Tag Archives: green book podcast

Green Book Pod 3: the party’s messaging on Brexit

There’s a paradox about people’s position on Brexit. Much as a clear majority of voters would support Remain (or Rejoin) in a new referendum, knowing what they know now, many of them nevertheless have no desire to go back to the divisiveness of the pre- and post-referendum period. Many families, friendship groups, communities and social groupings have been riven by Brexit; some people are still not on speaking terms with those on the other side. It’s little wonder that the Remain/Leave division is still the most powerful in British politics.

That makes the route back into the EU one that has to be handled with great delicacy – a question that we explored in the third episode of the Green Book Pod series of discussions on key issues for the Liberal Democrats, now available on Lib Dem Podcast via the usual platforms and also here on YouTube.

Some of the evidence for the paradox was presented by Luke Tryl, UK Director of the think tank ‘More in Common’, that takes its name from the quote from the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox: we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us. He told the podcast that public opinion is increasingly swinging towards the belief that Brexit was a mistake and that the UK should rejoin the EU, but focus groups reveal little enthusiasm for another referendum campaign, thanks to the horrors of 2016–19.

Professor Anand Menon, director of the ‘UK in a Changing Europe’ programme, added that, while there is mounting evidence of the damage caused by Brexit, it would be dangerous to think that rejoining will be easy. The EU has suffered much less than the UK from Brexit, so its incentives to renegotiate the relationship are not strong (the episode was recorded two days before Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, claimed that the UK could rejoin the EU).

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How the Lib Dems can be distinctive on the environment

It’s important to remind people that we were Britain’s original Green Party. We were into environmentalism in the 1920s when the Liberal Party’s Yellow Book proposed setting up national parks. The party’s manifesto at the February 1974 general election was one of the greenest ever, and the Liberals had policies in the 1979 manifesto decrying the measurement of economic growth in terms of GDP.

It’s also important to remember that being the first doesn’t mean we remain the authority on political representation of environmentalism. Far from it. In a YouGov opinion poll five months ago that asked “Which political party do you think would be best to handle the environment and climate change?”, the Lib Dems came fourth. The Greens were top with 25%, Labour second with 15%, the Conservatives third on 12%, and we polled just 4% (others 2%, don’t know 26%, none 17%). Yet the party’s commitment to the environment is integral to Liberalism – Liberals regard the environment as part of the common good, so we condemn any entity that harmfully exploits the natural environment.

The problem, therefore, is the messaging: how do we Lib Dems get voters to see that we are a fundamentally green party? This formed the basis of the discussion on the second Green Book podcast, published by the people behind The Green Book that appeared in 2013. Hosted by the next MP for Eastbourne – sorry, got ahead of myself there – by the Lib Dem PPC for Eastbourne Josh Babarinde, it featured discussion among the veteran environmental activist Tom Burke (now of the E3G think tank), James Murray, the founding editor of Business Green, and Chris Willmore, a former sustainability professor who’s now the Lib Dem cabinet member for planning and regeneration at South Gloucestershire council.

You can watch the episode here:

The discussion is well worth a listen, because there were different approaches to the central issue of how to make the Lib Dems distinctive on green issues. It covered several aspects of the environmental debate, including the risk of voter backlash, and that old chestnut of how you find the balance between, on the one hand, letting the state set the price signals and then leaving it to individuals and businesses to be the change, and, on the other, allowing the state a bigger role in order to green our way of life via a ‘just transition’.

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Green Book Pod 2: the net zero debate

As the world’s nations gather for COP28, we need no reminding that climate change is the biggest threat to humanity.  It is directly contributing to humanitarian emergencies from heatwaves, wildfires, floods, tropical storms and hurricanes and they are increasing in scale, frequency and intensity.

How should the UK – and politicians vying for office – respond?

Polling by More in Common consistently shows that British voters see “climate change and the environment” as one of the top three issues facing the country.  This is a remarkable increase from just a few years ago.

But the UK is doing nowhere near enough to meet its legally binding “net zero” target – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100% from 1990 levels by 2050.

Over recent months, Rishi Sunak has backtracked on key net zero policies as he tries to draw new political dividing lines.

Labour have promised a multi-billion-pound green prosperity plan, but they keep pushing back its timetable and planned scope.

And what about the Liberal Democrats?  In the mid-1990s, we were the first UK political party to publish a comprehensive programme to address climate change.  Sixteen years ago, we were the first to set a net zero target for 2050.  Liberal Democrats in coalition presided over a quadrupling of renewable energy and established the world’s first Green Investment Bank.

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Green Book Pod….It’s the Economy…

The response to our first Green Book podcast was hugely encouraging.  We’re now working on the second in the series, looking at the climate emergency, focused on the challenge of net zero, and asking how the Lib Dems can recover our leading position on the environment.  That will go live later this month.

First, though, what did we learn for the debate on the economy?  We began here because concerns about the economy, be they low paid jobs, insecurity or our apparent inability to fund decent public services and infrastructure, are at the top of most people’s concerns. 

The lack of investment, both public and private, that has led to this situation is well known. However, the standard answer has been ‘but there is no money’ – the excuse for the austerity of the last 13 years – which has only made things worse while debts, both personal and public, have actually got bigger.  

In the podcast, we set out to start a fresh debate and to come up with innovative and distinctive ideas and new ways of thinking about political economy. The podcast looked at what has been done differently elsewhere, in particular in the USA where Biden is turning the economic approach of the last 20-30 years upside down, and then asked where the money might come from.

We had three great guests:

Vicky Pryce is a very well-known economics commentator, regularly on TV, radio and in the media. 

Max von Thun was economic advisor to the party when Vince Cable was leader and is now the European director for the US based Open Markets Institute.  

Richard Murphy is one of the creators of the original Green New Deal and also the tax justice movement, whilst being a very active blogger on political economy.

Overall, the panel felt that just ‘leaving it to the market’ with the cuts to state expenditure and investment have left us with failing infrastructure and public services, and with an unproductive economy.  Brexit and Covid have made problems that were already there much worse.  This needs the state to take more of a lead with a very different economic narrative along the lines that we are seeing in the USA and the EU.  This especially applies to infrastructure and the investment needed to tackle climate change where the state can take a lead to stimulate private sector investment.  

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