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I'm a Remainer - should I vote Lib Dem or Labour?

Who will provide a more effective opposition to the Brexit government?

So you've figured out that the chances of Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn are slimmer than Peter Bone on a diet. But you're also a proud Remoaner and you're not about to let Cruella de May and her 329 Tory MPs march all over the next five years of your hopes and dreams. Which prompts a dilemma: Who are you going to vote for? Labour or Lib Dem? 

If you want the party of the 48 per cent (and you're in England or Wales - I'll consider the rest of the UK later), the Lib Dems want you. Minutes after Theresa May announced the early election, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron declared: "If you want to avoid a disastrous Hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the single market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance. Only the Liberal Democrats can prevent a Conservative majority."

The Lib Dems have already proved they can turn a blue constituency yellow in the Richmond by-election, when Sarah Olney trounced the Tory princeling and Brexiteer Zac Goldsmith. 

But can they do it on a national scale? As my colleague Patrick has written here, the Lib Dem revival is exactly that - a recovery from the dark days of 2015, when voters turned on them and threw out many of liberalism's biggest beasts. And some of the winners of that backlash - Neil Coyle in Southwark, Daniel Zeichner in Cambridge - were Labour. So while the option for Remainers in a constituency currently represented by a Brexiteer Tory may be clear, elsewhere it is not so simple. 

If Labour did better than is sometimes remembered in 2015, it is struggling now. Most Labour MPs voted in favour of the Article 50 Bill, and shadow Chancellor John McDonnell once admitted the opposition party's ability to shape a softer Brexit deal is based on "moral pressure". It has shown itself ready to compromise on free movement. While only Kate Hoey has felt the need to re-enact Titanic on a boat with Nigel Farage, the rhetoric of some Labour MPs in private could be mistaken for Ukip. 

On the other hand, Labour MPs who have been vocal Remainers are already annoyed about the "vote Lib Dem" brigade. After all, some of them have already made sacrifices on the altar of a soft Brexit. Jo Stevens, the Labour MP for Cardiff Central, resigned from the shadow cabinet over the Article 50 vote, as did Clive Lewis, until then tipped as an heir to Corbyn. 

So what should the conscientious Remainer do? Well, the most practical way to steer the government away from a hard Brexit is to have an effective opposition. Even though Labour has ruled out a progressive alliance, the SNP, Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens and even some liberal Tories are collaborating to block the government's most hardline measures. If you, like me, think the next Parliament will be dominated by the Leave-Remain debate, then a lot of those mini alliances will centre on Brexit. 

In our first past the post system, where the winner takes all, the first question to ask, if you feel the call of the Yellow Bird, is: am I going to split the progressive vote for the benefit of the Tories? 

Say - to quote a thousand Lib Dem leaflets - it really does look like a two-horse race, then the next question is: which individual will be more effective at scrutinising Brexit? Let's face it, if your incumbent MP is Kate Hoey, the answer is "basically anyone". If, on the other hand, your MP is Chuka Umunna, a Europhile who is deeply involved in the Brexitsceptic Open Britain, and could still yet lead the Labour party, then voting against him is as daft as quitting the single market over the colour of your passport. This goes for Tories too. Conservative critics of the government like Nicky Morgan and Ken Clarke are worth a dozen Labour MPs because they undermine their party's unity and say what many of their colleagues are thinking. You can always release your inner Lib Dem by knocking on doors elsewhere.

Finally, what about voters in Scotland, where the pro-EU SNP dominate, or Northern Ireland, which is about as simple as a Rubik's Cube? In Scotland, the fightback is likely to come from the Tories. Voters will have to decide which union they feel more deeply about - the UK or the EU. (The one remaining Labour MP, Ian Murray, for the record, is definitely in the pro-EU Labour camp)

As for Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein MPs don't take up their seats at Westminster (unluckily for Remain voters, MPs from the Democratic Unionist Party, who do, also embraced Brexit). The moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour party does, while the moderate Ulster Unionist Party backed Remain. However, with Northern Ireland's power-sharing in crisis, voters may understandably have more on their minds than Brexit. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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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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