Alexander Lebedev

Monday morning began with some confusion for Labour activists as Barry Gardiner, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, responded poorly when questioned about Labour’s decarbonisation plans on Radio 4. He failed to assert Labour’s policy of developing a pathway to net-zero emissions by 2030 which was agreed at Labour Conference in September. Instead he claimed Labour’s position was “well before 2050”: technically true, but misleading on the detail.

Gardiner’s misrepresentation of Labour policy was picked up by billionaire-owned media outlets like the Independent whose headline falsely claimed “Labour abandons climate change plan for net-zero emissions by 2030”. The news was shared gleefully on social media by dozens of Green Party activists all relishing the opportunity to undermine Labour’s climate credentials. 

Catherine Rowett, a Green MEP, took the opportunity to show off the Greens’ increasingly characteristic disdain for trade unions and the working class, tweeting: “Sadly, Labour is stuck with the Unions. The Unions are stuck with a traditional outlook, focused on defending the status quo.”

The problem, though, is that the Independent’s reporting was fake news. You might argue that the press reporting Barry Gardiner’s mistake as a definite policy change was irresponsible, because of Gardiner’s track record of contradicting Labour Party policy, including on Brexit. This would be too generous. It is in fact clear that journalists working for the billionaire media are looking for anything to sow the seeds of division and generate confusion in Labour’s ranks to demobilise an active base of activists. The Greens were happy to go along with this with no critical interrogation of the validity of the Independent’s reporting or Gardiner’s answer. 

Within hours, Clive Lewis, Labour’s Shadow Treasury Minister with responsibility for sustainable economics, told Jo Coburn on Politics Live that Labour’s target remained net-zero by 2030. Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, tweeted a threat affirming Labour’s commitment to the net-zero 2030 target. This was an authoritative move as climate is fully within Long-Bailey’s brief. Shortly after, Labour’s Press Team tweeted: “The motion passed at conference committed to working on a path towards net zero carbon emissions by 2030. Our manifesto will set out that path.” This is a position consistent with Labour’s Green New Deal policy passed at Labour’s Conference.

Unsurprisingly, the number of journalists tweeting speculation about Labour abandoning the 2030 target vastly outnumbers those reporting the fact that Labour are committed to the target, as verified by several sources. This is to be expected as the billionaires who own Britain’s news outlets like the Independent are ideologically opposed to a Labour government promising real change for the many. 

Perhaps more surprisingly is the refusal of Green activists and elected representatives to correct the lies they happily circulated earlier in the day. In this election the choice is socialism and climate justice with Labour or barbarism and climate breakdown with the Tories. Despite this, its seems that some Greens are happy to share fake news and conveniently ignore falsifying evidence if it means they can assert an anti-Labour narrative. That is what Greens and the billionaire press have in common.