Transformation for Coastal Communities

In My View… by Dr Patrick O’Sullivan, Energy and Environment Coordinator, South East Cornwall Labour Party

PatrickO'SullivanA major, long-term problem in UK politics is that “the reds ain’t green enough, but the greens ain’t red enough”. While Labour tradition has largely neglected environmental matters in favour of “more pressing” issues such as poverty, the Greens lack any coherent economic strategy as to how to solve the numerous problems they seek to address. But following two speeches at this year’s Labour Party Conference, and publication of Labour’s new environmental strategy, The Green Transformation, it’s possible this may be changing.

Any incoming Labour government will need to reverse forty years of Thatcherism, globalisation, and austerity, each of which has devastated our economy, destroyed urban and rural communities, traditional jobs and skills, and deprived large areas of key species (e.g. bees, sand eels). But the emerging Labour strategy is to combine much-needed reconstruction of our economy and our communities with policies which also increase sustainability, thus lessening our impact, as a society, on our surrounding nature.

For example, Jeremy Corbyn’s speech outlined ways to rebuild and transform our economy, including a “green jobs revolution” which will both tackle climate change, provide sustainable energy for the future, and create skilled jobs in every region of the UK, using new forms of ownership and public enterprise, and local initiatives as taken by Labour councils such as Preston and Plymouth.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, Shadow Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, explained that her contribution to this strategy will reverse the decline of our high streets, and give local communities back a voice to shape their future. Public contracts will be used to support home industries and suppliers, thus repatriating jobs sent abroad under globalisation. This too will combat climate change: increased production at home reduces the need to transport goods from China to Europe, thus reducing emissions.

Of special local interest are Labour’s plans for coastal fishing communities, as outlined in The Green Transformation. Such communities have been seriously damaged by the EU Common Fisheries Policy, although not so much by that policy itself, as by the omission of small boats from original calculations of Total Allowable Catch, and successive UK governments’ own policies, Tory and Labour, of leasing quotas to the highest bidder. Consequently, a greater proportion of UK catch is owned by “foreign” boats than that of any other EU member state. Nothing in the recent Fisheries Bill, or the preceding White Paper, suggests change from that policy.

As The Green Transformation states, Labour will reconfigure funds for farming and fishing to support sustainable practices, smaller traders, local economies and community benefits, and will review allocation of UK fishing quotas to benefit coastal communities and small-scale fishing. A science innovation fund to promote the most sustainable practices, with special support for small boats, will be established.

Labour’s new “red-green” economic strategy will rehabilitate our country from forty years of policies which produced widespread economic, social and environmental degradation. Small wonder my generation sees a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government as our last chance to put this country right for our grandchildren.

First published in The Cornish Times, 16/11/18

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