I've become the first Leader of the Green Party at a time when progressive leadership has never been more urgent. We face the interconnected challenges of recession, soaring oil prices and climate change, but the leadership of the establishment parties has been so timid as to actually deepen the crisis.
When the fuel crisis started to bite, a strong leader would have set their sights on achieving energy independence. Instead, our prime minister went running to the profiteers-in-chief to beg for just enough more oil to keep us dependent. Just three of these companies – BP, Centrica, and Shell – together made £1000 profit every second over the first 6 months of this year. Every penny that the oil price inches up, is a new surge of cash from the pockets of working families, students, the elderly and the disabled, directly into the bank accounts of the world's petro-giants.
And the burden falls heaviest on working families, students, the elderly and the disabled. For every 10 per cent that the price of fuel rises, another 400,000 people are plunged into fuel poverty. We urgently need to introduce a windfall tax on the grotesque profits that companies are making from the growing energy crisis.
The energy giants like to throw their hands up – market conditions, global movements, nothing to do with us. And they are getting away with it, because this spineless government lacks the political courage to introduce a tougher regulatory regime.
But this money, pulled from your pocket by the basic need to stay warm, doesn't disappear into thin air. It disappears into the wallets of the men – and they are almost all men – at the top of the global pyramid of injustice whose corporations are robbing from the poor to give to the rich and they know it. It's about time they learned that in a progressive democracy, there is no place for robber barons. The money reclaimed from oil giants' pockets through a windfall tax should be immediately invested in getting us out of the mess they put us in.
When the world faced economic depression back in the early 1930s, it was President Roosevelt's New Deal that got people back to work with a massive investment in infrastructure. Today we stand on the brink of a crisis which is both economic and environmental. We need a Green New Deal in response.
A Green New Deal would rein in the economic gambling, and reunite finance with real resources and work. It would provide secure investments for pensions and savings, using that capital to kick-start a massive public and private works programme to cut energy use and create high-quality jobs.
The core would be a 21st-century project to make the nation's buildings truly energy efficient, starting with providing free insulation to every home as Green councillors are already doing so successfully in Huddersfield. Second, we know we need massive investment in renewable energy to secure our energy supplies for the future, protect ourselves against oil price fluctuations, reinvigourate our manufacturing sector and combat climate change.
The Green New Deal is one of the most hopeful ideas in British Politics today, and over the next two years, the Green Party will be putting it at the heart of our policy development. We can beat – and turn back – the rising price of heating your home, the cost of living and the threat to our livelihoods. A Green New Deal means making that happen, not wishing it will. That's what we need from our leaders.
The writer is leader of the Green Party