The leader of the Green Party last night launched a highly personal defence of immigration to Britain, drawing on her own experience of migrating from Australia as an adult.
Natalie Bennett told the audience at the BBC’s opposition leaders debate that she had made Britain her home after briefly visiting it because she was so struck by the country’s traditions and way of life.
“I’m an immigrant; I’ve chosen to become a British citizen, to make my life in Britain,” she said. “I came as a visitor, I loved the British way of life, I loved the traditions, the culture, and I decided to stay and make this my home.
“I went into politics because I want to improve that, I want to improve that, I want to protect it, and I want to make sure the vulnerable and the nature environment are protected.”
Ms Bennett has previously spoken of how she is not interested in returning to Australia, where she was born, partly because there is “a very strong strand of anti-intellectual thought in Australian life”. She has lived in London since 1999.
Told by an audience member that immigration had had a negative impact on public services, she replied:
“I’m afraid I entirely disagree with the premise if your question. What’s put our public services at risk is austerity, failure to invest and privatization, particularly of our NHS.”
Ms Bennett made good on her promise to Green Party activists that she would take on Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, who says immigration has had a negative impact on the UK.
“I live in Somers Town in central London, a very diverse community. There are migrants there, some of them are cleaners, some of them are doctors, some of them are grandmas. They’re all contributing to the British way of life in their own way,” she said.
“There’s someone here on this platform who wants to utterly demonise those migrants, and you know who I mean – I want to celebrate the contribution of migrants to Britain, and I believe we should all be doing that.”
The Green Party has made much of its support for migration in this year’s campaign, in contrast to the stance of the other parties.
After Labour launched a tea mug with “controls on immigration” written on the side, the greens responded by printing a batch of “standing up for migrants” mug – which sold out within hours.
Natalie Bennett confirmed at an event in her constituency on Wednesday that another batch of the mugs would be printed.
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