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Why going green means voting Labour

LAUREN TOWNSEND looks at the rapidly growing success of the Labour Party’s Green New Deal, which aims to create a platform for Labour members, supporters and trade unionists to engage and organise for climate and economic justice

CAROLINE LUCAS’S descent from serious left-wing voice to just another anti-Brexit demagogue has been swift. In the days of Thatcher and Blair, the Greens were considered the party of socialism, persistently pushing Labour from the left with radical policies and their “manifesto for a sustainable society,” which heavily incorporated key socialist values. They rejected privatisation and free market economics while including commitments to improving workers’ rights and encouraging economic democracy, with promises to bring in progressive taxation and plans to redistribute wealth and power, Robin Hood style.

But Lucas’s opportunistic “emergency cabinet” stunt last weekend was another demonstration of just how far the Green Party has fallen — and with the Greens no longer the party of climate justice, if avoiding environmental catastrophe is at the top of your political wish-list then it is by the Labour candidate’s name you must put your “X” at the ballot box.

Despite its name, the Green Party is clearly more concerned with scoring political points over Brexit than making any legitimate attempt to tackle the current climate emergency. A misguided effort considering the majority of the public aren’t with them — 71 per cent of Britons recognise that the climate crisis is a more pressing long-term issue than Brexit.

Notably absent from Lucas’s failure of a female-only fantasy front bench were any women of colour. Why was Diane Abbott, a black woman and one of the most senior opposition politicians, not included, while backbenchers like Yvette Cooper were?

This is white, middle-class feminism at its worst. Not just because of the omission of any women of colour, which in itself is damning, but because she wants to sideline the democratically elected leader of the opposition for a cabinet full of austerity-supporting fossil fuel backers, such as Anna Soubry and Jo Swinson, under the pretence of wanting cross-party “unity.”

Lucas, and her recent comments, epitomise how the general population sees a large section of the green movement. Wealthy, middle-class, entitled and hypocritical

If Lucas truly wanted to stop a no-deal Brexit and push a radical green agenda, she would work with Corbyn and his shadow cabinet, which currently consists of some of the hardest working and radically ambitious socialist MPs we’ve seen in a long time.

I would take Corbyn’s cabinet, which includes the likes of Rebecca Long-Bailey, Dawn Butler and Laura Pidcock, over Lucas’s all-white, remain-voting, neoliberal idea of a unity cabinet any day.

While Lucas and the Greens talk the talk on climate, proposing environmental policies that will hit the working classes the hardest, such as the “meat tax,” Labour are walking the walk, uniting class and climate politics through their Green Industrial Revolution, with plans to nationalise the national grid and divert £13 billion of profits into renewable energy and decarbonisation.

It was Labour MPs and councillors across the country who joined strikes and protests by students and activists demanding governments act to avoid climate catastrophe and it was Labour that presented the motion to Parliament that resulted in Britain being the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency.

Labour’s plan promises to kick-start growth, tackle climate change and provide clean energy for the many, all while creating over 400,000 good, sustainable jobs, installing solar panels on nearly two million homes, improving public transport across the country, banning fracking and creating a new Clean Air Act.

Alongside Labour’s Community Organising Unit, prominent members of the shadow cabinet have been hosting Green Industrial Revolution events across the country, bringing hundreds of people together, in mainly post-industrial towns, to discuss how a green transition to a sustainable future can work for them, in their homes, in their workplaces and in their communities.

But it’s not just in the House of Commons that Labour are leading the way. As the biggest political party not only in Britain but in Western Europe, with over 500,000 members, it is Labour that has the boots on the ground ready to fight for climate, social and economic justice. Labour for a Green New Deal (LNGD), a grassroots campaign started by Labour Party members, has already set up 20 local groups across the country, gained the backing of Momentum and key unions, and set to work building the vision for a Green New Deal locally.

Launched only six months ago, already they’ve had hugely successful local events in Sheffield, Bristol, Brighton, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Tyne & Wear, Oxford, London and beyond.

Most working-class people have little to no energy or money left at the end of each month, so making hummus from scratch is low on the priority list

At these events, members have heard from MPs, local councillors and Metro mayors. They’ve mapped out their cities to work out where power lies and plan who they can work with.

They’ve begun imagining what a Green New Deal looks like for them and strategising how they’re going to make it happen.

The core ambition of those who started the campaign is to create a platform for Labour members, supporters and trade unionists to engage and organise for climate and economic justice.

So far, the campaign has seen an incredible take-up of support in local Labour branches and CLPs across the country. Overall, around 100 CLPs have now passed a motion in support of the campaign and it is looking set to be the most popular subject in Brighton next month, with over 70 CLPs having already submitted the motion to this year’s Labour conference so far.

Capacity is building across the country for Labour members and supporters to collaborate with workers and service users to design and demand what a Green New Deal means for the future of their own communities, and feed-in to the national programme.

Around this agenda, the Labour Party can bring communities together to build a radical programme for government which decarbonises as quickly as possible while building a prosperous society for the many.

The events run by the Labour Party Community Organising Unit and Rebecca Long-Bailey have been hugely impressive in modelling this. They show that this kind of engaged party democracy will drive the Green New Deal forward.

Additionally, these events are consistently bringing in new activists to work together with experienced organisers. That’s new activists to campaign for a Green New Deal and new activists to campaign to put Labour in power. As has been evidenced from the climate justice school strikes we’ve seen up and down the country, there is an entire generation of young people growing up now who are already politically engaged, who know what they want their futures to look like and who aren’t afraid to stand up and speak out.

These young people know that it is the Labour Party that has their backs and their best interests at heart. Labour is the party that they naturally migrate towards, the party they believe in and the party they want to fight for when a general election is called.

If Labour continues to pursue a green agenda, and can be encouraged by grassroots campaigns like LGND and the #schoolstrike4climate to be even more radical in its demands, it will win the support of thousands more climate change activists.

Activists who are inevitably, and rightly, the future of politics.

A sometimes-divided Labour Party is being united behind a radical yet practical vision, not just to tackle the climate crisis, but to build a new economy which serves working people
in every corner of the country

The key issue that the Green Party overlooks time and time again, but that the Labour Party has acknowledged and highlighted, is that the climate movement and labour movement cannot be separate anymore, because the root causes of climate breakdown and worker exploitation are one and the same.

Key to this process and transition must be leadership from trade unionists. Any plan to do with climate justice needs to have trade union leadership at its heart to make sure the transition is not only just, but also prosperous, for workers across the whole economy.

This was a point made strongly by the TUC in its recent Just Transition paper. This is an opportunity to win justice and prosperity for workers at the same time as decarbonising the economy, and when we unite as a movement and work together we will achieve just that.

Lucas, and her recent comments, epitomise how the general population sees a large section of the green movement. Wealthy, middle-class, entitled and hypocritical. More than happy to preach about the environmental benefits of going carless, childless and meatless; they buy organic, tend to their allotment and showcase new cycling helmets and hemp yoga mats on their Instagram feeds.

It is their way, or no way, and if you don’t do the same then you obviously care very little for the planet and don’t want to do anything about climate change.

The truth is that while every individual’s effort should of course be applauded, we must remember that for the majority of the population, these #ecogoals are unobtainable, and it’s not because of a lack of consideration for the environment or a blatant disregard for their children’s futures.

For many working-class people, working back to back zero-hour jobs on minimum wage while trying to raise a family, just making ends meet can be exhausting. Most have little to no energy or money left at the end of each month, so making hummus from scratch is low on the priority list, doing the weekly shop at an independent, plastic-free, organic supermarket is not an option, and purchasing an electric vehicle is definitely out of the question.

The reality is that this individualistic approach to tackling the climate emergency will not work anyway.

We need a complete societal overhaul to effect the change that is needed in the time we have left, and that is going to take a political party with the ability to hold large corporations and fossil fuel executives to account.

A political party that has a regional green industrial strategy so no community gets left behind.

A political party that already has organic links to the people powerhouse that is the trade union movement.

That political party is, of course, Labour. A sometimes-divided Labour Party is being united behind a radical yet practical vision, not just to tackle the climate crisis, but to build a new economy which serves working people in every corner of the country.

Voting Labour is, and always has been, the only way. You can vote Green and temporarily feel like you’re taking the moral high ground, or vote Labour and actually get things done.

Lauren Townsend is a Labour councillor in Milton Keynes, trade union organiser and spokeswoman for Labour for a Green New Deal.

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