Labour's 'Green Growth' Plan Has Gone Down Well With The Party, Even If They Can't Properly Explain It
Labour has put green issues at the heart of its policy agenda at party conference (Alamy)
Labour has placed a "Green Growth" revolution to boost the economy and deliver energy security at the heart of its pitch for power at party conference in Liverpool this week, but those tasked with selling it on the doorstep worry business “jargon” could alienate voters.
From the party's official conference slogan which promises a "fairer, greener future", to Rachel Reeves's pledge to become the first "green chancellor", tackling the climate crisis for a more prosperous UK is the uniting thread running through all of Labour's policy plans.
"It's properly exciting that the party have managed to bring together the green agenda, which we have been promoting for years, and tie it in with the economy and actually showing how we can create stable well-paid jobs in our communities that have been left behind," one veteran activist told PoliticsHome.
"But, and it's a big but, we need to be able to explain this to people. How will it benefit them and their families? It can't just be about big business."
Among the ambitious plans announced, Labour has said that if elected they would end the UK's dependence on fossil fuels and deliver an entirely zero-carbon energy sector by 2030, with a newly announced £8bn investment package delivering a major funding boost for the green tech sector.
The plans have been well received by business groups, including the powerful Confederation of British Industry, but activists in Liverpool have raised concerns the party's rush to counter the Conservative's pro-fossil fuel agenda has left gaps in the plan that could make the policies a "hard sell" to voters in their local communities.
"The Tories' plans to frack the country have given us a great opportunity to win support across the country because I think they are really unpopular," the activist continued, referring to Prime Minister Liz Truss's recent decision to liberalise tight restrictions on the contentious practice.
"People want good jobs, good public services and affordable homes, and that will come from a Labour government that put these policies in place, but we need to be able to link that into the cost of living.
"It's going to be no use if people still think about climate change and renewables as this distant thing when they can't afford their bills. So it's about really showing our communities this is a solution to the current problems, not just something to worry about later."One party insider denied the policy plans were a "reactionary" response to the Tories' major push on fossil fuel projects, but suggested Labour's focus on the green economy may have been put in place with less of a lead time than is normal for a conference agenda.
That speed at which it's been woven through policy has been evident in the comments from some shadow ministers, who have occasionally stumbled over the slogan, with one telling an audience they knew the mantra was either a "fairer, greener Britain" or a "greener, fairer future".
"It's something like that, fairer and greener." they concluded.
One Labour councillor admitted such confusion could end up alienating voters unless the party put in a serious effort to get their messaging right around the plans.
"I'll be completely honest, I've got no idea how to explain it to you in simple terms, and that's a huge issue," they said.
"I'm definitely not blaming the party for that because I don't think anyone is really very good at explaining this to a layperson. It's really complicated, but we have got to ditch the jargon.
"If we are going to make green growth a major part of our election [strategy] then that needs to be sorted quickly.
"We can't show up at someone's door who is worried about their bills or can't get around our community because the Tories have decimated our public transport networks, and start talking about carbon this and net-zero that. It'll be blank faces."
Labour's shadow climate change minister Kerry McCarthy admitted there were still some major gaps in the party's approach to communicating green benefits when presented with such concerns at a fringe event on Monday.
"I don't think it is something we have really discussed as a team, other than having the 'fairer, greener future'," she said.
"I think that couldn't flag up more clearly that it's very much at the heart of what we do, but in terms of what it means for people, I think you are right, we need that."
With a general election looming, getting that messaging in place will be vital for Labour activists who see the cost of living crisis and the government's push on fossil fuels as a major opportunity for winning over support.
Councillor Simon Jeal, who is leader of the Bromley Labour group, told PoliticsHome he felt the Green Growth Plan delivered a "clear credible alternative vision to the Conservatives we can communicate on the doorstep", but said the immediate next steps must include a focus on how they will translate into concrete benefits for communities.
"The next phase I think is for our campaigners to get details breaking the elements of the plans down to the local level," he said.
"How many jobs in their local area? Where does the infrastructure needed to deliver the plan go? The key benefits local residents will see from it... rather than it all being guzzled up by wealthy head fund managers and property developers.
"As we move towards a general election I'm sure we'll see this localised detail coming through – first at a regional level then down to local constituencies."
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe