As Caroline Lucas so eloquently put it, “Climate change is not just another issue that we add to a list of policy areas, it’s the lens through which we see everything, and there is no evidence yet, that that kind of understanding is in Jeremy or indeed the rest of the Labour Party”. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party is something that offers hope to all of us who oppose the neoliberal religion and the brutality of the current government. But even if Corbyn can help break the consensus over austerity, he is both unable and unwilling to promote true ecological sustainability, something at the core of all Green policy.
Leave aside the problems with his own MPs, the bigger issue perhaps comes from the trade unions, his staunchest supporters. They have generally not accepted the central Green insight – that the Earth is finite and cannot provide unlimited goods for everyone.
he is both unable and unwilling to promote true ecological sustainability
In July, for instance, Unite urged the government to allow another runway at Heathrow. Understandable if it wants to protect its members jobs, but not green. And Corbyn himself said that he supports a second runway in Gatwick “in the longer term”. Aside from the drastic effect this would have on air and noise pollution, his support fails to acknowledge that this is a policy for the wealthy; most people don’t fly even once a year while just 15% of UK residents account for 7 out of 10 of all flights taken.
Ending austerity while maintaining an unrelenting drive for economic growth, will do nothing to safeguard the planet, or even promote equality. We won’t be able to share the cake more equally, if in our efforts to grow it we burn down the bakery, something Corbyn himself does appear to have realised. His paper on the economy speaks repeatedly of growth – “Faster growth and higher wages must be key to bringing down the deficit”.
We won’t be able to share the cake more equally, if in our efforts to grow it we burn down the bakery
In an era of precarious employment, where increased automation is replacing the need for labour, and power is being centralised, to an ever greater extent, among those who create and own it, it is a fallacy that a higher wages will provide basic securities for all citizens. The right to live should be derived from being alive, not from having a job. That is why Green’s promote a policy of unconditional income for all, the Citizens Income. Just how far Corbyn is from demonstrating a holistic understanding of the environment and the economy, was exemplified by his recent suggestion of re-opening some of South Wales’ coal mines. Qualifying this with words about sustainability is not enough. A carbon free coal mine is simply not feasible in any foreseeable time-frame. The idea of clean coal is nothing less than an oxymoron, dreamt up by self-interested corporate advertisers, and Corbyn has bought into it.
As Green Councillor Caroline Russell, who stood against Corbyn in Islington North has said, “Jeremy Corbyn is a decent, popular and charming constituency MP. I’m waiting to see whether his leadership brings in a more plural politics, a willingness to collaborate with other progressives and a push to reform the unfair voting system that leaves councils like Islington with 47/48 seats held by Labour on just 56% of the overall vote.” Until Corbyn sticks his neck out on voting reform, he cannot truly claim to be a champion of local and national democracy.
he needs to change his tune on economic growth and stand up for a fairer voting system
Despite sharing values on important issues such as Trident and renationalising the railways, he needs to change his tune on economic growth and stand up for a fairer voting system. Until such a time, the party of true social and environmental justice remains the Green Party, and our voice will be heard louder than ever before.