People need and deserve more than gesture politics
At the Greener Jobs Alliance, a lot of the work we do with local authorities on issues like green skills, retrofit and insulation, and air quality in the workplace, rests upon our good relations with Labour-controlled councils who are amenable to such developments and have the will to see them through.
We aren’t affiliated to Labour (though some of our constituent organisations are) but still the assumption that our concerns are more likely to be taken seriously by a Labour council (and Green ones, of course) holds true. And as a trade union-based organisation, that logic also applies nationally, where the absolute necessity of getting rid of this Tory government essentially means Labour, founded by and for workers, being elected to power.
Given the urgency for real climate action, tied to economic and social justice nationally and globally, and the transformation of society implicit in it, the current direction in which the Labour party is moving is of huge concern.
A letter organised by Uplift and supported by around 140 organisations urged Keir Starmer not to renege on the ‘no new UK oil and gas fields‘ pledge. We see this promise as a fundamental building block of a green industrial revolution and, from a worker perspective, the pathway to creating many thousands of secure, unionised jobs as digging for oil and gas becomes untenable.
The environmental/climate aspects had been the highlights of a relatively content-free Labour policy book so far. But the expectation of a climbdown meant that it was felt necessary to send that letter urging Labour not to cave in to pressures to do so, nor to redirect funds earmarked for climate initiatives to other areas.
As it turns out, both fears have proved to be completely justified, with a new ramp up period towards the £28bn and no substantive plan for a just transition of workers in oil or gas that would bring trade unions onside. We will look at each of these aspects in forthcoming blogs.
Equally worrying, though, is the turn towards authoritarianism that is blocking excellent representatives from standing for office, the latest being North Tyne’s metro mayor Jamie Driscoll. The disempowerment of local parties not only impacts on democracy, but also deprives us of those who have the vision to do the job that is desperately needed.
The GJA Secretary is also a trustee of Platform, the arts/activist organisation that has done such brilliant work in conjunction with North Sea offshore workers, One of Platform’s other projects involved supporting the North Tyne Combined Authority’s Energy Democracy Project, headed by Driscoll, in developing a worker-led just transition plan for high-carbon industries. The advent of the larger North-East Combined Authority is an opportunity to spread these ideas and practice more widely across the region.
Yet, the news that Jamie is blocked from even standing as a candidate threatens this excellent initiative as well as his achievements on child poverty, affordable homes and the creation of thousands of jobs. It is critical that the good work in North Tyne continues and serves as a model for other areas.
GJA has always been happy to work with Labour and Green councillors, and any others who support the same aims that we do. The biggest worry here, though, is that a Labour party that doesn’t deal decisively with the climate crisis, or enact a just transition on behalf of workers, is a recipe for a one-term government, and we need a lot longer than that to undo the damage of the last thirteen years.