A green perspective on Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband spoke in Norwich last night. Local Green party councillor Rupert Read attended and was impressed by the performance.

Regular Left Foot Forward contributor, and Green party councillor, Rupert Read writes from the Ed Miliband roadshow:

On hearing that Ed Miliband would be speaking at an ‘Ed Miliband for Labour Leader’ event yesterday, on the edge of my ward and less than a mile from where I live, I asked his office if I could come along and write something about it for Left Foot Forward. To their credit, they agreed.

When I arrived, my right to come in was queried by a local Labour candidate who presumed that Ed Miliband’s team were unaware that I was a local Green Party politician. A phonecall went through to his campaign HQ; they confirmed that they were happy for me to be able to attend. A little bit of pluralism in action, which impressed me; I wonder if Balls’ or Burnham’s teams would have been so willing.

When Ed Miliband arrived, he spoke for a good while fluently without notes, and then took swathes of questions from the crowd (mostly Labour activists, members and Councillors).

He was plainly making a play to be recognised as ‘the change candidate’, by implicit contrast with his brother. (One audience-member asked him pointedly if his sole case for being picked by the membership was that he wasn’t a Blairite). He said that “The question at this [Labour leadership] election is who is willing to confront what went wrong under the last government”, and then listed various such items, including:

• the 10p tax rate abolition;

• the failure until near the end of the Labour government’s tenure to support council house building and stock-retention in any way (One of the biggest supportive noises of the evening from the audience was when he said that things would have been much better if John Healey had been made Housing Minister in 1997);

• the lack of any serious industrial policy until late on in the government; and

• a poor record on civil liberties.

He expressed support for Ken Clarke against Michael Howard on the question of whether ‘prison works’ or not, and demurred from the view of some in Labour that it was possible or wise to out-Right the Right on issues such as crime and terrorism. He didn’t want Labour to attack Clarke or Theresa May as ‘soft on crime’.

On immigration, he said that “It’s a class issue”. In other words that in most cases it isn’t racism but worries about the driving down of wages etc., that motivates working-class concern about immigration. He backed a Living Wage though, disappointingly, he seemed unprepared to legislate for it, preferring to leave it to local initiatives and to ‘demonstration effects’ and ‘leadership effects’ from bringing it in in public services. It’s true that since Greens introduced the idea of a Living Wage, most progress on it has been made by local Councils – but if government were to underwrite it, it would of course be far more effective.

As a philosopher, I appreciated his quip that “You don’t have to make your economy nasty, brutish, and short”; and as a Green, I appreciated his remark that “Anthropogenic climate change is the biggest issue that we face.”

Since I was attending as a citizen-journalist, and a member of another political Party to boot, I didn’t want to try to take up any of Ed Miliband’s time, as the meeting ended and local Labour members got their photos taken with him. But then I heard him saying to his aide, “Where’s the Green guy; I must touch base with him before we move on”. So I went up and introduced myself, and was able to ask him the question that I have been trying to get an answer to from him (or from his brother) for the last few years:

“You are widely thought to be the ‘greenest’ of the Labour leadership candidates. In government, you often spoke proudly of Labour’s record on the issue of manmade climate change. But isn’t it a fact, once one counts carbon emissions in a scientifically-respectable way (incorporating embodied energy/emissions, and sea and air travel), that Britain’s emissions rose significantly from 1997 to 2010? Shouldn’t that – the failure of the Labour government to rein in Britain’s carbon emissions – be your starting point, in debating CO2 emissions, climate change, and the green agenda?”

His answer on the point about the non-inclusion of air and sea transport in the government’s figures disappointed me. He didn’t accept my point on the statistics, which are detailed in the sources that I gave in my recent piece over on Liberal Conspiracy about this.

His answer on embodied emissions was more interesting, and not unconvincing. He argued that it doesn’t make sense to count responsibility for emissions where power over them doesn’t lie. In other words, he held that emissions need to be counted where they originate, in the countries that can potentially control them. (Of course, one could counter that it would still be perfectly possible to exercise significant control over them, if our country were willing, as I believe it should be, to control products’ entry into our borders partly on the basis of their emissions footprint.)

As I left the event, I was left with the impression that Ed Miliband, for all that I am not particularly impressed with his actual record in government (as opposed to some of his ideas for the future), and for all that I still disagree with him about numerous important things (for example, Carbon Capture and Storage), is the Labour leadership candidate most likely (with the possible exception of Diane Abbott) to help take the political agenda in this country in the direction in which it most needs to go.

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38 Responses to “A green perspective on Ed Miliband”

  1. Simon

    He might be the best candidate, that doesn’t say much! His comment about emissions being controlled where they originate suggests a cunning plan to export our post polluting industries and blame developing countries. It does rather fly in the face of the facts: We all share the same atmosphere.

  2. David Taylor

    [email protected] Please take note: RT @leftfootfwd: A green perspective on @Ed_Miliband – //bit.ly/bfeOtY

  3. Richard Johnson

    RT @leftfootfwd: A green perspective on @Ed_Miliband – @RupertRead is impressed with his appearance in Norwich //bit.ly/bfeOtY

  4. Adam White

    RT @leftfootfwd: A green perspective on @Ed_Miliband – @RupertRead is impressed with his appearance in Norwich //bit.ly/bfeOtY

  5. Samuel Tarry

    RT @leftfootfwd: A green perspective on @Ed_Miliband – @RupertRead is impressed with his appearance in Norwich //bit.ly/bfeOtY

  6. Rhiannon Lowton

    RT @theday2day: RT @leftfootfwd: A green perspective on @Ed_Miliband – @RupertRead is impressed with his appearance in Norwich //bit.ly/bfeOtY

  7. David Taylor

    Great piece Rupert, I hope one day we can encourage you to join the Labour Party, we’d certainly be a stronger place for it.

    I’d say that to any green or Lib Dem or climate change campaigners out there – if you want a Prime Minister who will put climate change at the heart of everything we do in the UK – there will never be a better chance than now. This is a once in a generation opportunity.

    Ed Miliband is that leader – so if you want a fairer, more equal society where we tackle climate change and create a better quality of life than stand up, be counted – join the Labour Party before 8th September and vote in the Labour Leadership election.

  8. Paul Duxbury

    A Green Party member's perspective on @Ed_Miliband //tinyurl.com/36kc8o9 the momentum building day by day for #EDM4Leader

  9. LockPickerNet

    A green perspective on @Ed_Miliband – @RupertRead is impressed with his appearance in Norwich //bit.ly/bfeOtY via @leftfootfwd

  10. Anon E Mouse

    Why didn’t Ed Miliband say any of these things whilst he was in office? Why did he constantly advocate the third runway at Heathrow?

    Ed Miliband, like all the other male candidates, are simply a throwback to the past and represent the exact reason Labour got the same popular support it got in 1983 under Michael Foot. One can argue that was because of the terminally useless Gordon Brown – certainly his opinion poll ratings were the lowest of any PM since records began in 1923 but then Labour didn’t elect him.

    David Miliband represents the only possible PM looking person but then I like winners. My vote would go to Diane Abbott the only true candidate who is not connected with that last bunch of failures and the coalition will keep reminding people of how bad the last bunch were with their big business sucking up and overseas wars launched on lies. As soon as Nick Clegg dismantles as many of the unpleasant aspects of Labour from the last 13 years the better.

    Elect either Ed and Labour will be in opposition for a long time to come – I may just rejoin the party on a temporary basis just to vote for Abbott!

  11. Tom

    “Why did he constantly advocate the third runway at Heathrow?” – he didn’t. It was well known – and heavily reported in the newspapers – that he (and Hilary Benn) opposed it. But that’s Cabinet government for you. If everyone resigned from the Cabinet every time they were in the minority opinion, nothing would ever get done.

  12. Anon E Mouse

    Tom – Fair enough I withdraw the remark…

  13. RupertRead

    My @LeftFootFwd piece: @Ed_Miliband's visit to Norwich yesterday //www.leftfootforward.org/2010/07/a-green-perspective-on-ed-miliband/

  14. Phil Taylor

    RT @RupertRead: My @LeftFootFwd piece: @Ed_Miliband's visit to Norwich yesterday //www.leftfootforward.org/2010/07/a-green-perspective-on-ed-miliband/

  15. Carl Baker

    RT @NorwichGreens: RT @RupertRead: On @Ed_Miliband's visit to Norwich yesterday //www.leftfootforward.org/2010/07/a-green-perspective-on-ed-miliband/

  16. Rupert Read

    Simone: as you can probably gather, I agree with you, on balance.

    Thanks David! But you know, the invitation is mutual… If you really want green action, then join the Green Party! 😉

  17. Mike Blakeney

    RT @leftfootfwd: A green perspective on Ed Miliband //bit.ly/bfeOtY

  18. Aisha Gani

    RT @leftfootfwd: A green perspective on @Ed_Miliband – @RupertRead is impressed with his appearance in Norwich //bit.ly/bfeOtY

  19. Andrew Collingwood

    RT @mikeblakeney: RT @leftfootfwd: A green perspective on Ed Miliband //bit.ly/bfeOtY

  20. Rachel Hardy

    RT @leftfootfwd: A green perspective on Ed Miliband //bit.ly/bfeOtY

  21. Liz McShane

    Anon – is the basis of you favouring Diane Abbott that you hope Labour will never get back in to Government in 2015?

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  23. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – I want to see a root and branch clean out of the party and to see it go back to where it should be.

    In this country there needs to be a philosophical difference between the parties – love or loath Thatcher at least people knew where they stood with her. What I don’t like is when people make statements about her that aren’t true such as there were cut’s under her leadership which is completely untrue – there were real term rises in spending on public services of 1.1%.

    So people need to be truthful about things. As soon as you have a basis of truth established, whether one agrees with it or not is irrelevant because it’s truthful.

    That’s why I was annoyed Shalik Malik on Question Time kept trying to portray Nigel Farage as borderline racist because he disagrees, like me, with the wearing of face veils in public buildings. Malik was being deceitful and that’s not on from a public servant.

    Now truth is established across the political divide at lease you know what people stand for because you trust them.

    Then you can gauge what the policies are and the ones you agree or disagree with – there can now be a divide, a different approach to the politics of governing this country but one that is based on old fashioned honesty.

    I despair when I read some of the articles on this fine blog by contributors such as David Taylor or Ben Fox that are purely their own speculative opinion and quite simply ridiculous and not credible in the real world. Not only that they won’t even produce any “evidence” for their silly opinions – I put it down to their feather bedded privileged backgrounds and youth. They’ll grow out of it.

    It is because of the likes of these sycophantic people (“useful idiots”)that Labour didn’t take decisive action and ditch the totally useless Gordon Brown that we are now where we are.

    The coalition government, that I now support because of Nick Clegg, have NOTHING to fear as long as the left keep printing articles by either of the aforementioned individuals or others like them on this blog. They are a link to the past and not a past the public supports. Clearly.

    So the leadership election – I support Abbott because she would bring some colour (no pun intended) to the otherwise grey candidates.

    David Miliband will win – Balls is hopeless and too close to Brown, Burnham too working class ironically and Ed Miliband too weird for the public to warm to.

    As for the chances of Labour winning in 2015.. yeah and pigs will fly. They have no hope.

  24. Liz McShane

    Anon – if you are referring to last week’s QT then I think you mean Sadiq Khan MP – Shadow Transport Secretary. Shahid Malik lost his seat in May.

    I presume the fact that Margaret Thatcher’s Government spent lots on public services eg Education was the reason that there were still primary schools in 1997 that had outside toilets.

    Diane Abbot has certainly added interest to the debate but I think if you attend a hustings you might have slightly different views as to the other candidates and who is the warmest/most human etc.

  25. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – Thanks for the correction on Sadiq Khan.

    This coalition is going to impose MASSIVE cuts. Thatcher, increased public spending. You miss the point I’m making. I’m illustrating why politicians and the commentators need to be honest not keep repeating something that isn’t true.

    Those school toilets were a legacy from the age of the schools and in need of repair but equally no one was dying from MRSA because of dirty hospitals – there are pro’s and con’s to all sides.

    Remember if you will which government built more comprehensive schools than any other – bit hint Liz it wasn’t a Labour one.

    And I’m sure for example you wouldn’t think it acceptable to kill civilians by our armed forces in Iraq. That wasn’t Thatcher Liz.

    The point I make is that once people behave honestly then we will be able to make an informed choice of which party to support and the official opposition to the government of the day can be a political party and not the national media.

    (That’s going to be hard since there aren’t any Labour supporting newspapers left – I don’t count the Mirror, it’s a joke – so it is an uphill battle)

    Finally people don’t care about politics which is why they won’t be at the hustings to find out. When I met Neil Kinnock he came across as warm and friendly but on TV was a disaster…

  26. Liz McShane

    Anon – personally I was against the Iraq War and I think with the passing of time more Labour MPs will reflect and possibly have a different view to this.

    Re Thatcher – I wouldn’t hold her up as a benchmark for anything. What about The Belgrano? I think she was very bellicose.

  27. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – I remember this as clearly as if it was yesterday…



    Warning to Shamik Das, Joss Garman, Rupert Read, David Taylor, Ben Fox, Mr.Sensible, mike, Fat Bloke on Tour and Kevin Meagher in advance that the link contains something alien to you people – democracy in action at a Labour Party conference.

    People with opinions that differ from yours where they are not being smeared by you instead of rigorous and robust challenge.

    Contrast that with the New Labour controlled events where a single OAP and lifelong Labour member is arrested under the Terrorism Act for heckling the Home Secretary.

    Come back real the real Labour Party I say…

  28. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – I was in the navy on subs with guys that had been on the Conq when the Belgrano was sunk – that’s war I’m afraid. It was a war to free an innocent peace loving community that had been invaded by a fascist dictatorship.

    In Iraq we started the war. In the Falklands the fascists did – there is no comparison and to suggest there is is simply historically inaccurate. (Sorry).

    My point with Thatcher is that some of the stuff they say about her is simply not true. I didn’t vote for her but she could certainly win elections…

    Did you like the link btw?

  29. Liz McShane

    Was the Belgrano not outside the 200-mile exclusion zone… ? Anyway we are straying massively from the original thread. Apologies.

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  31. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – You still won’t address my central point.

    What was worse. Coming to the rescue of innocent British people invaded by fascists or launching a war against a foreign country based on lies?

    You display aspects of the way the left in this country operate which ordinary people not into politics really do not like. Never answering the question just sticking to your dogmatic point (that may or may not be valid) is not an attractive position to take Liz – you surprise me. You support the Labour Party so you can’t be a pacifist which may make it understandable.

    The Falklander’s had the right to self determination Liz and irrespective of what you have been told, to use the Belgrano as an excuse or foil against the Tory Party and that war is morally wrong.

    Fascist dictatorships should never be excused in their overseas aggression and for you not to see that, especially when even the useless Gordon Brown admired Thatcher so much is worrying.

    Personally when I see Simon Weston it moves me more than a bunch of fascists who should never be forgiven for their actions in the 1980’s…

  32. Liz McShane

    Anon – I did not like the regime run by Galtieri but I also think that before the war about 99% of he British population had never heard of The Falklands let alone knew where they were located. It won Maggie an election.

  33. Nic Seton

    RT @DavidTaylor85: [email protected] Please take note: RT @leftfootfwd: A green perspective on @Ed_Miliband – //bit.ly/bfeOtY

  34. Dan

    Liz, I’m getting a little lost by your arguments. Just because most people wouldn’t have heard of the Falklands in ’82 doesn’t mean that the British people living there didn’t deserve to be liberated by their own armed forces. Most people wouldn’t have heard of my home town or be able to point it out on a map of the UK but because I’m not from a well known metropolis does this mean I deserve less rights than say, my London dwelling fellow citizens? You seen to be promoting this view. I’ve heard the ‘Belgrano’ excuse for Labour’s warmongering from other Labour supporters as well. I ask you a simple question, if the Iraq war had been conducted by any party other than Labour would you be taking part in demonstrations and rallies against it, calling for those who sanctioned it to be brought to the Hague? My guess is you, like a lot of your fellow labour supporters would be. I’ve never voted Tory or Labour but although I hate the arrogance of the former, but it’s the hypocrisy of the latter which is truly sickening, sacrificing principles for power and blindly, enthusiastically following the most right wing american gov’t in modern history into mayhem for the sake of oil money, this is something that should make you want to rip up your Labour Party membership card.

  35. charlotte g

    @jonathas yeah it is confusing. i'm going for ed miliband, this helped to swing it: //bit.ly/b9V0Bs

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