Eleanor Margolies
Image credit: Eleanor Margolies

As the government continues its negotiations over Brexit – both with the European Union and the UK parliament – the possibility of the UK participating in the forthcoming European Parliament elections is becoming more and more likely. In light of this, regional Green Parties have begun the process of selecting candidates to fight those elections.

Bright Green is inviting all those standing to be Green candidates for these potential elections to write a short article, outlining why party members should select them. One of these candidates is Eleanor Margolies, and this is what she had to say:

To shift the world, all we need is a lever and a firm place to stand, said Archimedes – the Greek scientist more famous for jumping out of his bathtub with a cry of ‘Eureka!’ There are so many places where people are working hard, leaning on every possible lever, to move the world in a better direction. So why am I looking to the European Parliament for a ‘firm place to stand’? Because climate change can’t be solved by one person or one country alone. To tackle the power of the planet-eating monster corporations, we need to work together.

Greens have always understood life on earth as being made up of complex, interconnected systems that are not limited by human borders. The flip side of this picture is the knowledge that pollution doesn’t stay within borders either: plastic is washed down rivers to the seas; toxic pesticides and dioxins accumulate as they move up through the food chain. But international responses to global problems can succeed: for example, EU legislation to tackle acid rain by cutting sulphur dioxide led to a 94% reduction in emissions by 2011.

Green jobs from transforming the economy

Global action to avert catastrophic climate breakdown means a rapid transformation of the energy economy, including a ban on fracking and coal mining, with investment in solar and wind instead; an end to all plans to increase flights, with affordable long-distance trains powered by renewables instead; and the replacement of toxic diesel with electric buses, cycle networks and walkable, tree-lined streets.

For London, this investment would mean creating thousands of new green jobs. There’s work to be done in insulating our draughty, leaky homes and installing solar panels on every block of council flats, just for starters. As a campaigner on air pollution, cycling and social housing, I’ve been inspired by seeing good ideas in action in cities across Europe and have brought them into the conversation in the UK – writing about ‘bike hangars’ from Holland here.

Learning from each other

In my day job, I work on access to theatre and museums for blind and partially sighted people. Two years ago, I took part in an EU-funded project to share expertise between France, Spain, Italy and the UK. It was fun – I learned a lot about how other people work. And real change is happening as a result: in one Spanish city, there are inclusive performances in the historic amphitheatre for the very first time, with support from city councillors who now understand both how access works practically and what it means for equal participation in society. This project is just one small piece in a huge EU jigsaw of training (through the European Social Fund), educational exchanges (e.g. Erasmus, Comenius, Grundtvig) and research partnerships – all enabled by the principle of free movement.

I’m by no means uncritical of the EU. But Green MEPs have been the ones advocating tirelessly for reform and for greater democracy and transparency. They have challenged corporate lobbying and have gained a reputation for detailed scrutiny of legislation. I would be proud to follow in their footsteps, side by side with the other candidates for London Green MEPs.

Londoners have seen the difference that Greens make on the London Assembly through bold and collaborative work. In both the London Assembly and the European elections, citizens stifled by First Past the Post can vote in a fair, proportional system. But while London issues make the news, the activities of the European Union have been under-reported and misrepresented in the UK media for 40 years. In the coming months, I will tell the story of the EU’s successes, be honest about what needs to change and work for social and climate justice.

Eleanor Margolies was joint chair of Southwark Green Party 2016-18. She has stood for the Green Party in local and general elections in Southwark, doubling the Green vote in May 2018.

All articles from those seeking to be Green candidates for London in the European Parliament elections can be found here.