Instead of backing down, it is time for Labour to face down the Tories and win the case for public investment in the climate transition – of £28bn and beyond.
The Conservative’s failure on public investment and planning is writ large across our country.
Just look to the steelworkers and community of Port Talbot. They face the collapse of their livelihood due to the Government’s failure to plan for or invest in the future of UK steel.
In this context, Labour should be boldly setting out its vision for government. A vision about how judicious public investment will future-proof industry, revive our economy and make our homes, workplaces and communities safer, more pleasant places to be.
Labour’s so-called fiscal rules, like the pledge to reduce debt as a % of GDP by the end of the next Parliament, are no excuse. These are political choices. And they’re no match for the laws of nature – which dictate that burning fossil fuels disrupts our once-stable climate.
We are only at the start of an era of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty. Ending the age of fossil fuels, supporting people through the transition, and adapting to the impacts of climate breakdown are now the primary tasks of any government.
Labour’s £28bn a year Green Prosperity Plan is a crucial step towards creating a real framework for how to achieve this monumental transformation.
The alternative is further economic decline, but with climate and ecological force multipliers.
One only has to look at continental Europe to see what happens when bold, social-democratic approaches to a green transition are not pursued.
What we are witnessing in Germany and beyond is the failure of governments to grasp the need for redistributive policies to accompany decarbonisation measures, so that people struggling with the rising cost of living don’t fear being asked to shoulder costs they cannot afford.
If Labour gets the green transition right it can offer widespread meaningful work within thriving local economies. But this is not inevitable.
Promises of GDP growth – now mostly captured by the richest – mustn’t be used to dodge the issue of who benefits from investment. As I see in my Norwich South constituency, it’s hard to overstate the depth of people’s anger and disillusionment with this Conservative government, but also with politics in general.
If one of the most unpopular, right-wing governments of modern times is replaced with a Labour government that also fails to deliver meaningfully for them, then more extreme and populist alternatives may well be sought. The time for caution and adherence to a failed, 60-year-old economic orthodoxy, is well and truly behind us.
Now Labour should be the party to never let a crisis go to waste. You don’t get bigger than the climate crisis.
Labour’s finest hour could yet be ahead of it. This is why £28bn should only be the start of Labour’s climate investment.
Read my full article for the New Statesman here.