Jeremy Corbyn’s fetish for economic growth will not sway Green voters

By Baroness Jenny Jones , Rupert Read

The remarkable ascension of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership poses a challenge for the Green Party. His rise delights us, both because it is a triumph of authenticity over cynical marketing, and because some of what he believes in, we believe in.

But we Greens are now going to have to make a strong case for sticking with us, rather than defecting to Corbyn-led Labour. We can’t just appeal to “anti-austerity” voters, or talk of combining social and environmental justice, or of pursuing the common good, because Corbyn does all that too. So what is our positive case, in response to the Corbyn challenge? It is to raise a series of our own challenges for Corbyn.

And we start with this simple point: Corbyn isn’t green. Like us, you may like the fact that he is Old (rather than New) Labour. It’s brilliant to see him triumphing over those who have sold out Labour’s heritage. The problem, though, is the same: he’s still Labour.

He still proudly believes in labour-ism. This, in an era of precarious employment and of a reducing need for labour to be done (because of automation), an era when the security that citizens need should come simply from their being citizens, not from their jobs.

The Green Party doesn’t believe in work for the sake of it. That is why by contrast the Green Party ultimately favours the fundamentally egalitarian measure of introducing an unconditional Citizens Income, which we would set at a level sufficient to ensure the poorest benefited.

On our housing crisis, the headlines of Corbyn’s “solution” are basically: build, build, build. Greens have a much more nuanced view. The recent report from the Green House think tank, argues that: “Instead of relying on a huge and environmentally costly building programme [as Corbyn-Labour would], we should ensure that the existing housing stock is better used; control rents and increase security in the private rented sector; discourage the purchase of housing primarily as an investment; reduce regional inequalities; and provide more affordable homes.”

One of the main arguments cannily used by the many — including pretty much everyone in Labour — who want to bulldoze our green belt, is that much of the land there is not high in biodiversity value: it is simply used for farming cereals, etc.

But Greens can knock this argument back, because we are serious about alternatives to industrial agriculture, especially the soil-destroying factory-farming of animals and cereals.

Unlike Corbyn, the Green Party places how we treat our land and soil centrally among our values and our policies. We would also tax the ownership of land through a Land Value Tax and would reforming land-ownership radically.

That means we outflank “Corbynomics”, which basically limits economics to labour and capital. Such outdated approaches have not come to terms with planetary boundaries, with the fundamental realities, that is, of a post-growth world. They have not, in particular, reckoned with the centrality of land as a factor of production, and as a constraint.

Corbyn has cannily angled for support from Greens. He may well have some good things to say on “the environment”. But what we have outlined above is why that doesn’t make him an ecologically minded thinker or leader. It doesn’t make him someone who has properly joined up his thinking. It doesn’t make him green.

And at this turning point in human history, when as a civilisation we will decide whether or not we are serious about leaving a habitable planet to our kids or not, we need to be holistic and bold in our thinking. This meansthat achieving a just and swift transition to a post-growth society that practises one-planet-living is nothing less than essential.

For this reason, Corbyn, for all his many virtues, is in one central respect just like Tony Blair and George Osborne and many more: he is thoroughly in hock to the outdated fetish for economic growth. He even goes so far as to favour the return of coal mining in south Wales. And on the litmus-test issue for Greens of London-airports-expansion, he fails: like Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Mayoral candidate, he is in favour of a second runway at Gatwick.

All the warm words of Corbynian Labour on climate mean next to nothing, so long as the Labour Party remains dogmatically committed to economic growth as its number one policy objective – for it is growth that is recklessly driving environmental degradation and driving rampant and extreme levels of inequality in our society and in our world.

In summary, our challenge for Corbyn, might be cast in this way: Will Labour oppose economic growth for the sake of it? And oppose animal testing and factory farming? Will opposition to nuclear power become Labour policy? Plus outright opposition to the EU’s TTIP?

On the other hand, will Labour support CO2 targets sufficient to return us to 350ppm, support Land Value Taxation and planet-healthy organic agriculture? Obviously, not just oppose or support them in warm vague words in some speech, but in actual votes in the House of Commons, in parliamentary committees, at PMQs, in its election manifesto?

Because even if Corbyn and Watson agree, they have the virtually impossible task of getting the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party in line. We suspect that the answer to virtually all the questions we have just asked is: No.

Therefore, we are delighted that there will now be a real opposition to the government, but it won’t mean we can spend more time at home with our children. The need for the Green Party is 100% as strong and urgent as ever.

First published on on 21st September 2015

Crisis at Addenbrooke’s demonstrates the failings of the ‘NHS Market’

Photo by Rev Stan
Photo by Rev Stan

The critical Care Quality Comission (CQC) Report into standards of healthcare at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, released today is a shocking sign of the deterioration of the National Health Service as it struggles to cope with privatisation, funding cutbacks and dramatically increased demand.

The report has found the hospital, widely recognised as a leader in evidence based and cutting edged healthcare, to be inadequate despite the ‘outstanding’ care provided by the NHS staff who work there.

It comes as the Trust running the hospital struggles to cope with a deficit of £1.2 million a week. The finances of Cambridge University Hospital’s Trust are being scrutinised by Monitor, the NHS Competition Regulator, and the concerns led to the resignation of both the Chief Executive and Chief Finance Officer last week.

The Green Party strongly opposed the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 that allowed private companies a stronger foothold in the NHS Market and forced NHS Trusts to tender for every contract. The reforms, recognised even by the Tories as their ‘biggest mistake’, have caused chaos in the NHS. Alongside unprecedented cuts in funding and ever increasing demand, fuelled by demographic chances and decreases in social care spending, the reforms are leading many previously successful trusts into financial ruin.

A Nurse at Addenbrooke’s who is in the Green Party (but who needs to remain anonymous, to protect their job) reacts to the publication of the report today by saying:

“That the staff at Addenbrooke’s have managed to deliver outstanding care under severe pressure is incredible. It goes to show what is holding together the NHS at the moment,  nothing but the professionalism, dedication and compassion of doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, cleaners, porters, and other professionals.

They have done this while seeing their pay fall in real terms every year and facing drastically increased workloads. Now the Government wants to take away their right to protest and strike as well.

This should be a stark warning to politicians, the only thing standing between the NHS and collapse is the dedication of the workforce. They deserve respect.”

Rupert Read, the Green Party candidate for Cambridge at the recent General Election and a longtime ‘Keep our NHS Public’ campaigner, said:

“There’s a lot of talk about the costs of the NHS going up and up, and government failing to meet those costs. But only Greens have the answer as to WHY this is.

We need to fund the NHS adequately, but we also need to reverse the privatisation of the NHS, which makes it more expensive year on year, and we need to tackle the causes of ill-health in our society, from pollution and obesity to inequality. Only if we do these things will be able to control costs – and only then will hospitals like Addenbrookes be able to thrive.”

Norfolk Refugee Petition – Please Sign Today!

A plea by Sandra Bogelein and Andrew Boswell, Green Party Norfolk County Councillors, and Rupert Read, Green Party national spokesperson.

Many British people have in recent days shown immense solidarity and support for Syrian refugees. They have donated money, food and materials, and started demonstrations, petitions and letters to their politicians. This pressure and public outrage has finally achieved the result of David Cameron being forced into a partial climbdown: he has now said the UK will take in some refugees, albeit not quickly enough to meet the needs of the crisis.

Michael Gubi
Photo: Michael Gubi

Charity begins at home. So we want to say this, plain and clear: refugees are welcome here in Norfolk. We urge all readers to sign the online petition, started by Norfolk Sanctuary, asking Norfolk County Council to commit to making a start by agreeing right now to take in 50 refugees. If we can’t even take in 50 refugees in this county, then what does that say about us as human beings? Let’s start to show that we mean it, that we care: please sign the petition today.

First published Monday, September 14, 2015 Eastern Daily Press.