Sensible Socialism- The Salford Model

This interesting article by Paul Dennett, City Mayor of Salford, from Tribune magazine looks at practical environmental  policies being implemented by some Labour councils. This approach should be at the heart of Labour's manifesto for future council elections.

Like its near-neighbour Preston, Salford's left-leaning council has put socialist policies into practice at a local level – and been rewarded with public housing, well-paying jobs, insourcing and a greener city.

Last December, it was my privilege to announce the next stage of Salford’s Council House building scheme, through which the council intends to build 3,000 more homes over the coming years.The announcement was the culmination of over four years of work on our council-owned development company Derive since my election as Salford City Mayor in 2016. These have been four years in which Salford has pursued a radical policy agenda in local government, which I have come to term ‘Sensible Socialism’ – or the Salford Model. Continue reading "Sensible Socialism- The Salford Model"

Building for COP26- Trade Union model motion

The COP26 Coalition Trade Union Caucus has agreed a model motion for trade union branches.  
Please circulate and pass in your trade union branch and modify for trades councils and other union forums.  
Model Motion for Union Branches
This union branch notes that:
1.Human-caused climate breakdown is leading to and exacerbating extreme weather events across the globe: heat waves, wildfires, floods and hurricanes, and loss of biodiversity.
2. The IPCC 2018 Special Report has warned of the dire consequences of exceeding 1.5ºC global average warming and that a societal transformation would be needed to avoid this, including halving global carbon emissions by 2030; nevertheless, global emissions have continued to rise.
3. The climate crisis is a social justice issue, with those who have done least to cause the crisis and who are least able to address it facing the worst impacts. We need to mobilise for a just transition which protects and improves workers’ livelihoods, creates a more inclusive society and stops greenhouse gas emissions.

Stopping the Silvertown Tunnel

The Mayor of London is pressing ahead with the Silvertown tunnel project, even after the coronavirus pandemic has turned traffic projections (and Transport for London's finances) upside down, writes Richard Kuper. Local residents, environmental groups, CLPs, Labour councils, and prominent Labour MPs have urged him to cancel the project, handed to a construction consortium under a PFI in 2019. The estimated cost, ultimately to be borne by TfL, has risen from £600m to £2 billion. It will be a financial and an ecological disaster. Many London Labour MPs, including Matthew Pennycook, MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, who is also Shadow Minister for Climate Change, have called for the Mayor of London to cancel the project before construction work begins. Other London Labour MPs to call on Khan to cancel the Tunnel include: Abena Oppong-Asare, Lyn Brown and John McDonnell. Continue reading "Stopping the Silvertown Tunnel"

“Change is a necessity” – the Corbyn Project and the centrality of the environment

Many of us in Red-Green Labour tuned in on Sunday January 17th to join the launch of the Project for Peace and Justice inspired by Jeremy Corbyn. We are pleased to see the focus on the environment and the commitment to build on the Green New Deal and adapt it to a post-Covid world. As part of this we would urge the Project to take a lead in building for actions around the COP26 in November and ensure a sea of Labour and trade union branch banners in Glasgow... 16 year old climate justice activist Scarlett Westbrook spoke powerfully at the online rally and we reproduce her speech below (thanks to Labour Hub) “My name is Scarlett, I’m 16 years old, and I’m a leading climate justice activist, being a spokesperson at the UK Student Climate Network and Labour for a Green New Deal. I’m also the Head of Political Engagement at Teach the Future , a student-led campaign to transform the education system to remove access barriers and incorporate climate justice education into every single aspect of education, which is also the organisation behind the first ever student- written bill, the English Climate Emergency Education Act. Continue reading "“Change is a necessity” – the Corbyn Project and the centrality of the environment"

Labour’s Climate Conservatism

This recent article by Chris Saltmarsh, in Tribune magazine, is very welcome.  Chris points to the apparent drift in Labour policy away from the radicalism of the 2017 and 2019 manifestos in terms of the environment.
Clearly this is at odds with Keir Starmer's leadership campaign pledges to put the environment and the Green New Deal at the centre of policy.
That being the case, the present trajectory of Labour under a Starmer leadership does not bode well for Labour Party engagement at the top level with the COP 26 process and the climate activism on the ground around it.

Keir Starmer's failure to involve grassroots campaigners in Labour's climate strategy betrays a lack of radicalism in the party's vision – which is out of step with the policies we need to prevent disaster.

On Tuesday 12th January 2021), Keir Starmer tweeted a Zoom screenshot of a meeting he held with the CEOs and Directors of Britain’s largest environmental NGOs. In attendance were Ed Miliband, Matt Pennycook, and Luke Pollard as members of the Shadow Cabinet with a climate brief. The NGOs represented were Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the WWF, the Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, Green Alliance, and the National Trust. Continue reading "Labour’s Climate Conservatism"

Labour- get your wellies on!

In this overview, Charlie Clutterbuck, who describes himself as a socialist soil zoologist, and author of Bittersweet Brexit: The future of Farming, Food Land and Labour, looks  at what lies in store for food and farming in the UK. There was much post-Referendum talk about the opportunity to green our farming. There would be 'public money for public goods' and we thought that meant improving the earth. There would be a new ‘Environmental Land Management Scheme' (ELMS) that would replace the old EU system of paying subsidies by land area. False promises. The real news is not good.  Our author raises the alarm at the way some environmentalists are still seduced by the notion that ‘public money will go to public goods’. He also stresses how supine Labour and the unions have been in general and calls for make food and farming central to our political agenda from now on. Continue reading "Labour- get your wellies on!"

Relaunch Labour’s Green New Deal

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According to the World Health Organisation, the Covid-19 pandemic is still accelerating globally; infections have doubled in the past six weeks. This is another sharp reminder that today’s model of human society is no longer fit for purpose and is exposing us to ever more frequent and dangerous zoonotic pathogens.

Set against this sobering reality – and with a massive rise in unemployment looming as the furlough scheme is brought to a premature end – Sunak’s package is entirely inadequate.

Continue reading "Relaunch Labour’s Green New Deal"

Going beyond ‘The Green Transformation’

Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour Party has taken significant steps away from the soft-neoliberalism of Tony Blair, towards a more interventionist economic strategy, aiming to boost productivity, redistribute wealth and power from the rich to the poor and tackle the great problems of the 21st century, writes Andrea Grainger Chief among those problems is climate change and other forms of ecological devastation. During this year’s Labour conference the party released a new paper; The Green Transformation [1], laying out labours solutions for these problems. The plan focuses on three environmental problems; Climate Change, Air and Water Quality, and Biodiversity, and on six policy areas; Housing, Energy, Water, Transport, International policy, and Farming, Fishing and Wildlife. The Good Underlying Labour’s plans is their new industrial strategy, with £250 billion of spending over the next ten years. This pays for programmes to insulate Britain's housing stock, electrify and expand our railways, plant millions of trees, build renewable power stations, and establish science and innovation funds to develop sustainable farming techniques. At conference, Jeremy Corbyn promised to create 400,000 new green jobs.’ Labour combines this green strategy with steps towards a more democratic and decentralised economy, particularly through the nationalisation of the railways and water services, and the creation of locally owned energy networks. Labour is also supporting the young, and small businesses, with support for small-scale fishing and free bus passes for under 25s. This expands on their commitment in the last manifesto to reintroduce the agricultural wages board and to support small farmers against big supermarkets. In terms of the party’s foreign policy they are promising to divest foreign aid from fossil fuel projects and to support a green transition in poorer countries. Labour’s climate change plan commits them to aiming for not more than 1.5 degrees warming, and cutting carbon emissions by 2050 to zero, as strongly urged by the recent IPCC report. The Bad Labour industrial strategy, while a significant improvement, is still limited by a mistaken view of public finances which came from the right and has become mainstream. Since Milton Friedman developed his ‘monetarist’ economics in the 1970s, and former Labour Prime Minister Callaghan adopted it as Labour Party policy, Labour has never really challenged it. Britain can afford to be spending much more than £25 billion a year, and creating many more jobs. The Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union group has developed proposals for one climate million jobs. [2] And while Labour has plans for democratising energy, water and transport, they lack similar proposals for food. The ‘Peoples Food policy’ sets out how this might be done, through the creation and financing of local food councils, and the active participation of communities and farmers in DEFRA’s policy making. [3] Labour’s policies for food and wildlife also lack any mention of land. Urban sprawl, land hoarding and intensive farming practices each cause significant pressure on Britain’s land, that need to be addressed with a powerful Land Value Tax. The report mentions ‘Ending our reliance on finite resources’, but only considers fossil fuels, plastic and food waste. There is no mention of minerals and metals here, or in any other Labour report. The party has not yet made any attempt to respond to the ‘peak minerals’ crisis that many environmentalists are trying to draw attention to. Responding to this would mean moving towards a ‘circular economy’ in resources, with large-scale investment in recycling, and eco-design regulations to force companies to develop products to last a long time, and be recyclable at the end of their life. Beyond this, there is also no sign that Labour is taking the ecological limits to growth seriously. Many of their plans involve reducing the resource intensity of our economic activity. While this is necessary, it’s not sufficient to protect the planet. As William Jevons first pointed out one-hundred and fifty years ago [4], increasing the efficiency of resource use drives down the cost for consumers, leading to higher consumption, and faster resource depletion. To ensure the protection of our planet, we must have hard caps on the use of certain resources. Caps on carbon emissions, caps on resource extraction, caps on deforestation and pollution levels. So far Labour has only agreed to caps on fishing, so huge space remains for our planet to continue being ruined. On carbon emissions, Labour’s plans are relatively ambitious, but also very risky. The latest IPCC says that if all countries decarbonise at the same rate, and reach zero emissions by 2050, then we give ourselves a 50% chance of preventing 1.5 degrees temperature rise. A 50% chance of catastrophic climate change is still very high, so Britain under a Labour government should be aiming for more. And it is very likely that some countries will not meet this target, so if we are seriously committed to 1.5 degrees, britain will need to pick up the slack. As well as a faster plan, Labour also needs a clearer long-term structure. What is going to be the enforcement mechanism moving forward? How will Labour incentivise a rapid transition, and penalise companies that fail to follow through? Labour could establish some kind of strict carbon budgeting, or introduce laws protecting the environment and punishing ecological damage. Both of these would let businesses plan ahead, and make long-term investments to decarbonise in the time allowed. Conclusion Labour’s plans are a good step forward, but are still limited to tackling the problems most known to the public, within the framework of the financial restrictions allowed by mainstream economic theory. There is need for much greater radical rethinking of economics to ensure protection of the planet. [1] https://www.labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/The-Green-Transformation-.pdf [2] https://www.cacctu.org.uk/sites/data/files/Docs/one_million_climate_jobs_2014.pdf [3] https://www.peoplesfoodpolicy.org/download [4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox