Let me start by telling you about my journey. I am a semi-retired university lecturer and my passion for the environment can be traced back to studying for a Masters’ degree in environmental law many years ago. Since then, the best bits of my working life have revolved around teaching, researching and writing on the environment and climate change law.
Politically, I have voted Labour for most of my life and I hold socialist values dear. However, until fairly recently, I was never a member of a political party. When Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, I could see the possibility of some of my political and environmental ideals actually entering into the party and, ultimately perhaps, government policy and action and I (like so many others) joined the Labour Party at that time.
Since then, I have worked hard in the local party and was selected and elected as a councillor for Whitewell Ward in Rossendale in May 2019. Since then, I have been able to drive things forward to some degree on the climate emergency front – my motion declaring a climate emergency was passed by Council in September 2019 and I was appointed Climate Change Champion shortly thereafter.
It hasn’t been an easy journey in the Rossendale and Darwen Labour Party. It’s often felt like a battle and over the years that I have been a member I have seen friends suspended, expelled and leave the Party. It seems as though the Party machine often obstructs rather than supports its membership at all levels.
We all know how the story unfolded at national level and the policies that I voted for as a delegate at the Labour Party conference were soon laid to history. I remember the debate and close vote on the ‘Green New Deal’ and it was good to see members support the positive move towards commitment on reaching carbon zero, albeit this was all too soon watered down. Now, of course, we see a pale imitation of those proposals and a failure to live up to the pledges made by the new leadership.
I believe that fundamental change is required if we are to achieve what is necessary to tackle climate change – to quote the often-used phrase we need ‘system change not climate change’. There is also a need for urgent action, which will sometimes not be popular with members, officers or the public and will not be seen as a way to win votes.
It is probably no surprise that I have been watching the Green Party develop its policies and support base over the years with interest. I have been impressed with the growth of the Party both nationally and locally and I have watched the fantastic work that Green Party councillors in other parts of East Lancashire are doing in campaigning for their residents. I also admire the determined manner in which they have held both the Conservative and Labour Parties to account here and across the country.
After long consideration, all this has brought me to the decision to join a party which I feel much more closely aligned with on important issues and which reflects my priorities for social and environmental justice.
So, on 7 July, following a unanimous vote accepting a report and proposals to take forward climate emergency actions and a successful motion on single use plastics, I resigned from the Labour Party and joined the Green Party. The support from Green Party members across the North West in the days that followed was uplifting and the turnout to deliver letters to residents across a large and geographically spread ward was beyond all expectations.
I will continue to push for ambitious goals and urgent action on the climate emergency here in Rossendale and I can now do that without constraint and with the support of a party whose core values I share.
Thank you to all involved in supporting my move to the Green Party. I am looking forward to working with you and relishing the challenges ahead!