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Natalie Bennett speaks at BU election hustings

Leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett spoke at the BU election event this week urging young people to vote.

Ms Bennett was first due appear in person at the all-day political event, but was forced to cancel and Skype in due to her busy schedule.

With the event mainly focusing on May’s upcoming election, Ms Bennett began by encouraging young people to get out to the ballot box instead of following Russell Brand’s argument convincing people to avoid voting.

She said: “Everybody should vote, I guess most people would have heard the Russell Brand message, I would say that doesn’t work because if you don’t vote, if you stay away from the polling station, if you don’t register to vote, then you will be counted as the people who are happy enough with how things are that they didn’t bother to go and express their view.”

Ms Bennett drew on the recent Scottish referendum elections to highlight the importance of voting, she said: “97% of eligible people enrolled to vote, 85% of people voting, when in a normal general election you see 60 or 65% voting. Really critically, young people voting in the same kind of proportion as the over 60s.”

The Green leader even suggested for those who don’t feel like they can vote for any political party to “still register, still go into the polling station and write a rude word on the ballot paper” as even doing this will “register your views”.

On the ‘green surge’ Ms Bennett highlighted the party has now passed 51,000 members in England and Wales, she said: “The proportion of young greens in our membership has doubled since the green surge started. This is really the time to get involved in party politics.”

Regarding key policies, Ms Bennett maintained that profit had no place in the healthcare, urging that all services should be free even prescriptions, saying: “We have to get back to running the NHS publicly owned and publicly run and absolutely maintain that free healthcare.”

When asked about the upcoming TV election debates, Ms Bennett supported the current plan to have one larger debate featuring Labour, the Tories, Lib Dems, UKIP, the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru and then having a one-on-one debate between Labour and Conservatives, as well as the greater dominance of female politicians in these debates.

“We’re practically going to see gender balance in these debates, three women and four men. I really hope that that’s going to inspire lots of women, particularly young women around the country to think ‘politics, that’s something I can do’, so there’s a message to take away there as well,” said Ms Bennett.

Ms Bennett faced further questions on her recent comments regarding ISIS and freedom of speech, claiming she was “misunderstood” when she suggested being a part of ISIS was not a crime.

She said: “To be absolutely clear belonging to ISIS, supporting ISIS or Al Qaeda in any way should be a crime because that means you are supporting violence.”

The questioning moved on to concerns over fracking which is a method of drilling to expose shale gas. Ms Bennett said her party is “absolutely opposed” to this environmentally harmful method as “we have to stop using fossil fuels, we have to deal with the fact we have a massive carbon bubble.” She urged the importance of renewable energy and suggested fossil fuels to have become a “distraction” for the recent government.

To finish the conference, Ms Bennett discussed the general outlook for the Green Party, saying: “Things are just growing at enormous speed for the Green Party, we’ve got huge opportunities.

“We can see in politics in Britain that the future is not looking like the past and goodness knows we need to see a new kind of politics.”