All of that is, of course, pretty hard to achieve. Especially as Corbyn has never been that enthusiastic about the EU and thinks that the Labour Party must never give up its leadership role. You don’t spend fifty years on the political margins only to gracefully stand aside if you think you have the chance of becoming Prime Minister.
So the most likely situation that we will be faced with is an election in November in which Johnson claims to be the strong man who delivered our freedom from the EU and the grown ups have to try and pick up the pieces of his lies, his profligacy, his arrogant contempt for Parliament, his petty nationalism, his incompetence and his excessive self-belief.
It is therefore somewhat important that we try and prepare ourselves for the cold reality of a UK outside of the EU and an election after the event.
If we predicate every part of our politics on the fight to keep the UK in the EU and the country is already out where does that leave us? I don’t need any convincing that staying in the EU is far better for the UK economy, for its society and for our ecology. I do need convincing that there is a clear understanding of how to move forward if we do actually leave.
The unpleasant reality is that if we are forced out or tricked out then there is no easy route back in. Those who predicate their politics on the argument that Brexit is the biggest issue around could find themselves struggling to persuade the British people to go back in on much worse terms months after we have just left. It is going to take a little more than nostalgia for the good old days inside the EU to wrest control from Johnson if he succeeds in crashing us out.
Single issue Brexit campaigning therefore carries big dangers. For the very simple reason that Brexit isn’t actually the only game in town. It is a hugely important issue. Leaving would represent a really significant defeat for progressive forces. But other things matter. We need to be ready with clear ideas about what kind of Britain progressive people want to build if we are to beat Johnson.
That is one of the prime reasons why we need a strong independent Green Party and that it must get out there in the next General Election and put the realities onto the agenda. The environmental crisis matters more than Brexit. Fifty years from now it is possible that historians will look back on the history of Britain and have some academic interest in why Britain turned its back on Europe and thought it would be better off under the thumb of the US. It is certain that people will look back at our actions and ask us why we didn’t do more to prevent climate chaos, plastic pollution and the destruction of so many species and so many forests.
I am not in the Green party because I think that it is the only source of revealed truth. I believe it makes loads of mistakes and that there are shedloads of people with good will and good ideas in other political parties. We need to work collaboratively with those people and we need to work together to stop Brexit.
But the Green Party has a distinct vision which needs to be heard loud and clear at every election. We don’t have the luxury of time and dither in which to tackle the climate crisis. The environmental crisis is not a nice little side issue that can be thought about once we’ve dealt with the “big” issues. It is the biggest issue around. It is a question of survival or at least survival at any reasonable standard of living. There have to be some rapid and fundamental shifts in the way our economy, our society and our ecology works if humanity and all the other species on this planet are going to be able to sustain remotely pleasant lifestyles.
The evidence of the need for change is now blatantly obvious. All time record high temperatures in the UK in both February and July. Record loss of Arctic and now Antarctic ice. Much faster melting of the Greenland ice cap than any of the most alarmist models predicted. Fires across Siberia. Extreme weather events wrecking crops in the US. France and Germany suffering from 40 degree heat waves beyond anything experienced before.
The evidence of urgent action is less obvious. There has been a sudden spike in methane emissions that scientists struggled to explain until last week. Then they traced the chemical signature and found that it was directly related to fracking. Instead of adjusting rapidly to a world with low carbon, Trump’s America is fracking every last drop of gas out of the ground and speeding up the climate chaos. Instead of preserving the rain forest his Brazilian copy cat is ‘developing’ it as fast as he can.
Plenty of good things are being done to adapt to change. But the pace and the urgency are just not adequate to the challenge. We need serious investment in a Green new deal to start now.
At the next election we need a political party to stand up and articulate the extent of this challenge and to win votes from politicians who don’t or won’t understand the urgency of action. If the Green Party didn’t exist then now would be a very important time to invent it. Every vote it wins at the next election will increase the pressure on other parties to act. So far every one of the other parties has continually claimed to have wonderful green credentials but failed miserably to implement remotely adequate actions once in power. Spin is not the same as substance. Saying you are green is not the same as having a coherent plan of action to actually be green that will stand up to the competing priorities of governing.
We therefore need the Green voice to come through loud and clearly in the next election campaign in every part of the country and can only collaborate when we are confident that helping others in one place will ensure the green message comes through even clearer somewhere else. Give in marginals must produce a genuine payback somewhere else.
If Greens choose to collaborate with other parties because they think that stopping Brexit will help in the long run then that might well be a very sensible thing to do in certain places. Buying the argument that Brexit is the only really important game in town and standing aside gracefully for the people fighting the “real” issue is not.