Greens get ready for a General Election – UK Green news round up week 36
Amelia Womack calls for highest ever number of Green General Election candidates
With a snap General Election looming on the horizon, the Green Party of England and Wales deputy leader Amelia Womack has called for the party to field its highest ever number of candidates. In an article for Green World, Womack said the Greens need to field a ‘record breaking’ number of candidates:
To ensure that we get our highest ever vote share across the country, we have to stand in as many seats as possible across the UK. We need to break our previous record of standing in 93 per cent of seats in 2015, and that only happened because of the determination of our local parties. If your local party hasn’t started a selection process then please get selecting, and get prepared.
She also pushed for the party to ensure that its candidates were from a diverse range of backgrounds:
Women, people of colour, people with disabilities, LGBTIQA+ and working class people don’t always assume that politics is a place for them. This means that to get diverse candidates then we must encourage and support people to stand. Many people will have personal barriers that they’ll want addressed to feel able to stand. That might be public speaking training or even child care support. As Greens I hope we can rally round and ensure that we address any issues that reduce people’s opportunities to stand.
As Womack’s article was published, many local Green Parties were already in the process of selecting their parliamentary candidates. This week, a flurry of candidates have been selected across the country.
Nigel Hennerley has been selected to contest Tatton, the constituency currently held by the hated government minister and failed Tory leadership contender Esther McVey. Hennerley previously stood for the constituency in 2017, winning 2.1% of the vote.
In Skipton and Ripon, Andy Brown will be fighting the election for the Greens. The Yorkshire seat is currently held by the Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith. Brown is a councillor on Craven District Council and contested Skipton and Ripon in 2017, when he was one of only a handful of Green candidates in the country to increase the party’s vote share.
Elsewhere in Yorkshire, Natalie Thomas has been selected for Sheffield Hallam – the seat of the disgraced former Labour MP Jared O’Mara. If a General Election isn’t called soon, the seat will be contested in a by-election due to O’Mara’s recent resignation. Sheffield Hallam was previously held by former Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, before he was unseated by the Labour Party in 2017.
And in London, Hackney Green Party has selected its candidates to fight both Hackney constituencies. Alex Armitage was selected to contest Hackney North and Stoke Newington – the seat currently held by Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbot. He’s joined by housing activist and member of the Young Greens Executive Committee Tyrone Scott who will be squaring off against Labour’s Meg Hillier in Hackney South and Shoreditch. Both seats have historically seen a strong Green vote; in 2015, the party polled over 10% in both constituencies.
Green Party in Northern Ireland calls for talks over electoral alliances
More General Election talk, as Green Party in Northern Ireland leader Clare Bailey has written to “pro-remain” parties who stand in the north of Ireland to discuss potential electoral alliances. Bailey wrote to the leaders of Sinn Fein, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and the Alliance Party.
The people of Northern Ireland voted to remain and it’s vital that our MPs reflect that.
These are extraordinary and precarious times as we face into a no deal Brexit and continuing chaos at Westminster.
That’s why I have written to local party leaders to explore all possible options around the expected General Election.
In the face of a snap General Election, a no deal Brexit and chaos at Westminster, we must put the interests of the people ahead of those of any single party or prospective candidate.
Since then, the SDLP have confirmed they are open to discussions with the Greens. The SDLP’s leader Colum Eastwood tweeted that he would be “delighted” to meet to discuss potential alliances:
@ClareBaileyGPNI Hi Clare, I'd be delighted to meet to discuss how we can maximise the number of MPs from here prepared to go and vote against Brexit.
— Colum Eastwood (@columeastwood) September 4, 2019
Currently neither the Green Party in Northern Ireland nor the SDLP hold any parliamentary seats.
Scottish Greens hit out at Nicola Sturgeon over climate policy
With the Scottish Parliament now back in session after the summer recess, the Scottish Green Party have been steadfast in holding the Scottish government to account. This week Green MSPs have been targeting the SNP’s record and ambition on climate change.
Co-convener of the Green group in the Scottish parliament Alison Johnstone took Nicola Sturgeon to task First Ministers’ Questions on Thursday. Johnstone accused Sturgeon of ‘tinkering round the edges’ when it comes to climate change:
The climate emergency cannot wait while the First Minister tinkers round the edges.
In our Scottish Green New Deal we propose the hundreds of millions spent on major trunk road building and upgrades be redirected into public transport, cycling and walking. The independent review of the government’s own clean air strategy agrees.
Instead, the Scottish Government has frozen the budget for active travel again.
The First Minister’s target on reforestation of 21 per cent is similarly unambitious.
These comments were echoed by Green MSP Ross Greer, who accused the SNP of being “timid” in the Sunday Mail:
At least in Scotland we have a functioning Parliament, even if the Scottish Government is proving too timid to tackle the most pressing issue of our era: the climate emergency.
Last week Nicola Sturgeon laid out her plans for the year but this was no emergency response. She’s tinkering round the edges while the world is literally on fire.
And Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie said the Scottish Government was hoping for solutions to climate change in what he described as a “failed economic system. Writing in The National, he said:
Nicola Sturgeon’s programme for government tinkers with our failed economic system, places faith in consumer choice and unproven future technology, and still backs maximum extraction of fossil fuels, regardless of the science.
The Scottish Green New Deal that we are developing has a scale and ambition comparable to those we see in America, takes inspiration from our European neighbours and recognises where Scotland is today on our journey to independence.
This means developing public and community ownership in areas like land, energy, housing and finance, instead of seeing public ownership merely as a safety net in the event of market failure. It means putting the full weight of this renewed public sector behind efforts to tackle the climate emergency and create high-quality, unionised jobs.
Caroline Lucas tables parliamentary motion to support student climate strikers
As the UK parliament returned from its summer recess, all the attention has been on Brexit wrangling. But other business continues to rumble on. And this week Green MP Caroline Lucas tabled an Early Day Motion calling for the House of Commons to support the international student climate strike movement.
The motion – also supported by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and the SNP and Plaid Cymru parliamentary leaders Ian Blackford and Liz Saville-Roberts – welcomes the calls for a General Strike for the climate on September 20. It reads:
That this House acknowledges that there is a climate emergency and that urgent action is required to rapidly decarbonise the UK economy; welcomes the call from Greta Thunberg and youth activists from Fridays for Future for adults to join with students and young people striking on 20 September 2019 to demand climate justice; applauds the role that students and young people have played in the UK and across the world in bringing the climate emergency to the attention of policy makers and the public; and supports the planned strikes and demonstrations by young people and adults on 20 September 2019.
Green MEPs join cross-party anti-Brexit alliance
With the UK facing a never-ending constitutional crisis exacerbated by the ongoing Brexit debacle, all seven of the UK’s Green MEPs this week joined forces with a cross-party group of MEPs. The group are seeking to collaborate in keeping the UK’s membership of the EU on the table and opposing Boris Johnson’s authoritarian actions.
The new cross-party group, which includes MEPs from the Greens, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrats, the SNP and the Alliance Party. In a declaration, the MEPs said:
Limiting the opportunity for MPs to debate, vote and crucially, to legislate, cannot be the response to a referendum in which Leave campaigned for the UK parliament to ‘take back control’.
We were all elected just four months ago with clear mandates. We are working together. We call upon our European friends and colleagues to assist domestic efforts in keeping the door open to us.
Young Greens co-chair sets out vision for Green Party’s youth branch
The recently re-elected Young Greens co-chair Rosie Rawle has this week set out her vision for the Young Greens – the Green Party of England and Wales’ youth and student branch. In an article for the Morning Star, Rawle explained what she sees as policy priorities:
For Britain to begin to play its role in tackling the climate crisis, we’ll need to invest proper state resources into new infrastructure and industry — generating a revolution in renewable energy, and providing well-paid, empowering and socially useful jobs for those who produce them.
We’ll need a public transport system that is fit for the 21st century, providing local carbon connectivity across the country, through a publicly owned model which puts people at its heart and ends the scandal of rip-off fares and money being siphoned off by the train barons and the bus cartels.
And we’ll need an overhaul of our political system to localise and democratise decision-making, enabling towns and cities to regain power at a community level, rather than resembling identikit carbon copies with their multinational dominated centres and privatised public spaces.
She went on to elaborate on how this vision might be implemented in practice:
In practice this means building a base of Young Greens across the country who are fighting tooth and nail to reverse the trend of hollowing-out of local government — through outsourcing and through Westminster power grabs.
That’s councillors who deliver pioneering programmes of municipal socialism funding energy and housing co-operatives, reclaiming public land and municipalising utilities. Or else activists who can mobilise their community to force their Tory councils to take these policies seriously, or hold their Labour councils to account if they don’t.
Yorkshire Green councillors call for end to subsidies to Bradford airport
Green councillors from across the Leeds City Region have this week collaborated on calls to axe public subsidies for Bradford Airport. The calls come as up to £100 million of public money could be used to finance new roads and facilitate expansion at the airport.
The group of 13 Green councillors have written an open letter, which according to the Huddersfield Examiner reads:
Proposals to invest public money in transport links to Leeds Bradford Airport are aimed at supporting its expansion plans, which can only mean more flights and more carbon emissions making our chances of hitting our net zero carbon emissions target by 2038 remote if not impossible.
Leader of the Green group on Kirklees council Andrew Cooper also commented that the money earmarked for investment in airport expansion could instead be used for improving public transport provision:
My colleagues and I will continue to put forward the case that £100m could be spent on more reliable bus services or even new tram and train links across the region.
Mark Ruskell condemns oil and gas industry’s plans for million barrels a day extraction
The UK oil and gas industry this week released its plans for tackling climate change. Unsurprisingly, they make for grim reading. If followed, their plans would see the UK continue to produce 1.1 million barrels of oil and gas per day.
Green MSP Mark Ruskell accused the industry of “putting its own interests ahead of our survival”. According to ITV News he said:
The sector says it recognises the need to change, but this overt lobbying argues that maximum extraction of fossil fuels is compatible with tackling the climate emergency. The industry is putting its own interests ahead of our survival.
Indeed, production in the North Sea has gone up this year, since the First Minister declared a climate emergency. It has gone up 20% since 2014.
In this plan, the industry has actually committed to keeping production above one million barrels of oil equivalent per day.
The science cannot be any clearer on this. Fossil fuels must be left in the ground. We already have far more fossil fuel in existing reserves than we can afford to burn.
Caroline Lucas admits regret over backing EU referendum
As Brexit debates rumble on, Green MP Caroline Lucas has stated that her biggest regret was supporting the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. In an interview for Prospect Magazine, Lucas described this as the “biggest mistake” of her political life:
Supporting calls for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union in 2016 was the biggest mistake of my political life. I’d hoped we could have an honest, mature public conversation about our relationship with our closest neighbours and how we can reform the EU to make it more accountable. I wish I’d known how toxic the debate would become.
Elsewhere in the interview, she admitted that she had never read Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.
Gina Dowding slams fracking firm Cuadrilla over permit breaches
The battle against fracking in Lancashire continues. And this week Green MEP Gina Dowding has once again waded into the row. Dowding has responded to evidence from the Environment Agency that the fracking company Cuadrilla has breached its permit. The breaches primarily relate to the company and its contractors’ failure to sufficiently monitor environmental impacts of its activities.
Dowding hit out at the company, calling on them to “leave Lancashire”:
It is now time for Cuadrilla to leave Lancashire. Their continued disrespect for regulations and the community in which they operate, is astounding.
With the news yesterday that the investors who hold a 45% share of Cuadrilla are looking at selling the company, it looks as though the financial bottom of fracking is falling though.
The earthquakes that fracking has caused and the resulting property damage incurred by residents, is the final insult to a county who voted against this industry.
The terms of Cuadrilla’s license have not been upheld and have put people at risk. The government should seek to act in the interests of Lancashire residents and move to ban fracking.
Young Greens co-chair sets out Green education priorities
With term starting for many school students this week, Young Greens co-chair Thomas Hazell has highlighted the range of progressive policies the Green Party currently has with regards to education.
In an article for Green World, Hazell laid out five key planks of the Greens’ policies: scrapping SATs and reducing the emphasis on exams; abolishing the Ofsted system of school inspections; reinstating the Education Maintenance Allowance; starting schooling at the age of six; and ensuring mandatory, comprehensive, LGBTIQA+ inclusive sex and relationships education.