Greens are breaking records in every corner of the country. The party received some sensational local election results: gaining seats from Labour’s heartland in South Tyneside to Conservative bastions in North Yorkshire; from Wirral in the North to Plymouth in the South; from urban Oxford to rural Cumberland.
There is now no such thing as a Labour, Lib Dem or Conservative “safe seat”; nowhere the Greens can’t win. Voters have been taken for granted by the bigger parties for too long; local services have been stripped to the bone or sold off because of Tory ideology; and now the mother of all cost of living scandals is further exacerbating what can only be described as grotesque levels of inequality and exclusion. No wonder communities are turning to local Greens to provide a listening ear, and a powerful voice.
But what struck me most of all was a comment by Professor Sir John Curtice on the BBC in the early hours of yesterday – that this isn’t just a matter of local issues. On the national stage, the Greens are now “a force in English politics that cannot simply be ignored”. While the Government is mired in sleaze, scandal and outright criminal activity, and Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour consistently fail to score open goal after open goal, the Greens are offering the big positive solutions that the other parties are desperately lacking right now. And these are ideas which, as proven in the ballot box yesterday, the public are clearly crying out for – for everybody to afford the basic items we all need to get by, bold and practical action on the climate emergency, and rebuilding greener, fairer, healthier communities in the wake of the pandemic.
Fortunately, there’s a perfect opportunity to put this vision into practice. The Queen’s Speech is taking place next Tuesday – the occasion when the Government sets out its agenda for the coming Parliamentary session. On the big issues of the day Johnson may be devoid of ideas and purpose, but we aren’t.
To suggest people simply buy value brands, or to claim that the already longstanding policy of a free bus pass is a sufficient antidote for pensioners freezing in their homes, is to fundamentally misunderstand the devastating consequences of this Government’s deliberate political choices. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Rolling out our retrofit revolution, as part of a Green New Deal to decarbonise the economy, would not only slash people’s energy bills and restore a sense of dignity to people’s everyday lives – it would also create thousands of new, well-paid jobs in the process. And with one off targeted payments, as well as benefits to lift people up, we’d guarantee everybody has enough money to build a life on.
Alongside reducing energy demand, tackling the climate crisis on the scale required means we need to end our fossil fuel addiction – urgently. While the UK still holds the COP Presidency, it’s shameful that the Government is considering a new coal mine, and giving the green light to yet more polluting oil and gas licences. A recent report warns the UK must completely cease fossil fuel production by 2034. So, there is no better time than now to back an international fossil fuel treaty to speed up the just transition towards abundant renewables.
The pandemic shone a spotlight on the profoundly unequal access to nature across the country. One in three people in England cannot access nature-rich spaces near their homes and only eight per cent of English land is open to the public. So I’d like to see the Queen’s Speech include plans to expand the Right to Roam, and all the physical health, mental health, and economic benefits that would provide.
One thing that every doorstep campaigner will have experienced at these local elections is apathy and frustration that the bigger parties have let people down. The public can be ignored no longer – and neither can the Greens.
Caroline Lucas is the Green Party MP for Brighton, Pavilion