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Editorial We cannot let smears derail a Labour Party offering radical change

IN DUNDEE Labour has once again demonstrated that when allowed to focus on policy rather than confabulated scandal it has the potential to radically change Britain.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s “green industrial revolution” is a serious bid to invest in renewable energy and dramatically shrink Britain’s carbon footprint. As today’s enormous march in Amsterdam should have reminded all politicians, the issue of climate change is not going away. Unless more is done to reduce emissions the world is likely to warm significantly by 2050. 

Sea levels will rise, species will die out, farmland will become unviable, droughts and floods will increase in frequency and severity. A warming world is predicted to create a billion refugees over the next 30 years. As Jeremy Corbyn told Scottish Labour conference, there is “no bigger threat to our future.” 

Tackling the issue is urgent, and means electing a Labour government. Theresa May’s record on climate change is not much better than the asinine denialism of US President Donald Trump: the Tories may not ridicule the scientific evidence as he does, but their policies militate to increase emissions rather than cut them: they have repeatedly changed the law to assist the dirty and dangerous fracking industry (which Labour are committed to ban). 

Their defence of the privatisation and fragmentation of public transport networks precludes the serious investment in a national public transport system to reduce reliance on private cars; Richard Leonard’s promise that Scottish Labour in power would reverse the deregulation of bus services and bring in free bus travel for all is by contrast exactly the kind of radical proposal that is needed — besides having any number of additional positives unrelated to climate change, such as liberating poorer and older people by allowing them extensive free travel, boosting tourism by enabling free and easy access to more places and creating jobs by increasing bus usage and demand.

Jobs were a key part of McDonnell’s pitch today. Tackling climate change requires a huge mobilisation: as David Wallace-Wells pointed out in a recent interview with the Morning Star, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believes a mobilisation of resources on the scale of the Allied effort in the second world war is required. To do it we need to invest in tens of thousands of skilled jobs. 

McDonnell says the green industrial revolution could create 50,000 of these. What a contrast to a tired Tory Party with no vision at all for this country’s future, content to let unscrupulous employers drive down standards and pay to create a poor, insecure and heavily indebted workforce. What a contrast too to the so-called Independent Group, whose spokesman Chuka Umunna laments that “politics is broken” but whose solutions to that problem are to promote the exact policies that brought us to this pass — including a depressing rejection of Labour’s plan to take our water back into public hands at a time when the private companies charging us for access to this natural resource are losing hundreds of millions of litres of water through leaks and are despatching Uber drivers to investigate problems after cutting thousands of their own staff.

Labour has the drive and ambition to be a transformative government. That transformation to a democratic and much more equal Britain is what the Establishment fears. That is the reason the gloves are off, with party staff and advisers subjected to ever more vicious and dishonest personal attacks in the press and a veritable industry having grown up with the sole purpose of demonising the party’s leader.

The crisis our country faces is too serious for us to allow the attacks to take down our movement. Labour’s vision must be articulated and fought for at street and workplace level since most of the media cannot be trusted to report on it honestly.

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