice, adding: "It's nonsense to say we can waste billions on new roads or on HS2 but we can't afford to keep people warm in their own homes."

Ms Lucas said £1.27 is returned to the economy for every £1 spent on energy efficiency measures, and insisted it was the only way of reducing energy bills plus it would reduce climate emissions.

On the role of smaller parties, Ms Lucas said the Greens could push a minority Labour government on Trident, the NHS, education and public ownership of the railways.

She said: "We've ruled out any kind of support to a Conservative government but we would look at supporting a minority Labour government on a case-by-case basis.

"That would give us a real opportunity to push Labour on the policies we know the public wants and which are at the heart of our manifesto - whether that's scrapping nuclear weapons or reversing the privatisation in our NHS, whether that's returning local schools to local control or bringing rail back into public ownership."


From Belfast Telegraph