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My Labour Manifesto: Climate crisis, wellbeing and tackling the democratic deficit

Dried up river bed, Norfolk | Alamy

3 min read

Clive Lewis shares his ideas for a winning policy programme

Before embarking on any “fantasy manifesto” exercise, it’s probably best to acknowledge the clear difference between what one would hope to achieve under ideal conditions, and the inevitable realpolitik you would encounter. 

Indeed any political commitment to genuinely democratise the United Kingdom, give political and economic autonomy to our nations and regions, and redistribute wealth and power away from political and economic elites (which must happen if genuine climate action is to take place) would face massive opposition. And not just in Parliament. Where power lies, and the form that pushback would take from those who currently wield it, I leave to the reader’s imagination.

There can be little doubt we now inhabit an age of permanent crisis and systemic shocks. Any future legislative programme worth its salt must acknowledge this and resolve to set its sights accordingly high. The climate crisis and rampant global and domestic wealth inequality, whilst obvious components of this age of crisis, are just symptoms of a deeper malaise – the breakdown of democracy and democratic institutions at a national and international level.

An Energy Equity Bill would combine a universal basic energy allowance with a retrofitting scheme to address the energy crisis

Why do I say that? Because no one votes for ecological destruction, rampant poverty, or debilitating wealth and power inequality. Yet that is exactly what we consistently get. These then, are not just “market failures”. Rather, they are failures of our very limited and ever shrinking democracy and its institutions. 

In this context the “North Star” for a legislative agenda – the principles that guide where we need to end up, and the ends against which we measure policy success – would be centred on an economy geared towards wellbeing, not profit; a proportionate response to the climate crisis; and facing up to democratic deficits. 

Thus the two flagship, transformative legislative pieces would be the Green New Deal legislation [Green MP] Caroline Lucas and myself have introduced to Parliament, and legislation for a constitutional convention to rebuild our nation’s frayed democracy.

Whilst the former looks at economic decarbonisation, it also tackles democratisation of our economic institutions, including the Bank of England, City of London, and key strategic national assets such as water, energy, and public transport. The latter would give the public the chance to examine and change everything from our voting system to the very structure of the polity currently known as the United Kingdom. 

But a legislative agenda also needs to grapple with the immediate short-term crisis. An Energy Equity Bill would combine a universal basic energy allowance with a Great Homes Upgrade retrofitting scheme to address the energy crisis. An NHS Bill would reassert the collective principles embodied in the original charter, reversing marketisation. In the age of climate shocks, a Food Security Bill would make preparations for supply chain disruption, optimise land use, and end hunger.

Through a programme of democratisation and decarbonisation, government would be reorientated towards public wellbeing and environmental restoration.

Clive Lewis is Labour MP for Norwich South

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