On May 6th swathes of the UK go to the polls to vote in regional, Assembly and local by-elections, and once again I’m standing for the Greens in the ward in which I live and work. This is why.
So yes, obviously, climate change. Obviously. However these are two very small words to express a huge tapestry of ideas, because to tackle climate change you also have to tackle… everything else. There is no such thing as “a climate change policy” without engaging with housing, transport, agriculture, tax, economics, education, business, trade, inequality – and for that you need to go big.
Around 25% of all carbon emissions come from generating and supplying electricity. Only a government can make the choice, however, to invest in off-shore windpower, or solar, or to – in contrast to our current government – reduce tax on renewables and raise it on fossil fuels. Only a government can hold polluters to account, engage with local people, make the choice to bring on board communities who can profit from having tidal power or wind power in their area, or to listen to communities who reject, say, fracking or coal mines down the street.
Only governments can choose to build railways instead of roads, and only a government can choose to invest in infrastructure to bring economic and social justice to deprived communities. Only governments can mandate building standards, give the go-ahead for sustainable, affordable homes, or tax private jets and frequent flyers.
Only governments can invest in the massive infrastructure we need to turn this around, which means only governments can make the choice – the necessary, humane choice – to start tackling the monumental, grotesque inequality in our society by taxing the extraordinary wealth held by the 1% to help build a world everyone else can live in. Only governments can ensure that the schools have the resources to educate our kids in the skills they need in this changing world; that local businesses that focus on sustainability within the community can compete with global consumerism and corporate giants; that everyone has equal opportunity to live with dignity and in health.
Tackling climate change is a huge project that affects every part of society, and we have the opportunity to manage it well. We have the chance to tackle inequality and injustice rather than continue down the road we’re currently on where a tiny minority of elites continue to profit from poisoning the planet, then use their profits to control the story, to manipulate our media, our trust, and our parliaments.
For all of these reasons I’m standing for the Green Party, because they’re actually engaged with climate change as an issue that requires thinking about all of this, from global co-operation to your local recycling services.
I’m also standing for my local council because at the end of the day, the Greens are a small, grassroots party that depends on and flourishes with the support of local people. Inequality and environmentalism can feel overwhelming, but they are also embodied in our local services and local streets and the choices we make in our communities. My local borough, Islington, has had its funding slashed by 50% since 2010. That’s money for schools, youth clubs, mental health services, parks, libraries, recycling and refuse, housing, places for our elders and sexual health support. These services that have been lost doesn’t mean the need for them went away – it just meant that they went unfulfilled, leaving behind some of the most vulnerable in our society while piling up the pressure on services like the NHS even as it too was starved. My ward is my home, and local council is a place where big ideas of social justice, equality and change can and must meet the reality of people’s lives, lived day-to-day.
However, it’s gonna be tough. The Greens in the UK are a small party, and proposed Conservative reforms include introducing even more First Past the Post elections at the Mayoral and local level – a system which utterly fails to represent voters evenly. Combined with the way constituencies are drawn, in the 2019 election it took 38,800 votes to elect a Conservative MP, 50,817 to election a Labour MP, and 864,743 votes to elect Caroline Lucas as the one Green MP in Brighton. This gross inequality is only set to be made worse by one of the most egregious current Conservative proposals – voter ID.
In 2019, there were 34 allegations made of people pretending to be someone else at the polling stations. 34. Whereas there are 3.5 million people in the UK who are believed not to have valid ID – meaning that to prevent 34 suspected cases of voter fraud we are going to disenfranchise 3.5 million. In trials run in local council elections, hundreds of people were turned away from the ballot box – and that was just in tiny local areas.
To combat climate change, we need political change. Right now our government is actively engaging in making it harder for people to vote – harder for your voice to be heard. I am standing for the Greens because I believe we need to combat climate change, but to do that we need to bring about political change that allows our parliament to represent everyone, not just a minority, not just the richest and most powerful.
To that end, some requests!
- If your area is voting on May 6th, please go vote! Or even better, it’s not too late to request a postal ballot and avoid the polling station altogether, given we’re still in an age of Covid.
- I know I’ve said this before, but voter ID is an attempt to disenfranchise millions of people: please join the campaign against it.
- Finally the Greens in London are fighting to raise money for our two excellent Assembly Members – Caroline Russell and Sian Berry, who is also running for Mayor. We don’t have big donors, and are entirely dependent on your support. Please help us if you can.