Why I am backing David Miliband

He has the vision to change Labour and make us win again.

After 13 years in government we needed a proper post-mortem on why we lost, what went wrong and where we go from here. I nominated Diane Abbott because I wanted that debate to have as many voices as possible. Three months on, we have reached decision time. The question is which of the candidates can forge a credible and inspiring new project for the left.

For me, that question has been answered emphatically. It is David Miliband. He offers change in our party, understanding that Labour must become a movement again. Barack Obama was the first to grasp this in the Democratic Party, mobilising his volunteer force to help victims of the Midwest floods during his own campaign. David gets this, too. Already he has trained 1,000 community organisers as part of his campaign. In time, they will help communities speak with one voice about the things that matter to them.

Political parties can no longer be reduced to tools of mass communication; they must become forces for good in people's everyday lives. This is one step towards revitalising our party. Rediscovering our faith in party democracy is another. Significantly, David has proposed a democratically elected party chair. Members will have their own representative, speaking for them in the media and around the shadow cabinet. David offers a vision of people enjoying politics again, feeling proud to be in the Labour Party.

Alongside a change in party organisation, David offers the hope of a genuinely new political project. This means more than a shopping list of promises to different interest groups. Such a politics can appeal, but never stands the test of time. Instead, David promises a new direction. It was set out brilliantly in his Keir Hardie Lecture last month when he said that "New Labour was too hands-on with the state and too hands-off with the market".

The citizenship thing

Often when we were too hands-on with the state it meant that civil liberties were eroded. And the problem went deeper still. The state can come between people when piles of paperwork stop people volunteering, deny children the chance to go on school trips, or prevent mothers from looking after one another's children. When we try to run society from Whitehall, we show too little trust and respect for people as human beings in their own right. We end up replacing, rather than reinforcing a sense of community.

That we were too hands-off with the market is more than a comment on the credit crunch. It is to argue that the kind of economy we have and the type of society we live in cannot be separated. That was true when children were exploited in the factories of the Industrial Revolution and society chose to set limits on how people made money. It was true when women went to work during the war and rewrote their place in British life. It was true when the Tories wrote off millions of people during the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s.

The same is true today in a country where executives have the power to award themselves outrageous bonuses, where loan sharks exploit other people's poverty, where companies target advertising at children, where parents are made strangers from their children by the longest working hours in Europe, and where clone high streets are draining local identity. David offers change because he understands that a new economic model doesn't just mean more regulation of the banks, it means a market economy built on the values of mutuality, reciprocity and local decision-making. He gets that people should be able to make decisions together as citizens, not just be treated as consumers.

For this vision alone, I would support David. But there is one more vital thing that he will change: our habit of retreating in a comfort zone in opposition -- and staying there while the Tories do great damage to our country's social fabric. The people who depend on us cannot afford us to do this again. They need us to hold the government to account and to provide a credible and exciting alternative. In David Miliband we have one. I, for one, will be voting for him.

David Lammy is Labour MP for Tottenham

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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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