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.

 

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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.

 

 

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.

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.

Stop the Bleeding: #VoteGreen2017 in Bristol and Brighton

Photo: GP party election broadcast


According to recent GE2017 predictions — including the one you see below — the Conservative Party is currently set to increase their majority in the House of Commons by a significant margin. Although the exact figures vary, most of these studies indicate that the Tories will take up around 400 seats after June 8th. Recent predictions also suggest that the Green Party may lose its majority in Brighton Pavilion.

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Theresa May has repeatedly said that she wants Britons to vote Conservative in 2017 on the basis of two principle ideas: 1) that the Tories offer “strong and stable leadership” in the nation’s best interest, and 2) that a stronger Conservative majority will serve to strengthen her hand as she negotiates the terms of Brexit with the EU27.

I question the validitity of these for several reasons.

Strong and stable leadership? Now, I know that I’ve said this before on this blog, but I’ll say it again: when so many Britons rely on food banks; when so many Britons are homeless; when the economy has grown but real wages have gone down by 10%; when the government’s deficit reduction targets demand severe cuts to disability benefits; when poverty affects one in four British children; when the NHS is doing worse and worse for each passing year; and when the government fails to design policies that make meeting the targets set out in the Paris Agreement a possibility, then I can’t help but wonder what national interests the Conservative Party purports to serve, and what “strong and stable leadership” means in practice.

A stronger negotiating hand? When PM May argues that a vote for the Conservatives in 2017 is a vote for a stronger negotiating hand in meetings with the EU27, I don’t think that’s what she actually means. The EU, as has recently been suggested, doesn’t care all that much about what the UK government looks like. So what May really seems to be saying, is that she wants to shut down Brexit opposition inside the House of Commons. She knows, as research shows, that a majority of Britons want Brexit negotiations to move ahead. She also knows that many think that the Brexit process is moving forward too slowly. At a time when the Labour Party is historically impopular, a chance to not only shut down opposition to Brexit, but also opposition in general, has thus presented itself.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion) and Molly Scott Cato (Bristol West) represent an ideological direction which, in many ways, is diametrically opposed to that of the Conservative Party. In the General Election of 2015, the more than a million Britons that voted for Green Party candidates proved that this ideological direction enjoys widespread support. In my eyes, it would mean a terrible loss for democracy in the UK if the Green Party failed to achieve representation in the House of Commons after June 8th. If we are to prevent the General Election of 2017 from becoming the election of the diminishing opposition — the opposition: the aspect of Parliament that most directly serves to hold the government to account — then the time to wake up is now.

Green Party candidates such as Caroline Lucas and Molly Scott Cato will not only hold the government to account, but they will bring into Parliament a set of innovative ideas that promote a greener economy and a more equal society. To cite from this excellent article by the Bristol Green Society:

“Greens are pushing a ‘radical’ agenda, which in reality are measures that would simply bring social justice to the heart of British society. We are fiercely pro-refugee and consistently challenge the hateful rhetoric around migrants that dominate the UK’s political agenda. We are fighting for a fair Brexit, with the chance for voters to have their say in the final deal with a ratification referendum. We pledge to scrap nuclear weapons and use the money to better our public services. We believe in a benefit system that works for all, and aim to ultimately establish a universal basic income because, in the 5th richest country in the world, food banks should not be in such high demand. We are proud to have consistently demonstrated unwavering support for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people, minority ethnic groups, women and disabled people.”

Many of the Green Party’s ideas are not politics as usual, and they deserve representation in the governing bodies of the UK. Green Party candidate such as Caroline Lucas and Molly Scott Cato critically and constructively address many of the issues that increase levels of inequality in the UK, and they are firmly pro-Europe.

To stop the bleeding and to keep the Tories from gaining a crushing majority — to make sure that the interests of all people are represented in the House of Commons after June 8th, and to make sure that Brexit isn’t a deal for the few — vote Green in #GE2017.