Why Greens Should Support Corbyn’s People’s Quantitative Easing
In the run-up to the very welcome news that Jeremy Corbyn has been elected leader of the Labour Party there was some debate within the Green Party about how best to react to his rise. One common conclusion has been that, at the very least, it is a good thing that ideas long championed by the Green Party are receiving wide exposure and proving to be so popular. Another common (and I think correct) conclusion is that, for all Corbyn’s strengths, there will still be a need for the Green Party if he becomes Labour leader.
The beneficial effect the Greens would continue to have can be demonstrated through one specific example. One of Corbyn’s key policy proposals is ‘People’s Quantitative Easing’. The Quantitative Easing (QE) of the past five years has involved £375bn being pumped into the banks, where most of it has simply sat in their vaults providing no benefit to the economy. In contrast, People’s QE would pump money directly into upgrading the economy by investing in new housing, transport and infrastructure projects.
Many Greens will agree that Corbyn’s plan is far more likely to provide an economic benefit to ordinary people than relying on banks to lend money rather than using it to build up their reserves. People’s QE is a great example of a policy that can benefit from Green influence to ensure it is delivered effectively.
How so? Well, People’s QE is essentially a re-badging of an idea contained in the Green New Deal, championed on numerous occasions by Caroline Lucas. Green Infrastructure QE was the idea of using public money to build highly insulated homes and to convert buildings to be more energy efficient. By doing so, the economy would grow, people would have better-quality homes to live in and we would finally be starting to take proper action to deal with climate change.
We Greens should offer support to Corbyn’s People’s QE, whilst ensuring that the environment remains a key part of the project. We already know that environmental action is not as much of a priority for Corbyn as it is for us. We must therefore ensure that there is continuous pressure for action on climate change to remain a key component of People’s QE.
There may be some who bridle at the idea that the Greens should act as a mere pressure group on the Labour Party. That will never be the case – the Green Party will always have its own distinctive policies and, while having far more in common with Corbyn than any other Labour leader in my lifetime, will never be synonymous with a Corbyn-led Labour Party, as this article on Bright Green persuasively argued.
But it would be a terrible waste not to seize the opportunity to work alongside someone who might be in a position to help us achieve some of our aims for the sake of partisanship. Whether or not we should enter an official pact with a Corbyn-led Labour Party, as advocated by Caroline Lucas, we should at least look to work with him on the issues we have in common. Caroline Lucas has done many wonderful things during her time in Parliament but turning around decades of economic orthodoxy single-handedly is unfortunately beyond even her. Green/People’s QE is one way that we can start to turn this around, to begin to create an economy that works for ordinary people and the planet.
Green/People’s QE is an idea that’s time has come. This is partly due to the exposure it is receiving thanks to Corbyn’s championing. An additional factor, however, is the rapidly approaching COP21 climate change talks in Paris. This is a time when climate change will be high up on the political agenda, a distressingly rare occurrence. During this time we will need to push for ambitious targets for emissions cuts – but also offer solutions as to how those cuts can be achieved.
The Labour Party may now have a proper socialist leader once more, but the Green Party is still the home of ecosocialists – and is a party comfortable with its left-wing nature (something that still cannot be said of Labour). Corbyn’s election is a chance for us to collaborate to achieve our aims, while retaining our own distinctive ideas and influences. Green/People’s QE is just one of the solutions we should be offering – with Corbyn’s support giving us a better chance of getting the idea into the public debate than we have been able to manage in the past.
The notion that £375bn of QE has simply sat in bank vaults is wrong. It has gone into acquisitions and mergers, inflating stock prices & bonds, property and risky investments. A crash or “market adjustment” of all of these is long overdue. As George Osborne’s policies unravel and another financial disaster hits home with savers, pension funds and investors all losing £Bns, it becomes ever more important to make the general public aware that this is has been caused by Conservative policies. There is no such thing as a “trickle down effect” from Conservative QE. The measures used to calculate GDP mask the fact that there is no real growth in the real economy. Worldwide, the “Green Bonds” market is predicted to reach $Trillions this year while the Conservatives seek to sell off the Green Investment Bank. Cutting feed in tariffs, reducing alternative heat incentives, cancelling wind farms while giving additional subsidy to fossil fuel industries is counter intuitive, regressive and symptomatic of a failed government. Green QE needs to be invested in circular economies, meaningful jobs for UK citizens and in restoring public ownership of monopolies, the profits from which largely go abroad. The first £27Bn should go to ensuring the UK complies with the 2000 EU Water Framework Directive. This requires changes to chemical and intensive agricultural practices. The government’s “Green Book” cost:benefit mechanism is not fit for purpose and must be reconfigured to reflect reality.
Also see Molly Scott Cato here http://mollymep.org.uk/2015/06/15/greenqe/
Very interesting, thanks Chris. I think Molly’s article backs up my main point – that People’s QE and Green QE are pretty similar but that Corbyn’s plans could benefit from Green influence.
Green QE and Peoples QE not quite the same thing, as Molly explains here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/molly-scott-cato/is-corbynomics-too-good-to-be-true_b_8008132.html