On the latest episode of Radio 4‘s Any Questions Green Party MP Caroline Lucas made this exact point. Responding to an audience member who asked, “How have we got a situation where strikes are effecting the majority of public sector services?”, Lucas explained that the government is “made up of millionaires and is running the country for the millionaires”.
She told the audience in Sussex: “Well, we’ve had 13 years of austerity, and a government that frankly is made up of millionaires and is running the country for the millionaires, and doesn’t much care about the rest of us.”
“I think there’s a real concern that they were just hoping they could sit out these strikes weren’t they. They were hoping that there wouldn’t be enough public support for public sector workers and that they would just be able to tough it out.”
“And when you see as well, the government’s priorities – that they will find the money for the richest, but they won’t find the money for some of the poorest.”
The government wrote off emissions equivalent to 400,000 passengers flying from London to Sydney and back in one year
The government gave more than £300m worth of free ‘pollution permits’ to airline companies including British Airways, RyanAir and EasyJet under a scheme designed to tackle climate change.
The UK’s Emissions Trading Scheme is meant to reduce carbon emissions by forcing big polluters to buy a permit for each tonne of carbon they emit, with the money going into the public purse.
But data obtained by openDemocracy reveals the UK’s aviation sector was handed more than four million “pollution permits” last year, free of charge.
The 4.1 million tonnes of CO2 they represent are equivalent to the emissions of more than 400,000 passengers flying economy-class from London to Sydney and back. The free permits saved airlines the equivalent of £336m based on the annual average carbon price – 39% more than the previous year, 2021.
EasyJet, RyanAir and British Airways were the big winners of the handouts, bagging permits worth £84m, £73m and £58m respectively. The companies all made heavy losses during the pandemic but have since become profitable again: British Airways owner International Airlines Group (IAG) announced profits of £1.3bn last month, while RyanAir just enjoyed its “most profitable December quarter on record” and easyJet is reporting “record-breaking sales”.
openDemocracy has previously revealed how oil and gas companies including Shell and BP were similarly handed more than £1bn worth of free pollution permits during 2022.
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, told openDemocracy the government was “letting aviation companies get away with it” and “forcing the public to pick up the tab”.
“Ministers must bring an end to these free pollution permits immediately, and make high-carbon companies pay for the climate-wrecking damage they’re causing,” she added.
The Department for Net Zero and Energy Security is now analysing the results of a consultation on phasing out free permits for the aviation sector – but policy changes will not take effect until at least 2026.
The government has already allocated 12.2 million free permits for the next three years, which at last year’s carbon price will be worth a further £965m.
A government spokesperson told openDemocracy the UK was giving away free permits because it was “committed to tackling climate change” but also to “protecting our industry from carbon leakage”.
But the risk of carbon leakage – when companies relocate to countries that do not have carbon pricing – is “minimal”, according to research commissioned by the government itself.
The study by Frontier Economics on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) also found that ending permit giveaways would lead to a decrease in airline profits and improve market competition.
Daniele de Rao, an aviation expert at Carbon Market Watch, told openDemocracy: “Despite several studies showing that the risk of carbon leakage in the aviation sector is insignificant, airlines are still receiving an enormous amount of free allocation.
“The United Kingdom should apply the ‘polluters pay’ principle in its own ETS and, following the European Union’s example, should end the handout of free pollution permits to airlines as soon as possible.”
Matt Finch, UK policy manager of campaign group Transport & Environment, added: “The nation is up in arms about sewage pollution, but at the same time our government is paying airlines millions of pounds a year to pollute. Are these the actions of a climate leader? No. Free allowances should be phased out of the ETS as quickly as possible.”
The remaining £120m in free permits was carved up among the rest of the UK airline industry – with even the owners of private jets getting handouts.
Ineos Aviation, the company owned by oil and gas billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, was given free permits worth around £2,000.
The government has claimed that “our UK ETS is more ambitious than the EU system it replaces”.
But the EU has voted to phase out free permit allocations from 2026. It also redistributes the revenues raised by permit sales to environmental projects – whereas in the UK the proceeds are retained by the Treasury.
A government spokesperson told openDemocracy: “The UK is committed to tackling climate change while protecting our industry from carbon leakage. That is why a proportion of allowances are allocated for free to businesses under the UK Emissions Trading Scheme.”
They claimed handing free permits to airline giants would “support industry in the transition to net zero in the context of high global energy prices while incentivising long term decarbonisation”.
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The BBC has decided not to broadcast an episode of Sir David Attenborough’s flagship new series on British wildlife because of fears its themes of the destruction of nature would risk a backlash from Tory politicians and the rightwing press, the Guardian has been told.
The decision has angered the programme-makers and some insiders at the BBC, who fear the corporation has bowed to pressure from lobbying groups with “dinosaurian ways”.
The BBC strongly denied this was the case and insisted the episode in question was never intended for broadcast.
Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “For the BBC to censor of one of the nation’s most informed and trusted voices on the nature and climate emergencies is nothing short of an unforgivable dereliction of its duty to public service broadcasting. This government has taken a wrecking ball to our environment – putting over 1,700 pieces of environmental legislation at risk, setting an air pollution target which is a decade too late, and neglecting the scandal of our sewage-filled waterways – which cannot go unexamined and unchallenged by the public.
Chris Packham, who presents Springwatch on the BBC, also criticised the decision. He told the Guardian: “At this time, in our fight to save the world’s biodiversity, it is irresponsible not to put that at the forefront of wildlife broadcasting.”
Yet another shameful episode from ‘long-time servant of the security state’ Starmer
The UK’s lurch toward fascism continued last night with yet another shameful – and shamefully unsurprising – episode of cowardice and betrayal by Keir Starmer and the shell of the Labour party under his control.
With the Tories’ repressive ‘National Security Bill’ in the Lords last night, the Green party tried to rally support to protect journalists – and investigative journalism and therefore the interests of the UK people – from persecution under a bill widely recognised to be a measure to give the government freedom to act without scrutiny or accountability, turning the UK into a mini-US in its treatment of journalists for doing their job.
Even a handful of Tories in Parliament have pointed out that such vital revelations as the ‘Panama papers’ would not have been possible under the new bill and that the rights of women, minority groups and the wellbeing of citizens are under severe threat from the proposed new law.
So the Greens in the Lords called a vote to protect journalists – for the sake of all this country’s people. It was defeated, because Keir Starmer whipped Labour peers to abstain.
Keir Starmer has been called a ‘long-time servant of the British security state’ and his affiliations have been expressed in votes to protect state agents from even such crimes as rape and murder, his attacks on environmental and human rights protesters, his support for immunity for soldiers who murdered civilians in Northern Ireland and more. So his action in the Lords vote last night should surprise no one, but his decision to whip for abstention and engineer the defeat of the motion rather vote against it directly is another manifestation of his fundamental spinelessness.
He is avidly helping push this country along the road to fascism, but doesn’t have the moral courage even to nail his colours to the mast, instead hoping that telling Labour representatives not to vote at all will lessen the backlash against his betrayal.
One of the founders of what would become the Green Party of England and Wales has declared “it’s too late” to save the environment.
Michael Benfield, who helped set up the new political movement in the 1970s, said he believed the “battle for the world’s environmental survival” was “at this moment, lost”.
Speaking at an event to mark the party’s 50th anniversary, Mr Benfield told the BBC he had become “somewhat of a doomsayer” about efforts to protect the environment.
In a speech to the gathering, Green MP Caroline Lucas, warned: “We don’t have another 50 years.”
She said: “We are living through maybe one of the most consequential decades of human history, which I appreciate is a very big thing to say.
“The climate and nature crises are more critical than ever, and it feels to me that what falls upon the shoulders of the Green Party is a most extraordinary responsibility but an awesome opportunity as well.”
Green Party founders, leaders and parliamentarians will gather today to mark the 50h anniversary of the founding of the Green political movement in the UK  – and the first Green Party in Europe.
Around 40 past and present leaders of the Greens including Caroline Lucas MP, Green peer Natalie Bennett, founding members Lesley Whittaker, Michael Benfield and Freda Sanders, and Jean Lambert former MEP, will meet for the opening of the Green Party archive at the London School of Economics .
The event marks the 50th anniversary of the first public meeting of PEOPLE, in Coventry on 22 February 1973. PEOPLE became the Ecology Party in 1975, before eventually becoming the Green Party in 1985.
OPINION: To avoid another government committed to continuing Thatcherism, we need new tech that makes votes count
After nearly 13 years in power, the Conservatives have a problem. They are surrounded by the consequences of their own policies, and the place looks like a bomb site. Living costs have soared, the NHS is in crisis, and staff across the public and private sectors are on strike. The party’s friends in the media are doing their best, but even the most incurious and forgiving voter can see that all is not well.
Not surprisingly, support for radical change to Britain’s economic and political model is overwhelming. Most Tory voters support wealth taxes and the re-nationalisation of the energy infrastructure. A majority of Labour voters want to introduce PR and a majority of all voters are in favour of some kind of electoral reform.
Given all this, it would be a massive missed opportunity if Labour emerged as the main beneficiary of the Conservatives’ collapse. Keir Starmer, the party’s leader, has refused to give a whole-hearted voice to the desire for change. Instead he has dropped the reform pledges that secured his victory in the 2020 leadership contest and is now sounding off about fiscal responsibility and tough choices.
Comparisons with the 1990s are easy. But there is more of a hint of 2008 Barack Obama in Labour’s current posture. The elite are nervous; the scams have become too obvious and the cruelty isn’t being confined to the usual victims. As in the US immediately after the collapse of the banks, British capitalism needs its Team B to give the appearance of change without conceding its substance. And Starmer is all too willing to play his part.
Anthony Barnett, the founder of this site, points to another historical analogy, far less flattering to the Blairites who now control the Labour Party: 1974. Back then the Labour Party won an election at a time of escalating crisis. But rather than make the radical reforms necessary to revive the postwar social order, first Harold Wilson and then James Callaghan presided over years of desperate brinkmanship until Thatcher took power in 1979 and imposed her own radical vision on the country.
Presented with a series of provocations from the Tories, the Labour leader has repeatedly sided with the right in an attempt to demonstrate his reliability to the UK’s media. At a time when living standards are rapidly declining and organised labour is fighting to protect what little of the postwar social compact remains, the Labour Party is laser-focused on the fact that government departments buy stationery.
The response of the democratic left to the restoration of the Labour right since 2019 has been hampered by the massive damage done to the Liberal Democrats by Nick Clegg and the Bennites’ recent and fraught stint at the pinnacle of the Labour Party. Many with a public platform who support radical change seem to think that, while extra-parliamentary activism is all very well, there is no realistic alternative to voting Labour at the next election.
But a 2024 Labour government committed to the Blair-Thatcher status quo, which refuses to meet the UK’s accumulating crises with a programme equal to it, will only aid a nativist and authoritarian right that offers its own, hallucinatory solutions. Our likely trajectory, absent fundamental reform, is one that discredits the centre-left in government and empowers the extreme right in opposition.
As living standards decline, the Labour Party is laser-focused on the fact that the government buys stationery
In these circumstances, our best option at the next general election must be a mobilisation that puts as many ecosocialists and sincere left Keynesians into Parliament as possible. Our priority should be to maximise the number of MPs willing to argue for replacing Thatcherism with a new green and democratic settlement. Once we grasp that, the question then becomes technical: how?
Part of the answer is down to the politicians. The Greens could help by formally adopting strengthened versions of the ten pledges that Starmer has now dropped. And the Lib Dems urgently need to apologise for their role in the austerity disaster, and loudly denounce Clegg.
But we also need digital resources to translate the public’s desire for radical change into electoral victories. We have no independent means to secure the full value of our votes. We don’t know what other voters in our constituencies think, how they would vote given various conditions, or what opportunities the political geography offers. Not only that, the entirety of the established media is always determined to treat each election as a national contest, as a presidential choice between Rishi Sunak and Starmer, in which we all have an isolated vote among millions.
Digital technology makes it possible to communicate voter-to-voter and voter-to-candidate more easily than ever before. We could, given the right tools, understand where we live in fine detail and use this to make informed political choices about how we vote. We only have to imagine what a BBC that wanted to make votes count would create and make freely available: vote-swapping tools, apps that allow voters to share what they would do in various scenarios, Reddit-style forums that allow groups to organise around local demands in their constituencies and to plan real-world candidate debates and meet-ups, mapping software that gives ordinary voters some of the insights currently hoarded by political professionals. Taken together, these digital resources would help to transform tactical voting from a Lib Dem ruse into a strategy for democratic self-assertion.
Labour branches and constituency parties could use such a technology to help re-elect incumbent MPs who are serious about promoting the policies we need, or to break with the party and run independent candidates – and not just in Jeremy Corbyn’s seat. Other parties, currently squeezed by the Con-Lab duopoly, will also benefit if they can persuade voters that they will represent the desire for change in Parliament, and not fall for the seductions of Westminster’s lobbying industry.
I recently spoke with a Labour Party member living in an English university town. They told me that every Labour member they knew would vote Green if they thought the Greens could win the constituency. These are not just Labour voters, but fully paid-up members. With the right digital resources, they could discover the extent of support for the Greens in their constituency, and act together accordingly.
To create this technology, we need a generous budget and lots of clever people. Exactly how much doesn’t really matter. The costs are going to seem trivial or exorbitant, depending on whether the project works or not. But we are probably looking at hundreds of thousands of pounds, rather than millions. Not much compared to the amounts wasted on futile or deceptive efforts to stop Brexit.
Starmer won’t reform a voting system that has just given him a landslide victory. His challengers on the left should
Who’s going to pay? The large unions are paralysed by their constitutional link to Labour and their long neglect of communications as an aspect of collective power. To give you some idea of how rigorous that neglect has been, Unite, Unison and the GMB have a combined membership of 3.2 million but fewer than 10,000 subscribers on YouTube. It would be nice to think that they could change in time, but it seems unlikely. As things stand they seem content to put their trust in Starmer and hope he doesn’t treat his assurances to them as casually as his promises to Labour members, or those who thought he was going to stop Brexit.
There’s another source of support that has enough money and is motivated to want the next general election to be at least a little bit democratic. If the wealthy liberals who support proportional representation and House of Lords reform are serious, they need to support a programme to make votes count in the next election, in spite of first-past-the-post. Starmer will not reform a voting system, never mind a broader constitutional order, that has just given him and his faction in the Labour Party a landslide victory. His challengers on the left will, if they have any sense at all.
The offshore right gave Dominic Cummings a few million pounds in 2016 to win the Brexit referendum for them. He built a superb propaganda machine, which comprehensively defeated the left in 2019. His success tells us something important about agency in a political system as centralised and befuddled by propaganda as ours. Relatively modest investments in technology can make a massive difference to political outcomes. If we can create the means for voters to communicate among ourselves in pursuit of our shared interests, if we then act with some fraction of the right’s energy and daring, with some fraction of their budget, we can begin to create a new economic and political settlement before the old impoverishes and demoralises even more of us. If we wait meekly for a Starmer landslide, we will get nothing, and deserve less.
The strategy includes ideas to increase the country’s renewable electricity generation capacity by 20 gigawatts (GW) over the next seven years, equivalent to nearly 50 per cent of current demand, the Scottish Greens said.
“Even as the world burns, the UK government has committed to approving 100 new oil and gas exploration licences and is opening the first new coalmine for 30 years.
The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, is under pressure from campaigners, unions and his own MPs to set out plans for “wealth taxes” on the richest in society in order to support public services and help the poorest through the cost of living crisis.
As the government prepares to cut spending to fill an estimated £35bn black hole in the nation’s finances, calls are growing for higher taxes on the super-rich, many of whom have seen their fortunes soar during the pandemic.
Richard Burgon, the Labour MP for Leeds East, said: “While living standards are plummeting for most people, it’s been boom time for the super-rich, whose wealth has soared to record highs in recent years.”
Starmer, who is trying to position his party in the centre ground, has avoided committing to higher taxes on private incomes as Labour seeks to woo the City and businesspeople angry at the damage caused by the Conservatives’ mini-budget. But that approach is causing concern on his backbenches and more widely, with the Greens calling Labour “timid” on wealth.
Molly Scott Cato, the Green party’s spokesperson on finance, said: “The Tories have created a big hole the public finances but there is an obvious place to look to fill it: taxing the super-rich. Not only do they have the broadest shoulders but they also increased their wealth during the pandemic because of enforced savings.
“What is more surprising is to find Labour being so timid on wealth taxes. Their proposal to abolish non-dom status will only bring in a few billion while a proper wealth tax could yield tens of billions. We’ve now got two weeks for Labour to remember their egalitarian roots and support loud and growing calls for a wealth tax. Otherwise they will be colluding in the devastating cuts to public services that are being cooked up by the millionaires in Nos 10 and 11 Downing Street.”