Over the next four months I, along with my six fellow UK Green MEPs, have an important job on our hands: to convince the British people that we’re better off remaining in the European Union.
The EU is the biggest peace project in history. It’s also one of our only hopes for regulating unfettered global capitalism, for protecting our hard-won human rights and democratic standards and for ensuring our planet lives within its ecological means.
The 28 EU member states contain a vast array of cultural and political differences, but they are united in their diversity. They know that working together to forge a consensus provides an element of political stability. This, of course, makes the EU a prime target for national populists and disaster capitalists like Jacob Rees-Mogg and his cronies who would seek to make (or top up) their fortunes from the uncertainty and insecurity that Brexit would wreak across the UK.
As a Green MEP, I’ll be doing everything in my power to make the European institutions far more open and transparent.
Here in the UK, our society is already at breaking point. The UK is the fifth most unequal country in Europe, with more than a third of its children living in poverty. Yet, the divide between rich and poor continues to grow. My constituency, London, is one of the richest cities in the world, yet millions of Londoners are forced to rely on food banks and shamefully many children grow up in poverty.
The government’s own impact assessments are clear that Brexit would only make this worse. And, as I write, there are two incompetent, power-hungry Tories jostling for the title of prime minister – both of whom plan to make tax cuts that would drive an even bigger wedge between the wealthiest and poorest in our society.
Over a year ago, I bumped into Steve Norris – the Tory mayoral candidate to become Mayor of London in 2000 and 2004. I asked him why none of the major parties in government over the past two decades have addressed the ever-increasing level of inequality by raising taxes on the rich. “I know,” he answered. “You could knock a zero off the salaries of friends I do business with and they wouldn’t even notice”.
Just think what the UK could do with all those extra zeros. Make sure schools have the resources they need, so parents don’t have to cough up for pens and paper. Reopen the youth centres closed as a result of Tory budget cuts. Increase public sector pay packets. Overhaul the UK’s broken welfare system. Invest in the NHS. The list goes on.
So, over the next few months and (hopefully!) years, my priorities are clear. As a Green MEP, I’ll be doing everything in my power to make the European institutions far more open and transparent. The corporate lobby is immense, but united we have a shot at facing it down.
I will focus on declaring a climate emergency at European level, and create a strategy to get us to net zero carbon by 2030 – the only way to stand a fighting chance of averting an environmental and ecological catastrophe. As a member of the Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee I’ll be working to set in motion a Green Transport Revolution across the EU – including the UK – to get people walking, cycling and using public transport.
We need to address the deep-rooted structural problems that got us into the mess this Tory government have created.
I’ll seek to eradicate the need for short-haul air travel by providing fast, affordable trains. It makes no sense to fly from London to Brussels when you can get there far quicker on a high-speed train. And I’ll demand that the UK Government invests in sorely-needed local railway connections across the whole of the United Kingdom and not waste around £60 billion on HS2. I’ll seek to get a Great British freight route to get the five million lorry journeys off our roads and onto a railway network that runs the full length of our country. This is what the UK is crying out for and what the planet desperately needs.
At home, in London, I want to meet my constituents and listen to their concerns – particularly those who voted to leave the EU. The only way to heal our country’s wounds is for people to share their experiences, confront their differences, and address the deep-rooted structural problems that got us into the mess this Tory government have created.
At the European elections in May, the Green Wave of optimism that has swept across large parts of Europe finally reached the UK. Green candidates like me won a combined 12 per cent of the national vote, pledging to tackle both Brexit and the causes of Brexit. We promised to stand up to populist bullies, and demand a fairer deal for people and planet. I’ll be working with MEPs representing our closest neighbours in Europe to make sure these visions become reality.
Scott Ainslie is Green MEP for London. He has started a video diary, which he has been sharing on social media: @ScottMEPLondon on Twitter, Scott.ainslie.73 on Instagram and Scott.ainslie.73 on Facebook.