Finding a role, keeping a focus: reflections on enterprise, XR, law and politics

Stroud District Green Party Elections Group Co-ordinator, Tim Davies, writes:

This week’s Stroud District Green Party meeting provided a fantastic reminder that, as recognition grows of the climate emergency we face, and the urgent actions needed, that there are many different roles needed to take forward a response.

We opened our meeting with a minutes silence, reflecting on the loss in the last two weeks both of a local Green party campaigner, and of Polly Higgins, visionary leader of work to make Ecocide an international crime. Polly’s work has been an inspiration to many, in Stroud and across the world: showing the importance of law and the justice system in addressing the destruction of our ecosystems.

Then, in the first part of the meeting, we heard from local businesses about ways in which they are seeking to create more sustainable supply chains and provide security for their workforce. Although Brexit is bringing great uncertainty, local businesses are showing that it is more than possible to combine enterprise and ethics: it’s good for their businesses. Stroud already has three B-Corporations, and we heard how, even though they put other values alongside profit, B-Corps are some of the fastest growing companies around. Across Gloucestershire many businesses are committed to sustainability, but may have little time to engage in policy discussions when they need to focus on providing stable employment and navigating an uncertain future.

We also heard how in the past the business community has often dismissed Green economic policies – and seen little connection between Greens and business. However, that no longer holds. Not only are we represented in the South West in the European Parliament by Molly Scott-Cato, a widely published PhD Economist who has provided substantial leadership on Green economics, but leaders of the financial system are recognising the centrality of climate concerns, and the importance of putting climate concerns at the heart of our economic thinking. Last weekBank of England Governor Mark Carney published a high-profile open letter explaining that when it comes to the climate “we cannot ignore the obvious risks before our eyes”, and that financial systems and private sector action is vital. Far from being a party against enterprise: Green politics have long been about bringing the neccessary transformation of our economy to one that creates and sustains value for the long-term.

In the second part of our meeting, we discussed the dramatic growth and success of Extinction Rebellion, and how Stroud District Green Party can relate and respond to the fantastic new leadership and energy it provides. Many members of Stroud District Green Party have been in London with XR over the last week, and the Green Party co-leaders have given clear public backing to the movement. The Green Party basis includes support for reasonable and non-violent forms of direct action, yet we explored honest reflections on how the relationship between protest, and being a political party, is not always an easy one. Stroud has many elected Green politicians, but we are either in opposition (at the County), or coalition (at the District). That means, unless we can secure more votes a future elections, we don’t always have the numbers needed to push forward the bold decisions needed. Working with the power we have through the existing system, at the same time as engaging with calls for bigger systems change, can be challenging.

Translate XR demands into real action won’t bypass politics. It will be political, and we believe that means we’ll need both more Green representatives elected at all levels, and more people involved as active citizens scrutinising the work of their Councils. We discussed the need to share our learning from decades ‘on the inside’ of local authority activity, and the openness of the Green Party to engage with XR activists who are interested in standing for election themselves*, as well as encouraging XR activists to get involved in the ongoing work of getting more environmentally-aware and active politicians elected, and making sure those blocking action are voted out. We also discusses the need for us to be challenged afresh by XR: recognising that a shifting public mood may allow us to revisit local policies and actions that were previously difficult to take forward against resistance from other parties.

Ultimately, addressing the climate crisis needs many actors. Lawyers, entrepreneurs, politicians and protestors are all needed. It’s not time for business as usual: but it is time to build on the foundations we’ve laid in our respective parts of a broad green movement, and to focus on bringing action forward with the urgency it deserves.