Do we need to find another way to bang the ‘Green’ drum?
Very few people now believe that our environment is in a good, healthy condition. For most, the argument is over and it is widely agreed that a lot more needs to be done to preserve our environment and enhance our planet, whether that is for humanity’s sake or for nature’s sake. In 2019 The Independent (B, Kentish: 2019) reported that climate change and pollution where only behind Brexit, Health and Crime on the public’s list of priorities. Seemingly all the major political parties have acknowledged this, which in turn has led to a plethora of promises being made. This has made it difficult to syphon out genuine commitments from Green Washing.
Labour is promising a green industrial revolution as part of its Green New Deal to tackle the economic, social and climate all together. The plan brings with it the creation of over 1 million jobs across the UK, helping to ‘level up’ regions. Sounds like a great idea. Who wouldn’t get behind that?…. Well, those people still working in jobs created by the previous industrial revolution might not be so keen. Sure, Labour has promised to provide new jobs and to help train people to carry out these jobs. There’s only one small issue, it implies people actually want new work. Tens of thousands of typically manual workers across the UK might not have such a strong desire to leave their current work, retrain and then go through the hassle and stigma of trying to secure a new job.
A new jobs revolution implies that the old style of jobs and ways of working are to be replaced in favour of a new system. Industries most likely to be affected by this change are oil and gas, construction, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries. That is not to say these industries will go, but that they will change. The focus so far has mainly been to state why this change is required, the ‘how’ has not been so well communicated. People generally do not like change, the loss of control, loss of certainty, previous resentments and many other reasons leave people preferring to choose what they know. As Deborah Mattinson reminisced in a recent interview (Coletto, D 2021) for the launch of her book ‘Beyond the Red Wall’, people are crying out for jobs, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily want green jobs.
Many of the new green jobs would be in areas of traditional Labour heartlands, along the red wall and in the Midlands, both areas where recent elections show the Labour vote to be dwindling. These are locations where people are deeply proud of their identities and communities. Communities which have been built around these traditional industries. Industries which helped to create the Labour Party. Many people in these regions chose to break the habit of a lifetime, indeed of several lifetimes, and vote Conservative in the last General Election. However, a lot of these voters did not see it as them leaving the Labour Party but the Labour Party leaving them. This was due to a ‘perfect storm’ for the Conservatives, an alignment of many reasons but it would appear clear that one of these was a reduced appetite for change, asking people to turn their backs on industries which they and their families have been investing in for generations, and without any proper engagement was a huge oversight from the Party.
The changes to our lives will need to be extensive and holistic if we as a society are going to avoid disaster and navigate our way to both safety and environmental harmony. These changes are not just inevitable but need to start happening now. We therefore desperately need to understand how to implement them. Angela Rayner recently told ITV News (after Labour’s recent poor Council election results) that ‘We’ve had a patronising tone’. This is not a new criticism for conservationists and environmentalists trying to instigate change. The Environmental Science behind the change the Labour Party is instigating is sound but simply knowing something is not enough, the Social Science behind implementing that change is weak. If the Labour Party wants to be given the opportunity to instigate their Green New Deal, then first they need to win the public’s support. This means
engaging with them, undergoing clear communication to help show why these changes are needed and how it could affect them. The last thing people want is a process of demeaning delegation and audits. They should be made to feel supported by their Party which if elected would support, empower and enable them.
· B, Kentish; (2019). General election: Voters care more about the environment than the economy, poll finds. The Independent. 24/05/2021. (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/general-election-latest-environment-climate-change-policies-poll-pollution-jeremy-corbyn-labour-conservatives-a9206571.html)
· Colleto, D; (2021). inFocus on working class voters, the Red Wall seats in the UK, and how to communicate with people being displaced by economic change. https://infocus-with-david-coletto.castos.com/podcasts/20339/episodes/infocus-on-working-class-voters-the-red-wall-seats-in-the-uk-and-how-to-communicate-with-people-being-displaced-by-economic-change.
· ITV News; (2021). 'We've had a patronising tone': Angela Rayner says Labour 'needs to offer something'. https://www.itv.com/news/2021-05-11/weve-had-a-patronising-tone-angela-rayner-says-labour-needs-to-offer-something