04 March 2011
On this week’s Guardian Politics Weekly podcast, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP challenged Ed Miliband on inequality and took the government to task on its green record.
Discussing Ed Miliband’s recent speech at the Resolution Foundation, where he claimed there is a “quiet crisis” around kitchen tables over the failure of “rising prosperity [to] benefit the bulk of working people”, Caroline welcomed the fact that Labour were starting to put issues such as inequality back on the agenda.
“Inequality matters,” she said, “but I worry a little bit, in terms of Ed Miliband’s ‘squeezed middle’, about exactly where that fits—is this an electoral ploy to try to appeal to some groups he may feel are not going to vote for him next time around?”
Caroline expressed her concern that “squeezed middle” and “alarm clock Britain” rhetoric could shift the focus away from the very poorest, who will be particularly hard hit by the coalition’s cuts. She said Miliband could afford to be more radical, highlighting the appetite across the UK for making bankers pay more and moving more convincingly against tax evasion and avoidance.
She also said that now is a good time to push for a living wage, increasing productivity, reducing absenteeism, and certainly not leading to doom as suggested in some quarters, just as the minimum wage didn’t.
On David Cameron’s claims to be the greenest government ever, the Green MP said that the abolition of both the Sustainable Development Commission and the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution hardly back this up. Nor do cuts to the Energy Savings Trust and the Carbon Trust, and the weakening of Natural England.
She said that the u-turn on forests showed the government has “no real feeling for the value that people in Britain put on the forests at all,” and stressed that the environmental and economic crises must be tackled at the same time—“they are not mutually exclusive—you can do both if you have a bit of imagination.”
The full podcast can be listened to or downloaded here: