Look Up!

Friday April 29th 2022


This View has been written by Bill Kerr-Smith, the Green Party candidate in the Midlothian East Ward.

This year I’m standing as the Midlothian Green Party’s candidate for election in Midlothian East. The last time I stood was in a by-election in 2014 and, since then, I’ve satisfied myself with other ways of contributing to the community, like chairing my local community council and the Dalkeith CAB for a few years and administering the Eskbank & Newbattle Community Forum (with my indispensable co-admin Susan Goldwyre). For the last few years, it seemed more important to support my family through Tory-inflicted “Austerity, Part II”, and to help Green candidates in other wards, than to offer myself for election again.

This year, it’s different. This is the year that Netflix had enormous impact with the movie “Don’t Look Up”. Many of you will be familiar with it but, for those who aren’t, it’s basically about how politicians and the mainstream media have ignored the very obvious signs of approaching catastrophe (in this case an asteroid about to hit Earth), until it is too late to do anything about it, with obvious but disastrous consequences.

I’m standing for office this year because there are two blindingly obvious catastrophes heading our way and we barely have time to do anything about them – but the Green Party message is that it’s not too late to act!

Catastrophe Number 1 is the long-standing Climate Emergency. COP27 took place in Scotland last year. It made some progress, but not enough. For 25 years the United Nations has been convening Climate Conferences and every time the message gets clearer, the urgency grows, but our politicians kick the can down the road. This is why growing numbers of citizens are taking direct action. But the fastest way to ensure real change happens is to elect Greens at every level of Government. We are the only party that absolutely believes in the science, that immediate action must be taken and that only governments can deliver the changes needed. Every Green you elect, whether at local or national level, will be one more determined voice, working to save our future.

Catastrophe Number 2 is the Cost of Living Emergency. The root causes of this emergency can be argued over endlessly, but some of them lie in government policy choices and some from factors beyond our government’s control. The critical consequence of all of these factors is that millions more families are going to be plunged into poverty, to join the millions already suffering that fate. Most of these families are going to be in-work victims of a system that has been steadily eroded and underfunded since the Tories came to power in 2010. While Boris Johnson’s Cabinet of Collaborators offer up insultingly inadequate savings suggestions to people who may be starving, all serious politicians know that the only way to avert catastrophe at this time is by putting money in people’s pockets. The only certain and immediate way to do this is through the benefits system, but the Tories can’t bring themselves to accept this because it contradicts their “market knows best” ideology. Ideology! At a time when people’s lives are at stake and our economy may be trashed through inaction.

There is no alternative for dealing with both of these catastrophic issues, except for the government to invest money. There is absolutely no plausible scenario in which the private sector will ride to the rescue on either of these issues.

These are the times when sound government counts. What the country needs is a programme of government-led investment based on a Green New Deal and something like Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” framework. Yes, it will mean creating more money through QE (Quantitative Easing) but we did it before to get through the 2008 financial crisis and for the Covid pandemic. And, yes, that means more borrowing, but who do you think can borrow most for least? Does it make more sense for individual families to go into debt by borrowing from pay-day lenders and being charged obscene interest rates, or for the government to issue 100-year bonds with a very low (maybe even a zero) interest rate? The current government intends to let the poorest people in our country rack up debts they simply cannot afford, rather than provide them with the support any humane government would already have delivered.

It is true that both of these Catastrophes can only be dealt with at the level of national government, but we need a national government that looks after all of its people all of the time – and not simply its donors. That’s why you need to vote for Green politicians at local elections and – when the time comes – at national elections. Every vote for a Green will hasten the day when justice, equity and fairness will govern policy, rather than self-interest and ideology.

There is a possibility that we might have to address a third catastrophe but, for the moment I think it’s only at the level of an Emergency – and it’s the Constitutional Emergency inflicted on this country by the current Prime Minister and his supporters. As a nation, we have watched the appalling spectacle of Tory politicians at every level line up to defend the indefensible Boris Johnson as he trashes the constitution, oversees fraud and financial incompetence in government, awards PPE contracts to his profiteering friends, lies to the Queen, the people and to Parliament and refuses to take responsibility for his actions. Not only that, but he breaks the laws he himself put in place and tells us that it’s no big deal – and certainly not something to resign over.

The most corrosive aspect of this shameful behaviour is the fact that the Conservatives cannot muster 54 people out of their 359 MPs in Parliament to begin the process that would deliver the country from our national and international humiliation.

That failure to act by Conservative politicians is the most important reason to bring up the issues of national government, in the context of a local election. If Conservative associations and Councillors up and down the country have not applied sufficient pressure on their party by now, then they never will. What kind of morality, ethics and competence is on display here? Why is anyone standing as a Conservative candidate who has not called for Boris Johnson’s resignation? Why do they want to be Councillors?

Why would anyone want to be represented by people with these values? Make your first Vote Green – and make your second vote ABC – for competent governance locally and nationally. At this election, let’s learn from the past and look to the future. Please, Look Up!

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