Johnson has won an election with a big majority. It is on a minority of the vote as 53% of people voted for left of centre policies and only 47% of people voted Conservative, Brexit or DUP but he has the votes to pass whatever laws he wishes through Parliament.
That means that those of us who have put a lot of effort into opposing Brexit and trying to get the right to a vote on reality instead of only being asked our view on false promises have to change the main thrust of our argument.
For the Liberal Democrats that is a touch difficult since they have predicated their existence on being the party that is most solidly in favour of Remain. Once Johnson has actually taken us out that leaves them in a bit of a mess since it is not certain the EU will want us back in and the terms on which they would do so are likely to be humiliatingly worse than what we had before. It is unlikely the public can be persuaded to go down that route any time soon.
From a Green perspective there is little point in painting ourselves into the same corner. We need to get away from any nostalgia for a lost EU membership and focus on fighting for all the good things we were promised to actually happen whilst fighting tooth and nail against all the negatives.
We’ve been told that the UK will stick to environmental standards that are at least as good as those in the EU. So that’s exactly what we need to be demanding. Let’s insist on making UK standards a model that is admired around the world. Because Johnson is very good at forgetting promises and, without immense popular pressure, he will dump every bit of protection that he can. We need to be the clearest voice articulating the evidence of the multiple environmental emergencies we are facing and the most realistic actions that we can and must take with speed and determination. No one else is properly equipped to do that job and it could not be more important that it is done.
The next promise we need to try and hold Johnson to is all the guff he is spouting about looking after neglected towns and regions. It is, of course, entirely possible that his propagandists are right and with MPs representing Bury, Scunthorpe, and Stoke on Trent we’ll see a Conservative Party with a renewed interest in regional policy. Personally, I am expecting much spin and little action.
It takes serious state intervention to move economic activity out of London and into neglected regions. What is requires looks like this:
- Government investment in science parks and in research facilities to generate new opportunities in the regions.
- Government incentives to support new start up businesses and to help businesses to re-locate into neglected regions.
- Start up incentives for Green businesses to help regions move quickly away from fossilised technologies.
- Government subsidies for renovating run down buildings to provide high quality homes so that talented people want to stay in their home communities and new people are attracted
- Government investment in better local schools so that parents aren’t tempted to move out to the suburbs
- Government spending on improved local transport links so modernise public transport systems and to connect up areas. E.G via a northern transport system bringing together Liverpool, Manchester, Bradford/Leeds, and Sheffield into one travel to work area.
- Serious government funding for local authorities to help them tackle deprivation in collaboration with the voluntary sector.
- Protection of workers from zero hour contract exploitation and a complete overhaul of Universal Credit to provide a more reasonable degree of personal economic security
The third area of focus needs to be global trade deals. I have always been an internationalist and am usually in favour of fair and balanced free trade. That is one of many reasons why I thought we should remain in the EU. It is the only international trading organisation that has some degree of international democratic control over the standards that it maintains within the trading block. There will be none of that in any trade deal with the US. International arbitration will be provided by a system of courts where very expensive corporate lawyers will have the opportunity to seek rulings that advantage those who can pay their bills. The UK government will have to follow those rulings.
Most Brexit supporters didn’t vote to get out of the frying pan of being “controlled” by the EU in order to voluntarily jump into the fire of being controlled by US corporate lawyers. Most people didn’t vote to increase NHS funding to then watch passively whilst US drug companies insist on the UK coming out of the EU system that has protected the NHS from high US drug prices. Few farmers voted to remove pesky EU paperwork in order to go bankrupt as US agriculture dumps its factory farmed produce onto our market.
A trade deal with the US is the prize that Johnson’s government wants for leaving the EU. It will be a very bad and a very unequal deal because the UK is now in a very weak and exposed position. I believe our energies will be much better spent attacking that deal and exposing the terms of it than it will on continually reminding people that we think it was wrong to leave the EU. We also need to spend much more time articulating what positive policies for the UK look like outside the EU. For example, we need to be putting forward clear alternatives to the Common Agricultural Policy that work for farmers and work for the environment. We can’t afford to leave the job of constructing post EU British policy to a far right Conservative government with no vision.
To sum up I want to see environmentalists on the attack not on the defence and the opportunities are wide open
- We need to set the agenda and force the growing environmental emergencies onto the centre stage of policy agendas.
- We must be the people who are leading the fight for a prosperous future for currently neglected communities.
- We must switch to fighting for positive changes to UK policy post Brexit and against an unequal US trade deal instead of mourning the loss of EU membership.