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The Labour Party’s blocking of a Green New Deal motion is a catastrophe for the party, the country and the climate, argues Sean Benstead.

 

Labour members in favour of a Green New Deal are in uproar over a decision to block a climate motion for this year’s party conference. The Green Jobs Revolution motion, tabled by activist group Labour for a Green New Deal (LGND), resolves for the party to adopt mass investment in green technologies, and public ownership of key industries as core policies. Further, the motion lays out an industrial strategy geared towards ‘a just, green recovery’ from the Covid crisis and addresses unemployment, climate change, and public health as a combined threat. This is underpinned by an analysis that understands how privatisation has undermined our capacity to stave off these combined crises, and escalating catastrophe.

The Green Jobs Revolution has seen enormous support in all corners of the party. Early support had come from the party’s Socialist Campaign Group, including Salford and Eccles MP and Green New Deal stalwart Rebecca Long-Bailey, as well as across Starmer’s front bench. In addition, positive conversations were taking place among all of Labour’s affiliated trade unions with additional support mustered among non-affiliated unions. Make no mistake, the socialist green transformation that this motion calls for has a staggering mandate inside and outside of the party.

Activists in Greater Manchester have had a central role in this story. Greater Manchester Labour for a Green New Deal, the local group of LGND activists, have been campaigning over the last nine months to muster and demonstrate support for the motion throughout Greater Manchester constituency Labour parties (CLPs).

Greater Manchester has seen some of the most determined voices calling for support of the motion. Out of the 21 CLPs who have backed the motion, a quarter were in Greater Manchester: Manchester Central, Wythenshawe and Sale East, Bolton North East, Bolton South and Middleton and Heywood.

However, during the afternoon of 16 September, the Conference Arrangements Committee, following a recommendation made by the Labour Party bureaucracy, ruled that the motion was out of order “as it refers to more than one subject area”.

This decision makes a mockery of party democracy. It is a stitch up that can only serve to further de-motivate an already dilapidated membership. Angela Brown, who campaigned for the motion in Middleton and Heywood and spoke in favour of LGND’s resoundingly popular 2019 motion, speaks on the genuine popularity and mobilising effect of the motion:

“CLP meetings have become very dull spaces… everyone seems dispirited and attendance is getting smaller… The first sparks of fire [in the membership] only came when I moved the GND motion. Everyone joined in the discussion; retired members telling us passionately how they worry for the world they are leaving their grandchildren, a local business owner telling us about her husband’s lung condition caused by growing up next to a motorway, a young dad & nurse talking about green jobs and the importance of social care.

“It was this motion, which my CLP passed, that brought the fight back to my CLP. I am hugely disappointed that those personal stories are being dismissed by this decision.”

The debacle goes beyond the implications for party democracy. The ruling also betrays a shockingly ignorant misunderstanding of the scale of the climate crisis and catastrophe that we now already face, including here in Greater Manchester- evidenced by the Saddleworth Moor fires last year and the floods of Storm Christoph. The 2021 IPCC report has noted how off-track we are from averting catastrophe and has raised the red-alert, with global temperatures already at unsafe levels. We need rapid decarbonisation, and we need it now. Meanwhile, establishment forces are facilitating business-as-usual allowing fossil fuel capital to drive us further toward disaster.

The scale of the problem and the immense power of fossil fuel capital, still insidiously creeping into the halls of political power, calls for a transformative socialist solution. The “Green New Deal” commonly refers to a mobilisation of the entire economy to meet the inseparable aims of rapid decarbonisation, creating green jobs, and tackling inequality. This can and must be an expansive programme. Any rule that declares this out of order as a viable programme is severely out of touch. Unless this motion is reinstated, the party’s credibility on climate is severely undermined.

Fighting on, Labour for a Green New Deal and their mass of supporters in Greater Manchester and beyond are standing firm. Activists have quickly mobilised and over 3000 letters have been sent to the Labour leadership and the General Secretary’s office in less than 24hours, demanding the motion be reinstated and debated at conference. Labour members in Greater Manchester have made the movement for economic and climate justice proud. And they will continue to fight alongside LGND with determination.


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  • Sean Benstead is an active organiser within Labour for a Green New Deal and an associate member of the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC).

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