An Open Letter to Voters

Pippa Bartolotti

There is “no magic money tree”. Britain is only the 5th richest country in the world on measures of GDP, not the real wealth of nations. Britain’s “money tree’ rests on the decaying roots of a three-planet economy which is by its nature unsustainable, as is the debt-based bubble which has been inflated, and will inevitably crash, again. Our present economy cannot endure whilst May and Corbyn keep their eyes fixed on the rear view mirror.

The only really progressive thinking on not just the NHS but social care, education and indeed the entire public sector is taking place in and around the Green Party, yet another reason for voting Green, not Labour.

It’s not really about Theresa May’s barbarism vs. Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism. The reasons for supporting Corbyn do not address the real problems we face. Labour has failed down the decades to deliver the changes we really need because they are loyal supporters of the status quo.

Labour backers recognise that the party has many imperfections which can be sorted out later. But there might not be any ‘later’.  The big challenges of potentially catastrophic climate change, the liquidation of biodiversity, rampant deforestation, rapid soil erosion, the killing of the oceans, toxic and radioactive overload, hovering new pandemics etc. all are happening right now. They are all linked by one thing: too big a human footprint. A reduction to sustainable levels is priority number one. It cannot be left until later. Later will be too late. None of these threats to collective peace and security are mentioned by any wing of the Labour Party

All past attempts to transform the Labour Party into a different creature have failed: Keep Left, Bevanism, Tribune group, ’Militant’/RSP, Bennism, etc. Labour failed to use the 2008 financial crisis as an opportunity to pursue radical changes to a widely discredited banking system. They support most conventional ‘development’ strategies such as nuclear power, high-speed trains, Crossrail, airport expansion, green belt grabs and trident submarines.

But let’s assume that Labour might actually be open to new ideas despite all the incompatible ideological baggage it carries (and the deadweight influence of the big trade unions promoting nuclear etc). A strong Green vote is the best means to exert such pressure. A low Green vote will encourage the worst recidivism in Labour.

We need to hear from both Labour and Tories what kind of society we are really trying to build. Last year, sales of SUVs soared in Britain while the average spent on weddings was apparently £30,111 (according to ‘Brides’ magazine). That’s not a society I could defend. How about the 10 million pigs, over 15 million sheep, 16 million turkeys, 14 million ducks and geese, 975 million broiler chickens, 40 million so-called ‘spent’ hens , over 2.6 million cattle and 4.5 billion fish killed every year? Perhaps we need a bit more clarity about what kind of society we are trying to build.

Many small ‘c’ conservative are decent people, often wanting the best for society but believing there are better means to that end than what Labour offers. Writing off millions of voters as one ignorant lump scarcely makes it any the easier to try and win at least some over. After all, a society dedicated to the sustainable common good cannot be built without some Tory supporters changing loyalties.

May’s posturing on Brexit is likely to be utterly counter-productive. A vote on such a momentous deal is a very reasonable demand, given its consequences for all Britons. Yet it is far from clear negotiations will actually precede on straightforward ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ lines. Extreme weather events, another financial crash, regional wars, and other such shocks could utterly transform the context and throw everything out of kilter. The Brexit/Remain debate would then become a sideshow. In any case it might be remembered that, historically, Labour’s critique of the EU has been based on a certain ‘Little Englander’ politics, with no vision of, say, a ‘Europe of Regions’, with radical subsidiarity and localisation

Many people rightly celebrate the achievements of the NHS, yet the old NHS was more of a National Illness Service designed merely to patch people up. It also stifled more creative approaches to health. Simply spending more and more on the NHS, restored, reformed or whatever, is not a sustainable option.  We have to look at health more broadly, we need a true ‘health’ service.

It is certainly true that part of the population has been hit hard and sometimes very cruelly so by cutbacks in certain areas of government spending. Groups such as the disabled have been shockingly treated. In that sense, government policies are indeed an ‘austerity’ programme’. Yet many people remain comfortably off, some cushioned by private or public sector pensions that are generous, and/or the sale of an inherited parental property, and/or high salaries, bonuses, rents & dividends. Tens of millions in this country feel anything but precarious in their comparative material prosperity. A lot of these people — more than enough to elect a government — still feel quite comfortable. The cuts do not necessarily come as a severe and direct blow to everyone.

A much smaller group  – the 1% – has seen its income and general wealth shoot way up under ‘austerity’. Overall there has been penalisation of some,  but disproportionately high rewards for others. It is a redistribution, Robin-Hood-in-reverse programme, not austerity for all. No austerity for landowners, landlords and estate agents.

Total government spending has not been falling significantly. What is really happening is the cutting of direct public provision (libraries, care homes etc) and its transfer to other hands, sometimes to not-for-profit companies but all too often to private sector sharks. Austerity is not so much the dismantling of the state and overall slashing of its spending, as the restructuring and redirection of expenditure.

There are deep flaws in the whole welfare system. Reversing this or that cut may be vital to give immediate help to certain groups now suffering from discrimination and marginalisation. But we cannot keep putting off genuine reforms -ones that sweep away the whole morass of unclaimed benefits, punitive assessments, clawbacks, and stigma. Several cities are now trialling Citizens Income schemes. Now is the time to be bold. A strong vote for the Greens will strengthen the hand of all those pressing for real change.

They say that every seat won against the Tories makes a hard Brexit less likely – and that is the overriding jeopardy of our era. No it is most certainly not. The biggest jeopardy is ecological meltdown, followed by war – often linked to resource depletion environmental degradation and climate change.

The rhetoric of ‘kick out the Tories’ has become a cop-out, an excuse to avoid hard thinking about the real jeopardies we face. It is too simplistic a viewpoint. Regardless of who wins on Thursday, the task of thinking through how to build a society for the sustainable common good remains paramount.

A vote for the Greens, not for those trying to drive forward with eyes glued to the rear-view mirror, is the best way to underline that reality.

With thanks to Sandy Irvine for the inspiration.

 

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