If there is one thing we have learned in the past year, it is that we need to act fast to save our planet. This general election gives us a chance to take that action.
Labour’s Green New Deal and Green Industrial Revolution would give Britain a government with probably the most ambitious environmental programme in Europe, possibly the world.
But that can only happen if Labour get into government, and that means winning as many seats from the Tories as possible.
That’s why it was so encouraging that the Greens in my constituency, Calder Valley, have decided to stand aside and support the Labour candidate. In 2017, the Conservatives held Calder Valley by just 609 votes – while the Greens polled 631. That gesture by the Greens could be one small step towards saving the planet, and it would be good to see more such steps.
Wanting to see as many Labour MPs in Parliament as possible is not about tribalism, it’s not about triumphalism. It’s about achieving: achieving the future for our country that all progressives want to see.
Sadly, I have wasted far too much time this week arguing on social media with people who actually agree with me: arguing with Greens who think “it’s all about the Greens giving and Labour taking”, as one of them put it to me.
Why don’t Labour stand down in some constituencies to give the Greens a better chance, I’ve been asked. One Green specifically mentioned the Isle of Wight, where the Lib Dems (who polled a derisory number of votes in 2017) have stood aside in favour of the Greens. Why won’t Labour (who came second in 2017) do the same?
But this is missing the point.
This is not about giving each other a nice back-scratching warm feeling. This is about making things happen. How many Green candidates finished second to Tories in 2017? I stand to be corrected, but I believe the answer is none.
Doubling the number of Green MPs would no doubt create a euphoric feeling for a few minutes – but that would quickly disappear when the cold reality of another Tory government dawns. Having several Green MPs would be great, but they would be totally ineffective under a Tory government that doesn’t want to listen to anything they have to say.
One Green argued that Labour’s environment policies were “tame and don’t go far enough”. OK, though you could equally argue that aiming to make all new homes zero carbon by 2022 – that’s just three years away – is very ambitious. As is the plan to make the country carbon-neutral by 2030. That is something the Tories say is impossible, so it is surely the very definition of ambitious. And even 47% of Conservative voters support it.
Of course, they can go further, but we’ve got to start somewhere. It’s no good the Greens clinging to their “not invented here syndrome”: saving the planet is only worth doing if the Greens are the government. We can’t wait for that. The time for action is now, and the opportunity is on December 12.
Green members also point to the question of electoral reform: why can’t Labour support it? Fair enough, and that’s why I have responded to Labour’s request for policy proposals by suggesting exactly this. Labour should take another look at the voting system, complete the reform of the House of Lords, and give the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds.
But changing the voting system is not that simple.
Roy Jenkins was asked to look at it by Tony Blair’s 1997 government and his response was unenthusiastically received by the electorate and quietly dropped. I haven’t noticed any popular uprising in favour of an alternative voting system since. Still, it could be the right thing to do, as long as anyone could agree on a new system. If there was an obvious and universally accepted alternative, this would be a no-brainer, but it is not the silver bullet some Greens seem to think it is – put 20 advocates of voting reform in a room and you will get 20 different suggestions for a new system.
If the Tories win a majority, on the other hand, you can guarantee there will be electoral reform. They will rapidly redraw the constituency boundaries – as they have been trying to do for years – to entrench their advantage. They will come up with every trick they can, such as requiring photo ID at polling stations, to disenfranchise as many non-supporters as possible.
So this is not a “they’re both as bad as each other” situation, as some Greens have tried to paint it. There is a clear and massive difference between the two potential governments. Like it or not, on December 13 we shall have a government led by either Labour or the Tories. That’s the reality, the world we are living in right now – the electoral system isn’t going to change in the next five weeks.
If it’s a Labour government, work will begin immediately on saving our planet.
If it’s the Tories, again, you can forget about all that. Probably forever.