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.


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.

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.

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.