“Standing for the common good”
At the Arcola theatre, Hackney, Natalie Bennett launched a Green party manifesto based on the wholesale rejection of austerity – “that no one in the world’s sixth richest economy should not be able to put food on their own table or have a roof over their head.” Bennett challenged the notion of an economy run for the benefit of the few. The manifesto comprises a broad vision of a humane, caring society – one that the Greens have been developing over the past few years – with a low carbon industrial sense that moves the party on from a single issue campaign.
So the Greens would introduce a Robin Hood financial transaction tax and controls on bank lending. Although accepting the yield of a wealth tax is uncertain, the Party’s 2% wealth tax would raise £25bn a year. It would reverse the “creeping privatisation” of the NHS, increase the minimum wage to a living wage of at least £10 an hour, and renationalise the railways.
In backing renewable energy, the Greens are in tune with the times: the world is now adding more capacity for renewable power each year than coal, natural gas, and oil combined, according to new report released this week at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance annual summit in New York.
And interestingly, the Green’s industrial message acknowledges the massive challenge our heavy industries such as steel, chemicals, cement, ceramics face in the transition to a low carbon world. The Greens would provide £4.5bn over the parliament to support research and development into less energy-intensive industrial processes. This would help fund the massive new technology investment programme mapped out in the BIS 2050 roadmaps for industrial “decarbonisation” – quietly published without comment before Easter and not featured in any other manifesto.
For the UK is losing manufacturing capacity at an alarming rate. High energy costs and government policy impacts have contributed to a net loss of over 1,000 UK manufacturing firms in the energy intensive sector between 2008 and 2013 – or one in four of the nearly 4,000 manufacturing firms closed in that period. These industries are the “powerhouse”, to coin a phrase, of the UK’s real economy, with significant concentrations in industrial heartlands of the Humber Valley, the North East and the East and West Midlands, including The Potteries. Their future in a carbon constrained world can be secured only through a new era of technology innovation that the Green party has clearly foreseen.
From solar panels for all schools to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, the Green’s election campaign nevertheless has a strong focus on the environment. The manifesto sets out a plan for a free nationwide home insulation programme to help tackle nine million cold homes, and lift two million homes out of fuel poverty. This jobs rich insulation programme involves £45bn to insulate homes around the country. The party sees it as a triple winner, combining social justice, creating jobs and saving energy costs.
Commenting, the Energy Bill Revolution said:
“This programme goes even further than our recommended programme and would result in the worlds’ most ambitious home energy efficiency programme and would be clearly commensurate with the objectives of both eliminating fuel poverty and reducing carbon emissions in line with ensuring the UK plays its part in avoiding dangerous climate change. The Energy Bill Revolution strongly welcomes these commitments.”