Molly Scott Cato Makes Sure That the Green Party Is the True Party of the NHS

“Only the Green Party is offering a bold and effective solution to the NHS funding crisis. We must finally put an end to the pain of privatisation that has been inflicted by Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories. The Green Party is the only party that never has and never will collude in the dismantling and selling off of our beloved NHS. Instead, we will give the NHS the funding it needs to meet the challenges of the 21st century.” – Molly Scott Cato, Green Party candidate in Bristol West


How many times have you heard either Labourites or Conservatives say that it is they who are the true party of the NHS?

If you’re a frequent viewer of Prime Minister’s Questions, odds are that you hear it at least a few times a month.

When it comes to the NHS, the conversation usually centres around a familiar set of topics: long waiting lines, junior doctor contracts, privatisations, missed targets, and the general ineptitude of Jeremy Hunt and the government that he represents. Indeed, we seem to have got so used to the negativity surrounding the conversation that we’re barely surprised when organisations like the Red Cross describe the NHS as being in a state of “humanitarian crisis“.

Perhaps that’s why it feels so refreshing when, on a rare occasion, you get a glimpse of what things could be like if only the society we live in looked a little different, and if only our politicians thought in slightly different terms. Caroline Lucas, the joint leader of the Green Party, provided one such moment when she, during the ITV Leaders’ Debate last week, remarked that a lot can be done to help the NHS by way of tackling climate change.

At a glance, it may seem like a leap — how are the two really connected? — but, of course, the closer you look, the more sense it makes.

In 2016, a report published by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health estimated that health problems caused by air pollution costs the UK more than £20bn per year. (It’s worth noting, here, that the budget for the NHS in 2016 was £116bn.) The same report argues that air pollution contributes to a staggering 40,000 pre-mature deaths per year in the UK. And another report, also published in 2016 — this one by the World Health Organisation — estimates that 19% of all cancers can be linked to air pollution.

It is perfectly clear that environmental factors have an enormous impact on public health in the UK. That the very air we breathe sets the NHS back more than £20bn per year is nothing short of a total catastrophe. And yet, despite this, both Conservatives and Labourites continue to back fossil fuels and the expansion of airports. When it comes to tackling climate change and air pollution, the Green Party really does stand out as the only serious alternative. As such, they also stand out as the only party that is genuinely concerned about illness prevention.

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In Bristol West, the Green Party’s Molly Scott Cato emerges as another politician who, like Lucas, often gives us that rare view of a different kind of politics. Scott Cato’s candidacy — including her approach to the NHS — is, without doubt, informed by her training and work as an economist. As the author of several books on economic theory and policy, she has done significantly more than most politicians in the UK to critically address the way economies interact with social and environmental demands. In much of her writing, Scott Cato advocates a green economy that prioritises environmental protection and social justice. It is therefore hardly surprising to learn that she takes the NHS as seriously as she does, and many voters in Bristol West will surely rejoice in a candidate who has pledged to fight against the privatisation of health services, and to support increased funding.

“[NHS] spending,” says Scott Cato, “is at its lowest since the 1950s and, at the same time, our NHS has been asked to make £22bn worth of cuts — cuts that researchers have concluded are responsible for 30,000 excess deaths a year.”

More, so called Sustainability and Transformation Partnership plans will drastically reduce the number of beds in hospitals around the country.

“In Bristol,” Scott Cato points out, “[these] plans, which were only revealed after pressure from healthcare campaigners, will see £139m of cuts to local healthcare services and a further £104m of as yet unspecified cuts. We can’t stand by and let this happen.”

Privatisation of the NHS has previously had the support of Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Labourites, but it has never been backed by the Green Party. Many would argue that one big problem associated with privatisations is that they make services more expensive. Others might say that they undermine the status of staff, and that it can be difficult to hold private companies to account. Molly Scott Cato would also argue that it’s something that people have never actually asked for. As she said at a local husting a couple of weeks ago: “it’s so clearly an area of policy where Conservative governments and all three of the main Westminster parties have done something completely against what the public want.”

Bristol West is one of quite few constituencies where a Green Party candidate has a real chance of winning. It is, therefore, one of few constituencies that has a real chance of electing an MP that will significantly add to the intellectual and ideological diversity of the House of Commons. Molly Scott Cato is a serious economic thinker and she has spent her entire adult life developing methods for implementing a green economy aimed at delivering sustainability and social justice. And, just like the party that she represents, she promotes a political model that comprehensively addresses the challenges of the NHS — from air pollution to privatisation.

What is party is the true party of the NHS? Well, it’s worth having a think about it.

#VoteGreen2017 to #ChangeTheGame.

 

Changing the Game, One Step at a Time: The Green Party

Over the course of the last couple of years, it has become increasingly clear that a majority of Britons want to see significant political change in their country. Some 52% of the population gave voice to that desire by voting in favour of Brexit in 2016. Many others are giving voice to that desire through their participation in the current General Election campaign.

As certain, however, as many may be about the need for change, the less certain they seem to be about how that change can be effected on a political level. Indeed, many would seem to think that it can’t — that the current electoral system is rigged against them, that it favours a perptually centrist two-party state, and that their vote is either wasted or meaningless. Yet others might wonder what their votes mean in practice when politicians so often seem to go back on their word. Nearly a year has passed since the EU referendum but there are still few who seem to have much of a clue as to what Brexit will eventually come to mean. And although many are hugely disenchanted with the current government, there is still a large group of voters who doubt that the Labour Party can provide a serious alternative to Tory austerity.

So what can we expect in terms of change as a result of the General Election in 2017? 

Well, crassly put, the Conservatives and the Labour Party have both made pretty clear what they want from this General Election. If we disregard the obvious personality differences between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn — personalities which in many ways distract us from concrete political content — and if we simply look at what the two parties are actually saying, we soon find that they’re surprisingly similar.

The Tories? More of the same — protect the status quo, pull your socks up, and things will slowly get better. Hard Brexit.

Labour? Little will change for 95% of the population, but corporations and the richest 5% will have to pay a bit more in order to facilitate greater investment in public services. Somewhat less hard Brexit.

In a way, the Tories are right. There is a choice to be made. The two parties ostensibly represent different economic models and their practical application won’t yield the exact same results. So much is clear.

And yet, in a different way, the Tories are quite wrong. Look a little closer and, sure enough, it’s all rather blurry.

As Jeremy Corbyn pointed out a couple of nights ago, it is hardly revolutionary to raise corporation tax to 26% when it was 28% in 2010. Theresa May obviously doesn’t want to increase corporation tax — she wants to lower it to 17% — but in quite many respects, the two parties appear to see eye to eye. The Tories maintain that immigration ought to go down whereas Labour has effectively promised that it probably won’t be going up. Theresa May wants the best Brexit possible — whatever that actually means — and so does Corbyn. Where the Tories are decidedly weak on the environment, the Labour Party is merely vague. Both parties are in favour of investing a lot money in the building of Hinkley C; both parties will pursue oil interests in the North Sea; and both parties support the renewal of an extremely expensive nuclear weapon supply that must never be used.

Effecting real political change is obviously hard, and it also takes a lot of time. A vote for the Labour Party would be a vote for things to be different, but it’s hard to argue that it would be a vote for change, and there’s something to be said about making that particular distinction. To redistribute wealth but to otherwise do everything more or less the same won’t in any significant way change the face of Britain, nor will it take the country forward. Most likely, it will only take the country to another election, five years from now, where we still debate whether taxes should be one or two per cent higher or lower.

Given the state of the political mainstream, it would appear that those who look for a genuine alternative to the status quo would have to look elsewhere. To locate the voice of real change in 2017, you must go to the periphery. There, we find the Green Party.

Earlier this year, former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett argued a point that I believe many agree with:

“You can’t run a centrist position that says, ‘We won’t change anything much.’ People just don’t believe that now. We’re not producing a society that gives people hope for the future, so people are beginning to understand the need for real change.”

In a few sentences, Bennett here neatly sums up the position of the party that she represents. The Labour Party may present an alternative to the Tories, but it’s not a party that signals a new way of going forward. By comparison, the Greens openly recognise the need for large-scale reforms.

During the current General Election campaign, the Greens have made a bit of a slogan out of the hashtag #ChangeTheGame. That may sound ambitious for a party that only has one MP, and that would consider it a great victory to elect a second one, but it isn’t if you take into consideration that parliamentary representation isn’t the sole goal of the party. A significant aspect of the Greens’ political agenda is to push awareness of many of the issues and problems that often figure on the periphery of the mainstream. Eco-consciousness, LGBTIQA+ rights, gender equality and proportional representation are some of the questions that are central to the Greens, and the fact that these questions increasingly make national headlines is testament to the relative influence of the party.

The most important aspect of the Green Party is not, however, that they, as an opposition party, attempt to bring the periphery into the centre. The most important thing is that they envision a comprehensive economic model in which equality and sustainability is at the heart of every policy. To get an idea of what this means, you don’t need to look much further than the joint leader of the party, Caroline Lucas. Only a month ago, Lucas convincingly argued for a future Britain in which people work a four day week, and where the country is significantly better as a result: healthier, more equal, more productive.

Now, how would that work? Well, it’s actually fairly straight-forward, even if it would take a while to fully implement. Take this as an example: currently, 6 million people in the UK work more than 45 hours a week. (As a point of interest, the International Labour Organisation deems anything above 48 hours a week as excessive.) Redistributing these peoples’ workloads to the 1,5 million who are currently unemployed would, in Lucas’s words, “share prosperity and start to tackle the costs associated with unemployment.” More, reduced working hours effectively reduces stress levels which in turn reduces stress-related illnesses, which in turn puts less pressure on the NHS. Countries in which working hours are fewer also tend to leave smaller environmental footprints, which reduces problems associated with air pollution. Who foots the bill, though? Lucas cites a report published by the New Economic Foundation that suggests that the state and employers would share the costs so that “productivity increases could be matched by increased hourly wages.”

Sounds far-fetched? It doesn’t have to. There’s plenty of evidence that suggests that the four day week, or the three day weekend, has a positive impact on productivity and workers’ happiness. An article in The Atlantic makes the following case:

“Beyond working more efficiently, a four-day workweek appears to improve morale and well-being. The president of the U.K. Faculty of Public Health told the Daily Mail that a four-day workweek could help lower blood pressure and increase mental health among employees. Jay Love of Slingshot SEO saw his employee-retention rate shoot up when he phased in three-day weekends. Following this line of thought, TreeHouse, an online education platform, implemented a four-day week to attract workers, which has contributed to the company’s growth.”

How long it takes before the four day week is implemented on a national level remains to be seen, but it is evident that the Green Party and its representatives have got their eyes firmly fixed on what’s happening in the world. It’s a party that is serious about political innovation. It’s a party that is serious about finding new solutions where the old one’s just aren’t working. That goes for everything from climate change to the gender gap, from health issues to immigration and electoral reform.

When so many people seem to be crying out for change, and when the mainstream appears unable to significantly depart from political lines designed to barely satisfy, it won’t hurt to look more closely at what people like Caroline Lucas, Molly Scott Cato and Jonathan Bartley are saying. As said: political change is difficult and time-consuming, but with a few more Green MPs in the House of Commons, at least we’re on our way. Caroline Lucas has proven that much ever since her election in 2010, and hopefully she’ll be in an even better position to do so after June 8th.

#VoteGreen2017 to #ChangeTheGame.

 

 

Natalie Bennett Has the Guts To Tell the Truth and That’s Why We Need Her

At the Sheffield Student Union hustings on May 19th, Green Party PPC Natalie Bennett was asked what she thought was the most important policy for students.

Bennett, as most will know, represents a party that has pledged not only to scrap university tuition fees, but also to cancel all student loan debt. Now, despite this — despite these rather show stopping policies — Bennett did not answer the question by referencing either of those initiatives. Instead, she said that the most important concern for students must be climate change.

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Bennett is obviously right. Right in an obvious way. There won’t be many jobs on a dead planet. There won’t be too many people, either.

But what does that statement translate to in real political terms? Does it mean that young people have to recycle more? Does it mean that they should stop buying plastic bags in the supermarket? Should they buy a bike instead of a car?

Well, sure, yes — those are all good things. Every little bit helps. But, of course, it has to mean a lot more than just that. To think that climate change can be reversed by those measures alone is to kid oneself.

To truly tackle climate change, the UK needs to implement major policy reforms. Full responsibility cannot lie at the foot of the individual consumer. Consequently, the world — as most countries agreed in Paris in 2015 — needs to move away from high-carbon energy industries and put greater emphasis on renewable energy sources.

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Animation by Ed Hawkins

So, what Bennett says — in real political terms — is that young people need to be prepared to vote for the climate. They need to be prepared to vote for the kind of change that will ensure that they and their kids will have a planet to live on in the future.

Why now, though? Isn’t climate change getting kind of old? Haven’t eco-conscious policies already been put in motion? The Paris Agreement has been signed, so what’s the problem?

Well, despite the fact that renewable energy sources are deemed our best chance at reversing global warming, and despite the fact that renewables present a cost-efficient, commercially viable alternative to fossil fuels, the Tory Manifesto still promises “unprecedented” support for fossil fuel industries. In 2016, Angus MacNeil MP — then Committee Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee — said that the UK would fail to meet its 2020 renewable energy targets unless major policy reforms were implemented.

Clearly, those major policy reforms don’t seem to be happening any time soon. The Conservatives’ economic model just doesn’t seem to have that much room for the environment. For being a party that purports to represent long-term economic interests and stability over time, the Conservatives seem remarkably uninterested in ensuring a future beyond the next few decades. And rather than tackling the air pollution that is linked to 40,000 premature deaths in the UK annually, as well as numerous other health concerns — not least asthma, which alone costs the NHS an estimated £1bn per annum — the Conservatives prefer to invest in fracking.

Now is as important as ever. The General Election of 2017 isn’t only about the next five years. It isn’t just about Brexit. It’s about deciding what kind of country you want to live in. Green Party candidates like Natalie Bennett represent a slightly different way of doing things. They represent an economic model that respects the limitations of the planet on which we live, and in which people, and the well-being of people, is at the centre of every policy. It’s an economic model that puts people, not business, first.

The truth often hurts. In this case, it certainly does. Scrapping tuition fees – yes! Cancelling debt — yes! But Natalie Bennett still had the guts to say it, she still had the guts to be more than a crowd-pleaser. She said it like she sees it.

It’s about the environment. It was 20 years ago and it still is. The House of Commons need Green MPs. It needs more people like Caroline Lucas. It needs people who believe in alternative ways of doing things, it needs people who insist on putting people first. It needs people like Natalie Bennett, people who are realistic about the world we live in. People who are in politics for more than just power.

#VoteGreen2017 to #ChangeTheGame. Vote for Natalie Bennett in Sheffield Central.

Scientists Warn of ‘Societal Collapse’ but I Want To Know More About Corbyn and the IRA

“Fossil fuel combustion and other human activity now overwhelm all of the natural cycles that have driven slow climate changes in the past. According to a new study, we are ‘causing the climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces.’ If we fail to change course sharply, the study warns we risk ‘abrupt changes in the Earth System that could trigger societal collapse.'” — ThinkProgress, February 14th 2017

Is there a correlation between the number of days to June the 8th and the frequency with which the name ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ is mentioned in the same context as ‘the IRA’?

If ever a proverbial horse has been beaten to death, then it would be the question of whether or not Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has any friends in Ireland.

During last night’s The Andrew Neil Interviews, Andrew Neil spent about a third of half an hour asking Jeremy Corbyn to condemn the IRA. Is there, at this point, anyone in the UK who does not believe that Mr Corbyn is a pacifist and a peace advocate?

Meanwhile, the first six months of 2017 have been littered with bad climate news. In February, a new report on climate change found that human activities cause the climate to change 170 times faster than what is historically (naturally, that is) normal. Importantly, areas which, by all means, should remain cold — areas such as the Arctic — are warming up faster than elsewhere. An article published by ThinkProgress points out that

“[c]limate models have long predicted that if we keep using the atmosphere as an open sewer for carbon pollution, the ice cap would eventually enter into a death spiral because of Arctic amplification — a vicious cycle where higher temperatures melt reflective white ice and snow, which is replaced by the dark land or blue sea, which both absorb more solar energy, leading to more melting. That’s why the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the planet.”

As this blog has discussed previously, a report released in September of 2016 by the Energy and Climate Change Committee stated that the UK, as things were going, would fail to meet its 2020 renewable energy target. Following the publication of the report, Committee Chair Angus MacNeil MP said that “the experts we spoke to were clear: the UK will miss its 2020 renewable energy targets without major policy improvements. Failing to meet these would damage the UK’s reputation for climate change leadership.”

Cause for alarm? Any reason to worry? Climate change, anyone? Renewable energy sources are not only cheaper than fossil fuels, they also constitute our best chance at reversing global warming. Surely, now is the time to get properly invested in this?

Well, maybe not. From a Conservative point of view, it makes total sense to discuss what Jeremy Corbyn did or did not say in the 1990s and exactly what it may have meant if indeed he said it, because the Tory manifesto pledges to give “unprecedented” support to high-carbon energy sources. So much for wanting “to lead international action against climate change“, eh?

Help avoid societal collapse — #VoteGreen2017.

At the very least, don’t vote Tory.

Are You Helping Out On Thursday? Good. Elections Aren’t Won Online.

In 1970, John Bochel and David Denver carried out what may have been the first field experiment in British political science (or so, at least, Denver speculates in his essay “Two tower blocks in Dundee: constituency campaigning“). The point of the experiment was to assess the level of impact of local campaigning on election results. In other words: does canvassing have any effect on the way people vote?

As the site of the experiment, Denver and Bochel selected two tower blocks in a safe Labour ward in Dundee. “With the co-operation of the local Labour Party,” Denver writes, “we canvassed the people in one block thoroughly and ‘knocked up’ supporters on polling day. Residents of the other received only a single leaflet from the candidate.” Studies following the election showed that the impact of canvassing had been signicant. The tower block that had been canvassed had a 10% higher turnout than the other block; Labour’s vote share was also higher in the former than in the latter — 81% compared to 77%.

Since 1970, numerous studies have supported the results found in Bochel and Denver’s experiment. Telephone canvassing, door-to-door canvassing, leafletting — it all makes a difference. And, crucially, it could make all the difference. Denver, in “Two Tower Blocks”, cites a report published in 2010 that suggests that

“an above average Liberal Democrat campaign could boost the party’s vote share by 3.7 percentage points while for Labour the figure [is] 1.7 points and for the Conservatives just 0.8 points. Nonetheless, these are not increases to be sneered at in tight contests. Labour won six seats from the Conservatives by 1.7 points or less in the 2010…”

The Green Party will fight a number of tight contests in the General Election of 2017. On June 8th, armies of Tories and Labour supporters will be out on the streets, knocking on doors and offering to drive voters to the polling stations. The Green Party needs you to be there, too. In Sheffield Central they do, in Brighton Pavilion they do, in Isle of Wight they do, in Holborn and St Pancras they do, in Bristol West they do — and the list is extensive.

So be there on Thursday, and help make sure that the Greens give the Reds and the Blues a real fight in GE2017.

Tactical Voting: Is It Worth the Effort?

There’s been quite a lot of talk amongst left-leaning voters about the possibility of a Progressive Alliance. This Alliance would comprise MPs from Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens and the SNP, and it would come about through a perfectly synchronised operation of tactical voting.

It does seem a rather unlikely coalition – could it possibly work out in practice? Corbyn, Sturgeon, Farron and Lucas all around the same table? – but at least there would be fewer Conservative MPs in the House of Commons, and any effort to reduce the Conservatives’ majority seems like a good idea to me.

More importantly, though: how significant, how effective, could this project – this perfect storm of tactical voting – turn out to be in practice? Is a Progressive Alliance a realistic expectation in terms of actual, concrete results?

According to an essay by Stephen D. Fisher on the topic of tactical voting, the Conservative Party tends to lose most when many people decide to vote tactically. However, Fisher also suggests that coordinated efforts at tactical voting are difficult to realise in practice.

Essentially, there are three main types of tactical voting: 1) you support a party that is likely to come in third in your constituency, and therefore you vote against the party you’d least want to win; 2) you vote for a small party, such as the Greens, because you’d like to help raise their profile; 3) you vote against your own party because you’d like to see its majority limited.

Less than one in four voters in the UK find themselves in constituencies where their favoured party is likely to come in third. Between 1992 and 2010, roughly one in five voters who favoured a ‘third place party’ voted tactically. During the same period, about as many people – regardless of what party they supported – also voted tactically, but in a way that wasn’t effective. The parties these voters actually favoured had unexpectedly finished in the top two; accordingly, their votes, although intended as ‘tactical’, ended up having the opposite effect.

In other words, tactical voting can go wrong when people misread the political situation in their constituency. Voters may incorrectly conclude that their favoured party can’t win, whereas in reality it has much more support than appearances let on.

Statistically, Fisher says, the Conservative Party tends to gain net votes from tactical voting. This is because of two reasons: 1) few of the people who favour the Tories will have any reason to vote tactically, because the Tories are usually in the top two, and 2) they will gain support from Tory leaning Lib Dems who vote tactically. The Labour Party, on the other hand, won’t gain or lose much in terms of net votes from tactical voting, as there tends to be a fairly even spread between Labour votes to the Lib Dems and Lib Dems votes to Labour.

Crucially, however, the Conservative Party is the party that loses out in terms of seats won and seats lost from tactical voting. This is because Lib Dems tend to favour Labour candidates over Conservatives, and because Labour voters tend to favours Lib Dems over Tories. In other words, tactical voting means that the Tories gain more net votes, but that the Labour Party and the Lib Dems win more seats.

Now, this is, of course, all fine and dandy, but what does it actually mean? We know that tactical voting will make a difference if one’s aim is to damage the Conservatives’ majority. We don’t, however, know how significant that damage might be. What would a perfect storm of synchronised voting amount to in practice?

In the General Election of 2015, 11.3 million people voted for the Tories, and 9.3 million voted for Labour. Put together, the Greens, the SNP and the Lib Dems got around 5 million votes. Had these three parties combined with Labour in order to create a so called Progressive Alliance, then they would easily have beat the Tories in terms of net votes. But in terms of seats?

In this article, published by the Guardian earlier this year, Martin Robbins makes the case that tactical voting — even if perfectly executed — won’t be enough to prevent a Conservative majority in 2017. According to this General Election prediction, the Tories are currently set to win 396 seats on June 8th; Labour 180; Lib Dems 5; Greens 1; and SNP 49. If, based on the election results of 2015, the Labour Party, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats combined their tactical voting efforts to maximise Tory damage, then that would, according to Robbins, result in 47 more Labour seats and 10 more Lib Dems seats. But even under those perfect circumstances, the Tories win more than enough seats (given current predictions) to form a majority government, and the Labour Party only win about 250.

Now, given this data, how much sense does it actually make to coordinate tactical voting efforts? The best possible result would amount to pretty good damage control, but it wouldn’t, in all likelihood, prevent the Tories from improving on their current majority. The best possible outcome would also be contingent on almost impossibly well-coordinated tactical voting efforts, and is unlikely to actually happen.

So what to do?

Well, why not forget about tactical voting? Instead, vote for the party you actually think best represents your political beliefs (and let’s hope that party is the Green Party!). If this means that the Tories win by a few more seats, then so be it. Let them have it. Let the Tories have another five years, and then let’s watch them implode in the election of 2022. The way things are currently going, there isn’t, to paraphrase Slavoj Zizek, light at the end of the tunnel; instead, there’s an oncoming, speeding train, and the best way to effect real change might just be to let the Tories run straight into it. And if nothing else, then at least let your vote be a testament to the need for proportional representation, and make sure that you campaign for electoral change.

Ideally, though: #VoteGreen2017 to #ChangeTheGame. The best anti-Tory recipe for change is to elect Caroline Lucas, Molly Scott Cato, Natalie Bennett, Siân Berry, Amelia Womack, Vix Lowthion, Eleanor Field and many more Green MPs to represent your political beliefs in the House of Commons.

It’s the (Green) Economy, Stupid. – Pt. 3.


”The proper names of leaders are distractions from concrete economic models.” – Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station


The economy has grown, but real wages have gone down by 10%. One in four British children lives in poverty. Disability benefits have been cut. The people on Britain’s Rich List have become 14% richer only in the last year. Welfare cuts and a lack of affordable housing have caused a homelessness crisis. Renewable energy sources are now cheaper than fossil fuels but the Conservatives prefer to back fracking and dirty energy. Spending per school child is set to fall by 8%. Foodbanks are increasingly in demand. The UK is currently set to miss its 2020 renewable energy targets. University tuition fees have trebled. The NHS is in a state of perpetual crisis.

Now, remind us, again: why is all of this good? (Strong and stable leadership? In the national interest?)

Let’s for a second forget about the fact that Theresa May polls well with people and that Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t — at least according to figures released in April — and consider instead, on the basis of the evidence given above, the concrete economic model that she represents:

1) it’s a model of neo-liberal capitalism in which human beings are seen, quite simply, as consumers, and in which ‘society’ is seen as little more than the market place on which these consumers act;
2) it’s a model in which citizens have few civic responsibilities (to participate in the creation of our society), and diminishing or weak civil rights (mass surveillance, the low status of mental health, the gender gap), and in which ‘society’ is ruled by economic movements rather than political decisions;
3) it’s a model which fails to value our natural environment for anything but its unlocked economic potential.

This is an economic model that has disappointed the millions of people who have suffered its consequences, and it is one that will disappoint millions more — unborn generations, even — as it fails to properly address the challenges of climate change. In January this year, “air pollution in London passed levels in Beijing”, which prompted Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to describe London’s air quality as constituting a veritable “health crisis”; and The Economist recently reported that the Arctic will, according to the most recent predictions, be ice free in the summer by 2040. Earlier predictions had indicated that this would not happen before 2070.

The climate crisis is as real as the poverty that affects 25% of British children, and the best way to face both of these problems is not by being passive, but by being realistic and active.

The economic model of Theresa May and the Conservative Party is unsustainable and to market it as “strong and stable” or as “long-term” or as “in the national interest” is to deceive. To vote for it is to vote for nothing to change. It is to bury one’s head in the sand and hope that, eventually, all the bad things will go away on their own. They won’t.

Generally speaking, ‘hope’ wins elections, and I believe that it was ‘hope’ in the Conservatives’ “long-term economic plan” that gave the Tories a majority in the General Election of 2015. In the General Election of 2017, however, I hope that ‘hope’ shall mingle with ‘fear’ and ‘realism’ to such an extent that the Conservatives will fail to renew that majority. Because as much as we need hope in order to believe that a better future is possible, we also need ‘fear’ and ‘realism’ to guide us away from false promises.

Luckily, there is an alternative. There is an option to the voice that says that the best thing is to just maintain the status quo, and to change nothing. There is a model that represents hope, but that also knows that — realistically — society needs to change, and to change quickly. That alternative is the Green Party.

The Green Party represents an economic model that is based on active political decision-making. It’s a model that seeks to end poverty by means of introducing a universal basic income, and to ensure greater welfare by introducing a more progressive taxation system.  It’s a model in which our political representatives will promote sustainble, low-carbon energy industries, and in which they will phase out unsustainble, high-carbon energy industries. It is an economic model that will promote technological innovation in the field of sustainable energy, and that will initiate the construction of an environmentally friendly, state owned transport infrastructure. It is an economic model that means taking control of the NHS, and rolling back previous privatisations. It is a model that means that education should be free, and that it should be of world class quality.

It is, in short terms, an economic model that will restore a sense of civic duty and a social contract, as well as greater civil rights. And, crucially, to market it as “strong and stable”, “long-term” or as “in the national interest” would not be to deceive.

Forget about Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas and the others. Instead, look closely at the world. Look at what you’re being offered. Don’t let yourself be distracted.


 

 

 

Common Sense, or: The Green Party Youth Manifesto

“The Green Party knows that education and equality are key to an economic model that can deliver a sustainble future for the UK. Not only do they want to do the sensible thing, which is to scrap tuition fees and cancel student debt, but they also want to ensure that the UK promotes a type of education that will have long term benefits for all of society.” 



The English philosopher John Locke is known to have said quite many, quite clever things.

One of the things he did not say, is that a university education should cost £27,000, or thereabouts.

Why did he not say that? I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m just throwing it out there. It’s Saturday, after all, so this is bound to be a Saturday kind of blog post.

But it’s a fact. It’s a fact that he did not say that. At least there’s no historical evidence to suggest that he did. And as I sit here and think about it, I realise that, hm, hey, it’s also a fact that no other major or significant philosopher ever said that a university education should cost £27,000 (or thereabouts).

And, hey, why would they? It is widely accepted that education is a good thing and that it has a positive impact on society. A solid higher education system tends to produce a more skilled and productive labour force, and skilled and productive workers tend to produce innovative products and services. To offer free higher education is to ensure equality of opportunity. It is also to back productivity and innovation.

“But look,” some of you might say, “if we invest in free higher education, then that means we can’t spend that money elsewhere. Not all people want to go to university, so what if instead we were to spend that money on early education and vocational training? That way, we ensure that 18 year olds enter adult life on the best possible terms.”

And I guess that would sound like a pretty good idea, if only it were that the people who trebled tuition fees had done anything to support it in practice. Instead, the opposite of that seems to be happening, as spending per pupil is currently set to fall by 8%.

So what do we have? We have huge tuition fees that saddle graduates with crippling debts that prevent them from investing in the economy, and we’ve got decreased spending on early education which effectively threatens the academic progress of children and adolescents in the UK. We’ve also got increasing numbers of young people who are forced to ask themselves if it’s even worth bothering with university.

The Green Party knows that education and equality are key to an economic model that can deliver a sustainble future for the UK. Not only do they want to do the sensible thing, which is to scrap tuition fees and cancel student debt, but they also want to ensure that the UK promotes a type of education that will have long term benefits for all of society.

For example, the Party has pledged to create Green jobs for more women in STEM, renewables and sustainability, and also to offer more such training opportunities, as, at the moment, only 5% of engineering apprentices are women. To encourage women to enter into typically male-dominated sectors of work and education is to promote gender balance in Britain’s work force. It is a fact that female-dominated work sectors were hit hardest by the financial crisis, and that women, as a consequence, have struggled more than men to regain financial power. To encourage women to enter into historically male-dominated work sectors is also to promote greater financial empowerment of women, as these sectors tend to offer higher wages. Of course, as Britain progresses towards a greener economy (though not so much so under a Conservative government), the value and importance of education in science, technology, energy and mathematics can hardly be overestimated.

Let’s be realistic, though. As things currently stand — according to recent predictions, we’re looking at 398 Conservative seats after June 8th — tuition fees will never, ever be scrapped, and student debts will never, ever, ever, ever be cancelled, and the UK’s economy and education system will be grey rather than green, and renewable energy sources — even though they’re cheaper than fossil fuels — will see less backing than fracking and other dirty energy sources, and gender equality and LGBTIQA+ inclusivity will remain but an inconvenient parenthesis as the Conservatives continue to promote a male dominant agenda.

That all is, of course, unless the UK votes for someone else. As Green Party councillor Simon Bull said on Twitter said: “One more Tory backbencher will make no difference, one more Green MP will.”

Take that message to heart and give the Green Party your honest consideration on June 8th, especially if you live in Brighton, Bristol or Sheffield.


It’s the (Green) Economy, Stupid. – Pt. 2

In yesterday’s ITV Leaders’ Debate, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said two things that struck me as particularly important. It also struck me as particularly important that none of the other leaders seemed to want to relate to the fact that she’d said them. One of the statements concerned the NHS, and the other had to do with the energy industry — but really, they both went back to the same thing, and it’s that one thing that the Tories keep saying that they’re so good at. The economy.

The NHS

The five leaders had been at it for what seemed like a rather long time when Lucas, almost as an afterthought, and seemingly surprised that none of the other leaders had yet raised the issue, pointed out that the very air we breathe is a large contributing factor to illness in the UK. Air pollution, said Lucas, not only makes people ill, but it also puts unnecessary pressure on UK health services. In 2016, a report published by The Royal College of Physicians suggested that poor air quality is linked to approximately 40,000 premature deaths annually in the UK. “Polluters,” the report recommended,

“must be required to take responsibility for harming our health. Political leaders at a local, national and EU level must introduce tougher regulations, including reliable emissions testing for cars.” 

Prof Jonathan Grigg, co-author of the report, said to the BBC last year that air pollution is “linked to heart disease and lung problems, including asthma”, and that

“as NHS costs continue to escalate due to poor public health – asthma alone costs the NHS an estimated £1bn a year – it is essential that policy makers consider the effects of long-term exposure on our children and the public purse.”

Interesting, eh? We’ll get back to all of that in a hurry.

Now, the second point made by Lucas concerned the energy industry.

Once again, she was the first and only leader to mention the fact that it is now considerably cheaper to get energy from renewable sources than from fossil fuels. Wouldn’t it, then, be wiser to focus more on solar and wind energy than on high-carbon industries?

In January this year, Michael Drexler — the Head of Long Term Investing, Infrastructure and Development at the World Economic Forum — said that renewable energy now “constitutes the best chance to reverse global warming” and that it “is not only a commercially viable option, but an outright compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returns.

Alright, so as we put one and one together we can thus conclude the following:

1) it is cheaper to invest in renewable energy than in dirty energy
2) renewable energy is perhaps our best chance to reverse global warming
3) renewable energy will reduce air pollution
4) air pollution may cause as many as 40,000 premature deaths annually in the UK
5) preventing aforementioned deaths and would not only be a great victory for all human beings, but would potentially save the NHS ahuge amount of money

Now, then, where does all of this take us? I suppose it’s all pretty straightforward, isn’t it? The politicians have got their work cut out for them so it’s all just about getting it done. Let’s invest in a greener economy in order not only to save money, but also to save our health and the environment in which we live! Yay! No?

If it was only that easy, right?

Where Caroline Lucas and her Green Party have plans to focus investments on renewable energy and on creating more jobs in the renewables sector, and where they hope to sort out the NHS by 1) introducing a more progressive tax system, 2) by scrapping Trident in order to free up billions that could be spent on health rather than on weapons of mass destruction, and 3) by stopping the clutter that is privatised health services, the Conservative Party — in other words, the current government — have, unfortunately, absurdly, chosen to set a rather different agenda.

As Caroline Lucas said yesterday in response to the Tory manifesto:

“With the UK’s climate targets slipping further out of reach and biodiversity in free fall, it appears Theresa May has decided to bury her head in the sand.

“There is one paltry mention of the air pollution crisis, and no mention of the jaw-dropping cost reductions in renewable energy. 

“Fracking will be forced on local communities, whilst the dirty and expensive energy of the past will continue to receive lavish public hand-outs. The cheapest and cleanest energy once again loses out.”

Well, it’s no wonder Theresa May didn’t bother to show up to last night’s debate, is it?

The Conservative Party has no long term environmental plan, and it has no plans to tackle air pollution. At this rate, the UK will miss its 2020 renewables targets, and as the country leaves the EU it will potentially no longer deign to hold itself to the EU’s high standards and regulations on the environment. Rather than addressing the environmental problem and attempting to find creative, long term solutions, the Tories have chosen to neglect the advice of the Royal College of Physicians, and their call for tougher regulations on diesel-emitting cars.

Come June 8th, I hope that voters in Bristol, Brighton, Sheffield and in many more cities around the country will gather behind those candidates that will promote the idea of a greener economy to the House of Commons. #VoteGreen2017 to #ChangeTheGame and to support a new, greener way of doing things.

As Caroline Lucas has said: the economy will have to be green, or it won’t be at all.

Bennett’s Better for Sheffield Central

Photo: Natalie4Sheffield.org


[T]he problem is that the centre is not holding anymore. You can’t run a centrist position that says, ‘We won’t change anything much.’ People just don’t believe that now. We’re not producing a society that gives people hope for the future, so people are beginning to understand the need for real change. What we need to do is provide an inspirational, hopeful message that we can do much better than this.” – Natalie Bennett 


There’s Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion) in the South East, there’s Molly Scott Cato (Bristol West) in the South West, Siân Berry in London (Holborn & St Pancras), and Vix Lowthion (Isle of Wight) in the English Channel. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the Greens are doing well in the South. But what about the North?

It may come as a bit of a surprise — a Labour majority of approximately 17,000 seats is hardly something to scoff at — but there are signs that suggest that former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett may just be able to win Sheffield Central from Paul Blomfield and become the first Green MP in the North. She may just be the better choice, too.

What speaks in Natalie Bennett’s favour?

Well, for one, Sheffield Central is one of few constituencies where voters have a straight choice between the Labour Party and the Green Party. That particular dichotomy of choice presents an interesting situation. On the one hand, you’ve got a Labour candidate who represents a manifesto which, in many respects, seems to draw inspiration from the Green Party manifesto of 2015, but which has been criticised for its many contradictions. As Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley said:

“You can’t solve the air pollution crisis while expanding airports and roads. You can’t be a peacebuilder while renewing Trident. You can’t transition to a new economic model while hanging onto 20th century ideas where growth is the only answer. It’s time Labour embraced our full vision for the future instead of cherry picking a few good Green policies, then contradicting them.”

On the other hand, you’ve got a Natalie Bennett who, over many years, has consistently represented a version of environmentally friendly social democracy, and who has championed an economic model where growth isn’t the most important indicator of success. As Bennett said in January this year:

“If you vote Green you know exactly what you’re voting for. Our principles and values are solid and unchanging, based on the evidence that we cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. And while we’re trashing the planet we’re also delivering a deeply unequal, unbalanced society. The Greens identify this and offer the real change that we need.” 

In other words: the choice in Sheffield Central is one between a somewhat unstable, shifting version of a social democracy where, as Bennett has said,  “the environment is still very much an add-on at the end”, or a green-oriented social democracy that for long has set an agenda that many other parties have had to follow. The Labour Party purports to represent “the many, not the few”, but it’s worth considering if it’s a party that is capable of delivering real social and economic change.

Secondly, Sheffield — The Outdoor City, the climbing capital of the UK, city of hills and valleys — is a green-minded kind of place that seeks to obtain the status as a European green city. In 2016, the independent Sheffield Green Commission published a report in which they suggested a number of priorities that would work towards ensuring that the city reaches its goal. To elect a Green Party MP in Sheffield Central may be key to ensuring that not only Sheffield, but also the UK, actively pursues the path of developing a more sustainable and eco-conscious way of doing politics.

Thirdly, Natalie Bennett is a singularly determined and principled politician who has chosen to make Sheffield her home, and who has vowed to improve the city for all its inhabitants. She and the Green Party — unlike Labour — unanimously and comprehensively reject fracking; she promotes the building of affordable council homes in order to tackle Sheffield’s homelessness problem; she supports rent control; and she has said that her first priority, if elected, will be to focus on wages.

The Green Party in 2017 presents a comprehensive and distinct political philosophy that puts human beings in the centre of all its pursuits and policies. The party supports an end to tuition fees and a voting system that more fairly represents the will of the British people. It also rejects policies pertaining to mass state surveillance, as well as suggestions to further privatise the NHS.

To vote for Natalie Bennet would not only be to elect a good representative for Sheffield. It would also be to elect a person who will present a different way doing things to the other members of the House of Commons. It would be to elect a person who offers a clear alternative to austerity and to Tory ideology, and it would be to elect an MP who believes that people are more important than GDP.

Now, what speaks against Natalie Bennett?

Well, there’s that margin of 17,000 votes. To win in Sheffield Central would certainly be a “gain” to remember. In other words: she’ll need all the help she can get. But as long as the people of Sheffield Central know that there’s a real opportunity, here — that there is indeed a Green Party candidate who may better serve their and their city’s interests — then there’s a real chance that she could win.

Help Natalie Bennett become the first Green Party MP in the North:

Natalie’s fighting fundhttp://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/natalie-bennett-for-sheffield-…

Join Team Nataliehttps://www.natalie4sheffield.org/pledge;