Standing for Parliament in my green home town isn't playing party politics

Upcycling a few ideas in manifestos that do the same old trick of promising the earth and bribing people with their own money is not going to cut it at this climate election

Jonathan Bartley launches Green party manifesto

Reading Eleanor Salter’s call to voting red in order to get green in Stroud makes me weary. Stroud: the birthplace of the Extinction Rebellion; the town that elected the country’s first Green councillor; the town whose council, run jointly by Labour, the Greens and Liberal Democrats, has the most ambitious Climate Emergency plan in the country; the town in which fighting for the climate is something we do all year round, not just in election season. My standing for Parliament in my green home town in a climate election is hardly playing party politics.

On the contrary, I’m standing in Stroud on principle. Let’s examine some of those.

The Green Party has committed to net zero carbon by 2030. This is a hugely ambitious target and will mean transforming our homes, work and travel. Climate activists succeeded in getting Labour conference to pass a similarly ambitious motion, only to have their hopes dashed by a fudged manifesto that committed to carbon net zero by the 2030s, a target well below the expectations of groups such as Labour for a Green New Deal, in which Eleanor is active.

The reason for Labour’s half-hearted climate commitments is that the party responds to the demands of unions still defending the jobs of the past; the Greens, on the other hand, want to create the jobs of the future. So while our party wants to stop new road building, airport expansion and the sale of licences to extract oil and gas from the North Sea by 2024, Labour supports nuclear power and HS2. They have also, with John McDonnell, sent out confusing messages about airport expansion and the need to support regional airports, not to mention the fact that more than half of Labour MPs voted to expand Heathrow.

For Greens, the change we need most urgently is a transformation of our broken political system. In 2017, it took ten times as many votes to elect a Green MP as to elect one from Labour, and our voters deserve representation in Westminster as much as any party. It is Labour’s inability to share power or work cooperatively with others and their failure to support a proportional electoral system that forces us to challenge them in seats like Stroud, where we are strong. We believe in fair voting and that power should come from the bottom up. We understand that to tackle climate change we need to rethink how power is gained and used. This is what we mean when we say “System change, not climate change”.

For me, then, the most disappointing thing about Eleanor’s article is the way it asks young people to fit their hopes into our anti-democratic two-party system. The choice must be richer and wider than red or blue, especially when both have neglected our climate and natural world for decades. Upcycling a few ideas in manifestos that do the same old trick of promising the earth and bribing people with their own money is not going to cut it at this climate election. We believe that people should be empowered, rather than giving their power to mythical figureheads who promise salvation and always disappoint.

I understand why Labour activists fear the Greens and so cudgel us with both “Vote Green get Blue” and “If you want Green, vote Red”. It is because the Green Party will always be the original and the best: not only because the environment lies at the heart of our politics, but because we are not beholden to unions or corporations. Our politics belongs to you and to the future.

Molly Scott Cato is a Green Party MEP and the Prospective Parliament Candidate for Stroud

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