Breaking records again and again – UK Green news round up week 22
Greens celebrate best ever European election results
After all the votes had been counted last Sunday, the Green Party of England and Wales had won seven seats in the European parliament. Electing four new MEPs, this was the party’s most successful European election ever. This fact was emphatically demonstrated by the Greens coming ahead of the Tories who were confined to fifth place.
The Green Party MEPs elected were:
- Magid Magid, for Yorkshire and the Humber
- Catherine Rowett for the East of England
- Gina Dowding for the North West
- Ellie Chowns for the West Midlands
- Molly Scott Cato for the South West and Gibraltar
- Scott Ainslie for London
- Alex Phillips for the South East.
Since the election, the new MEPs have been settling into their new roles, and setting out their plans for their (yet to be determined) time in office.
Those of us entering the European Parliament as new Green MEPs do so as part of a social movement sweeping the globe.
It’s with the backing of that social movement that I plan to use my position in the European Parliament to bring together a cross-party, cross-continent group of representatives to begin creating a Europe-wide Green New Deal. Such a project, championed so successfully by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US, wouldn’t just build infrastructure such as low-carbon transport and industries, it would also create high quality, well-paid jobs in every corner of the European Union and vastly reduce inequality. It would rapidly help us do what we must and drop our emissions in line with what the science tells us – and crucially, it would also allow Europe to begin to repay the climate debt it owes the world.
Meanwhile Magid Magid has been highlighting how his election victory is part of the wider battle against the far right across Europe. In an article for the Guardian, Magid wrote:
So to Matteo Salvini, Viktor Orbán, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage and the like. I’ve got a message for you: you are the enemies of every European who ever swore “never again”, because your rhetoric and your deeds are a daily declaration of war on the hard-fought peace of Europe. Right now, you may be celebrating and looking forward to your champagne and truffles in Brussels, but I promise you that whether I’m in Europe for five weeks, five months or five years – you are going to fail in your attempts to drive us apart. You are going to lose.
This may be the end of one campaign, but it is the start of a much bigger one that will be waged on the European stage. It is a campaign for compassion, mutual understanding and human rights, and against hate in all its forms. It won’t be easy, and we will need your help.
Together, we can turn the tides of history.
And Catherine Rowett has highlighted a litany of environmental and other issues that she seeks to prioritise. An interview conducted by the Eastern Daily Press reported:
She said her and her party’s priorities include: ensuring a fairer deal for small businesses by changing the “irresponsible tax regime” which favours large corporations and online businesses; working for improved animal welfare standards in areas such as live animal exports; pushing for environmental protections such as bans on pesticides and herbicides which can have harmful effects on insects; and improving public transport as part of a broader package of initiatives to reduce fossil fuel use.
Greens hit highest General Election poll in four years
This week, the Greens continued to pick up support in opinion polls. A poll from Opinium put the Greens on 11%. in a General Election. This followed a strong showing in a YouGov poll which had the party on 8%.
The last time the Greens reached 11% in a General Election opinion poll was in January 2015. If repeated in a General election, this would see the UK’s Green Parties receive the highest number of votes in their history. This opens up a number of constituencies as potential places that could play host to new Green MPs.
Green campaign for Peterborough by-election enters final stages
On Thursday May 6, voters in Peterborough will go to the polls for a parliamentary by-election. They’ll be electing a replacement for the former Labour MP Fiona Onasanya who lost a recall petition after being convicted of perverting the course of justice.
Joseph Wells is fighting the by-election for the Greens. And this week he received a boost after a visit from former Green Party of England and Wales leader Natalie Bennett. Bennett was visiting the constituency to assist with the by-election campaign. While there, she spoke to the Peterborough Telegraph, explaining that Peterborough is suffering from a housing crisis:
We are not just saying ‘stop Brexit’, but we are being tough on the causes of Brexit.
We’re not building the social homes people need. One of the reasons people are so angry is they are fed up with the state of Britain today.
Green candidate Wells added to Bennett’s comments:
What’s important to remember is Peterborough has one of the highest homeless rates in the east of England. It’s important to prioritise that first.
Caroline Lucas criticises government’s university funding proposals
This week, a government issued review released its recommendations for the future of Higher Education funding. It recommended cutting undergraduate tuition fees to £7,500 a year, extending the repayment period on student loans, and reinstating means tested maintenance grants.
Green MP Caroline Lucas responded to the recommendations, arguing they were a “mixed bag”. The Brighton and Hove Independent report Lucas as saying:
Dr Augar’s proposals are a very mixed bag. Tuition fees will go down, but loans will have to start being repaid sooner and for longer, so many graduates will still be paying back their loan when their own children are heading off to university.
What’s clear is that the current student loan system is broken and this will not fix it. We need to start recognising further and higher education as a national asset of long-term economic value, with all those who benefit from it contributing to the cost.
That is why I have for a long time supported the UCU proposal for a business education tax, with the top four per cent of UK corporations who make more than £1.5 million a year, paying their fair share, and the government making up any shortfall in funding.
These criticisms were echoed by newly elected Green MEP Alex Phillips, who tweeted:
Tuition fees should be abolished, not cut. Lifelong learning should be a right & aspiration for everyone, no matter what background they’re from.
It’s only my generation and generations after me who’ve been straddled by this debt, thanks to Labour, Tory / Lib Dem governments. https://t.co/yAbXMZtf5O
— Alexandra Phillips MEP (@alexforeurope) May 30, 2019
Patrick Harvie calls for all Scottish residents to be given vote in second independence referendum
The debate around Scottish independence woke up again this week as Nicola Sturgeon published a bill for a second independence referendum.
That bill laid out that those aged 16 and over and a UK, Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland or EU citizen would be eligible to vote in that referendum.
But co-convener of the Scottish Green Party Patrick Harvie has called for the franchise to be extended. He argued that anyone ‘legally resident’ in Scotland should also be eligible to vote. That would include people granted asylum who are excluded in the Scottish Government’s plans.
According to the Scotsman, Harvie said:
The detail of the Bill needs scrutiny, like the inclusion of a citizenship requirement for the right to vote, despite repeated promises by the Scottish Government to ensure that voting rights are based on residency instead.
As citizens from a very wide range of countries come to live and work in Scotland, it can be considered discriminatory to deny the right to vote to resident immigrants who are neither EU nor Commonwealth citizens.
Young Greens co-chairs join cross-party calls for second EU referendum
In the aftermath of the European elections, calls for a second EU referendum have grown louder. Among those adding their voices to the clamour for a ‘people’s vote’ this week were the co-chairs of the Young Greens of England and Wales.
In a letter sent to all MPs the co-chairs – Rosie Rawle and Liam McClelland – joined chairs of the youth branches of Labour, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Plaid Cymru. The letter, published in the Independent said:
We, the undersigned, are the representatives of young activists from across the political spectrum.
We don’t agree on many things, except that Brexit will be a disaster, both for our country and our respective parties.
The recent elections show a clear trend; parties promising a final say on any Brexit deal are doing well, as are the Brexit Party.
No one can “out-Brexit” Nigel Farage, and we believe it would be foolish to try.
The contradictory and undeliverable promises of Brexit have meant that politics has been in deadlock for three years. The many issues that young people and students want solving – housing, knife crime and our climate crisis – have not been addressed because of this.
The undeliverable promises of Brexit have hurt politics, but worst of all, they will hurt young people’s futures.
So we urge parliamentarians to follow young people’s example: work across party lines, and come together around an achievable compromise and then put it to the people in a referendum.
Whatever Brexit deal parliament agrees, it must go back to the people in a confirmatory referendum.