Caroline Lucas sets out her plan for the parliament ahead. Photo: Getty
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The Queen’s Speech: To fix our economy and protect our planet we must invest for the future

The Green take on what parliament's focus should be following its opening this week.

Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech should be a chance for the government to set out how it will use the next five years to deliver long term meaningful social, economic and environmental progress in Britain. Yet it seems increasingly likely that we’re set to witness instead another missed opportunity for the change in direction this country so desperately needs.

The most worrying omission from the government’s pre-Queen’s Speech announcements is any substantial action on climate change. If David Cameron is to be taken seriously as a world leader on the most pressing issue of modern times, then he must be far bolder in implementing policies which allow us to do what the science requires: leave the vast majority of our existing reserves of oil, coal and gas in the ground and unburned.

Tackling the climate crisis is not only a way out of the economic difficulties we face, it's also an unprecedented opportunity to invest in an economy fit for the 21st century. If we were to invest in an ambitious energy conservation programme, for example, we’d both work towards ending the scandal of cold homes and save the Exchequer money. A radical insulation programme would return £1.27 in tax revenue for every £1 invested by government and create over 100,000 jobs in the UK. It is a tragedy that ministers are so obsessed with a deficit reduction plan - one that’s failing even on its own terms - that they are turning their backs on such common sense practical action.

This obsession is also what’s driving the threat of billions of pounds of further welfare cuts, in addition to those that are already underway. One in five families, for example, say that they have already had to cut back on food as a result of the below inflation rises in child benefit and child tax credits that have hit 7.7m children.  Behind the rhetoric about saving taxpayers’ money is the cruel reality of 7,800 children in my constituency being worse off because of these changes.

Beyond these grim facts, and the missed opportunity of inaction over climate change, is a truth that the Tories don’t want to admit: their plans fail future generations. 

A Green parliamentary programme, on the other hand, will seek to propose positive alternatives which have at their heart one core principle: that we must invest now to build a resilient redistributive economy for the future.



That's why, as well as promoting ambitious action on climate, in my first year back in parliament I'll be re-tabling my bill to reinstate a fully public NHS by reversing 25 years of marketisation. You only have to look across the Atlantic to see the vast costs associated with private healthcare – yet a government which claims to be the vanguard of financial responsibility will continue to allow the pricey inefficiencies of privatisation infect our healthcare system. It’s time to put an end this costly experiment.

The NHS isn’t the only public service to fall victim to the politics of private interests. The railway system, run for profit and at the expense of passengers who are struggling to afford fares, is in desperate need of an overhaul. 
It’s vital that we bring our railways into public ownership. Doing so could save the Treasury £1bn per year – and allow us to invest in a greener, more affordable, alternative to further road building. We know that the majority of the public are in favour of this, and I shall be seeking support from MPs across the political spectrum in re-tabling a Private Member's Bill to bring our railways to be brought back into public hands as private franchises expire. 

There are plenty of credible alternatives to the business as usual to which we are all too often treated – all making sound economic sense. While it’s not looking like many will make it into the Queen’s Speech, they will make it into my Green parliamentary programme which sets out practical measures to secure a decent future for generations to come by creating a fairer, more sustainable Britain.

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.

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Leader: Trump and an age of disorder

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions.

The US presidency has not always been held by men of distinction and honour, but Donald Trump is by some distance its least qualified occupant. The leader of the world’s sole superpower has no record of political or military service and is ignorant of foreign affairs. Throughout his campaign, he repeatedly showed himself to be a racist, a misogynist, a braggart and a narcissist.

The naive hope that Mr Trump’s victory would herald a great moderation was dispelled by his conduct during the transition. He compared his country’s intelligence services to those of Nazi Germany and repeatedly denied Russian interference in the election. He derided Nato as “obsolete” and predicted the demise of the European Union. He reaffirmed his commitment to dismantling Obamacare and to overturning Roe v Wade. He doled out jobs to white nationalists, protectionists and family members. He denounced US citizens for demonstrating against him. Asked whether he regretted any part of his vulgar campaign, he replied: “No, I won.”

Of all his predilections, Mr Trump’s affection for Vladimir Putin is perhaps the most troubling. When the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, warned that Russia was the “number one geopolitical foe” of the US, he was mocked by Barack Obama. Yet his remark proved prescient. Rather than regarding Mr Putin as a foe, however, Mr Trump fetes him as a friend. The Russian president aims to use the US president’s goodwill to secure the removal of American sanctions, recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and respect for the murderous reign of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. He has a worryingly high chance of success.

Whether or not Mr Trump has personal motives for his fealty (as a lurid security dossier alleges), he and Mr Putin share a political outlook. Both men desire a world in which “strongmen” are free to abuse their citizens’ human rights without fear of external rebuke. Mr Trump’s refusal to commit to Nato’s principle of collective defence provides Mr Putin with every incentive to pursue his expansionist desires. The historic achievement of peace and stability in eastern Europe is in danger.

As he seeks reconciliation with Russia, Mr Trump is simultaneously pursuing conflict with China. He broke with precedent by speaking on the telephone with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and used Twitter to berate the Chinese government. Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump’s secretary of state nominee, has threatened an American blockade of the South China Sea islands.

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions. The US constitution, with its separation of powers, was designed to restrain autocrats such as the new president. Yet, in addition to the White House, the Republicans also control Congress and two-thirds of governorships and state houses. Mr Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment will ensure a conservative judicial majority. The decline of established print titles and the growth of “fake news” weaken another source of accountability.

In these circumstances, there is a heightened responsibility on the US’s allies to challenge, rather than to indulge, Mr Trump. Angela Merkel’s warning that co-operation was conditional on his respect for liberal and democratic values was a model of the former. Michael Gove’s obsequious interview with Mr Trump was a dismal example of the latter.

Theresa May has rightly rebuked the president for his treatment of women and has toughened Britain’s stance against Russian revanchism. Yet, although the UK must maintain working relations with the US, she should not allow the prospect of a future trade deal to skew her attitude towards Mr Trump. Any agreement is years away and the president’s protectionist proclivities could yet thwart British hopes of a beneficial outcome.

The diplomatic and political conventions embodied by the “special relationship” have endured for more than seven decades. However, Mr Trump’s election may necessitate their demise. It was the belief that the UK must stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US that led Tony Blair into the ruinous Iraq War. In this new age of disorder, Western leaders must avoid being willing accomplices to Mr Trump’s agenda. Intense scepticism, rather than sycophancy, should define their response.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era