European Elections: Greens’ Message of Real Change for the Common Good Resonates With Voters

natalie+bennettAs I write I’m on the train to Stroud, for a lightning trip to congratulate our new Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato, who becomes our third representative in Brussels, with London’s Jean Lambert and the South East’s Keith Taylor re-elected.

Those results came on a good night for the Green Party – we finished fourth in the European parliament election, comfortably beating the Lib Dems (who finished with just one MEP) into fifth place.

It was result achieved despite extremely limited media coverage – there’s no doubt that we got vastly more votes per minute of TV coverage than any of the other four large parties.

So why did it happen? Partly, undoubtedly, as our strong local election results indicate, it was the result of solid on-the-ground campaigning, going door to door, holding stalls, delivering leaflets.

But more than that, I think what won many votes was our message of hope, of positive change, offering a plan for real change to ensure that our society works for the common good, the 99%, not for the few, the 1%.

Policies such as making the minimum wage a living wage, renationalising the railways, keeping our NHS publicly owned, publicly run and free at the point of use, investing in renewable energy (while banning fracking) and providing warm, comfortable, affordable-to-heat homes all played their part.

But it was above all our determination to look forward with optimism, to say that we do have within our democratic power the ability to create a better society, one in which everyone has access to the resources for a decent standard of life (which means jobs you can build a life on and adequate benefits for everyone who needs them) within the limits of our one fragile, overstretched planet.

That means standing up to the politics of fear, as represented in the form of Ukip – which seeks to blame our many, obvious, problems in society on immigration and Europe. Sadly, the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems have failed to tackle this narrative – to unpick how our low wage economy, housing crisis and crowded schools and hospitals are not the fault of immigration or immigrants.

To start with low wages – no immigrant arrives at the White Cliffs of Dover and says “I want to work for poverty pay, be shamelessly exploited and pay extortionate rents for a bed in a shed”. Low wages exist because we have an inadequate minimum wage, inadequately enforced, and the power of unions to help workers to band together to resist has been shredded by legislation.

Housing? Well that’s complicated, but worth starting with the fact that there are now more bedrooms per person in Britain than ever before (huge inequalities of access here as there are in income and wealth), and at least 600,000 empty homes, mostly in the North and the Midlands (the result of failed and non-existent regional development policies, and one more reason why we shouldn’t build HS2). And schools and hospital? Michael Gove’s free school laissez-faire approach has left local authorities unable to plan for demand, and funding for both is seriously inadequate.

When you consider the failures of successive governments these facts represent, it’s perhaps not surprising that Labour, Tories and Lib Dems would rather go along with the Ukip narrative on immigration, and try, all too often, to out-Ukip Ukip, in promising curbs on immigration and introducing the disastrous, unworkable Immigration Act, as well as chasing after their climate change-denier agenda on wind turbines and other energy policies.

Instead we’ll continue to say, loudly and proudly, that we celebrate free movement of people within the European Union – which results in roughly balanced numbers of expatriates and incomers for Briton, and that we should continue Britain’s proud tradition to providing asylum to victims of persecution and war, and hosting foreign students to our mutual benefit.

The BBC asked me this morning if the arrival of Ukip (and even darker parties such as the Front Nationale) in Brussels would be disruptive. I agreed that it will be.

But disruption, creative chaos, real change, is just what our stale, failed political system needs, just as the angry voters, lashing out or expressing frustration by either voting Ukip or staying at home (as 63% did), need to be offered hope.

Our political future doesn’t look like the past. Happily.

Read the original article in Huffington Post here


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Fotolia_gmo_XXL-300x287Green MEP Jean Lambert has called on the Government to reject a proposal that could open the door to new genetically-modified crops being grown in the UK.

Environment Ministers, meeting as the EU Environment Council next week, will consider a change to the rules to allow EU members to decide for themselves whether to ban particular GM crops – opening up the possibility of undermining existing EU-wide bans.

Ms Lambert said: “It is clear that the vast majority of EU and UK citizens don’t want GMO crops to be grown in our fields – yet these rules changes could, inadvertently perhaps, lead to exactly that.

“They would give too much power to the bio-technology industry – and too little to the citizen.

“I have today written to Environment Minister Owen Paterson asking him to reject this proposal, and I hope he heeds my warning to promote a sustainable agriculture in the EU and a GMO free future.”


Interview with Euro candidate: Jean Lambert MEP, Greens


We put the same 6 questions to a number of prospective MEPs ahead of this Thursdays elections, on austerity, the far right, European integration, the CAP and more. Here are Jean Lambert’s answers.

Where do you stand on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?

Very clearly against: we’re not convinced we need a free trade deal with the US at all, and certainly not this one as currently presented. We have concerns that there will be downward regulatory pressure on both environmental and food standards in the EU and financial services in the USA. The state-investor-dispute-settlement proposal moves away from the rule-of-law and the courts and into a closed tribunal with no appeal, giving business power over democratic government decisions, whereas those governments should be in control. We believe this entrenches moves towards greater competition and privatisation in the health service, for example, which would make it near-impossible for any new government to change.

Does the Eurozone require fiscal integration if it is going to survive?

We believe the future of the euro is a matter for the eurozone, although we also believe countries should be able to leave or join the euro as they choose. Our sister parties in the eurozone certainly believe that a degree of fiscal consolidation will be necessary as will attention to surplus as well as deficit across the zone. The GPEW has, however, always been against the UK’s membership of the euro as we believe that monetary policy should be more sensitive to local economic needs and changes.

What will you do about the expected rise of the far right in Europe?

We need to ensure that any discrimination, xenophobia and racism is challenged at every turn and, where the law is broken, that far-right politicians are prosecuted. Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary are becoming increasingly popular, and I think fighting for true equality will be an even bigger part of a progressive MEPs role after this week’s election. It is also important to pay attention to some of the social factors that make such parties more attractive and for governments and political parties to respond constructively and work with and for people at the local level..

What will you do about migrants drowning in attempts to reach Europe?

We need a policy that prioritises protecting people above protecting borders, and I think we need to reform the way Frontex – the EU’s external border patrols – operates in the Mediterranean to ensure there are no more deaths caused by EU migration policy.  That also means looking at offering better opportunities to work in the Eu and to help develop economies and job prospects in countries-of-origin.

Does the Common Agriculture Policy need to be reformed? If so, how?

Yes! In a nutshell we need a CAP to ensure our environment, our food consumers (ie all of us!), our small farmers, and farm animals are protected and treated fairly. Such a CAP need to take the precautionary principal and ban all genetically-modified crops (and livestock!) and large-scale mono-cropping, work for fairness and reward neither inefficient land use nor promote inequality and big business. Some progress has been made, but too much support still goes to large landowners.

Austerity across Europe has had some very mixed results. Is fiscal tightening and balancing budgets still the best way forward or is it time for a new approach?

‘Very mixed results’ is a generous way of putting it: I’d say austerity in Europe has been a blunt instrument that has been applied with no real thought to the social consequences – a typical IMF approach.. It has caused unemployment to rise, government provision of key health, care and welfare services to curtailed, poverty to increase and, politically, a rise in the popularity of xenophobic and racist politicians in some countries. Yes, we urgently need a new approach – and I’d favour one based on balancing budgets but increasing revenue by taking hard measures to combat tax avoidance and evasion, increasing the tax take from the increasing numbers of very wealthy individuals, introducing a ‘Robin Hood’ style tax on banking transactions, and, in short, implementing a fairer tax system for all, based on wealth as well as income. At the EU level, we also need to look at investment to shift to a low-carbon economy – providing work, reducing fuel imports (and thus assisting the balance of payments deficit) and acting to combat climate change.

Taking the EU as a whole, do you support the continued policy of “ever closer union” or do you favour moving back towards more national autonomy?

It is actually “ever-closer union of the peoples of Europe” and yes, I think that’s a great idea. In terms of its usual interpretation: neither, but we need to keep a continuing eye on the balance There is a strong case for European decision-making on cross-border issues such as financial regulation, environment, justice and human rights: this does not mean an end to national or regional identity. There is also a strong case for greater devolution within this Member State and a number of others – but that’s not a fight in the European election…

Interview conducted by Open Democracy here