Inflation up! Household budgets in crisis up! Carbon emissions up! Cost of air travel down! Price of champagne down! Tory credibility down, down, down!
The Green Party must lead the people of Britain in seeing through this Boris bluster of a budget. We must do so with an absolute focus on our two guiding principles, the principles of environmental and social justice, which were nowhere to be found in the famous red briefcase yesterday – a dispatch box which we will turn green one day!
From the point of view of social justice, we need to cut through the illusions about ‘levelling up’ to make it clear to one and all that this is nothing more than a ‘catch up’ budget. Actually, it is an admission of 10 years of Tory mismanagement of the economy through the misguided wasteland years of austerity. Smugly splashing the cash like a born again Corbynite, Sunak claimed that the Tories are ‘the real party of public services’. We must make him and puppet master Johnson eat those words on behalf of every one of our people that has seen their lives destroyed by the callous starving of funds for schools, hospitals and social services under successive Tory administrations.
Let’s take education, which is critical to real social justice, rather than its pale shadow – ‘levelling up’. The additional funds announced in the budget will only restore funding levels for schools to where they were in 2010. In 2010, I was Head of a large secondary school agonising over the cuts in staffing and services demanded by that year’s school budget. How much less will that budget buy for our children 11 years later! It is nothing short of a national scandal that our core commitment as a nation, to grow opportunities for our young, is dying in a pollution of lies and political opportunism. And for our young, we can read all other members of society who need public help at moments of private need, whether in ill health, family crisis, or old age. A Green budget will be ‘a budget for the Common Good’ based on the British ‘common sense’ values of healthy communities for all. Compared to this, the Sunak budget is a shameless vote grabbing scam.
Now let’s turn to environmental justice. Here, if possible, the budget bottom line is even worse. All over the world, leading economists are absorbing the critical lessons of sustainable economies, for example, those set out in ‘Doughnut Economics’. This is not economics for sandal wearers, but evidence-based principles for avoiding climate disaster and growing a new harmony between humanity and the planet alongside renewed harmony in our societies. There was not even a whisper of any of this progressive thinking in this COP26 budget, not even a knowing ironic wink to acknowledge the existence of such progressive environmental thinking.
Such blindness is unforgivable for someone like Sunak, who took a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University, but understandable for someone like Sunak, whose whole lifestyle is supported by the exploitative economics of venture capitalism. We share our island with over 70,000 plant, animal and fungi species. Let me lay down the Green challenge! Every budget must reflect the interests and needs of these critical and equally important members of our national community. This is the meaning of environmental justice.
We are used to the usual analysis of each budget – breaking it down into the impact on different groups in society. We Greens will extend that to the natural world. So if you are a Bearded False Darkling beetle, a Natterjack toad or a Ghost Orchid (all critically endangered but once flourishing members of our island community) what did the budget for ‘a new age of optimism’ do for you. Nothing, except the sight high overhead of more corporate cronies enjoying cheaper champagne on cheaper short-haul flights, emitting more of the gases that bring your extinction inevitably closer.
The tragedy of lost opportunities is that this Tory budget still follows the policies of ‘linear’ economics, the ‘take, make, use, lose’, which is based on the exploitation of both people and the planet as nothing more than resources. There was no ‘rabbit in the hat’. There was only more of the scramble for growth that got us into this social and environmental mess in the first place. The tragedy of lost opportunities is that there is a green dispatch box, just next to that outdated red suitcase, which could be opened to unleash the energies of a sustainable circular economy. Such a budget would follow principles of regenerative growth, working in harmony with communities both human and natural. Such a Green regenerative budget would begin to grow a better world for all species, a world that ‘splash the cash Sunak’ lacks the vision to see, let alone begin to build.