In a recent speech to SERA Hilary Benn has argued that the Labour party must put the environment at the heart of its renewal.
Benn argued that all too often, environment campaigners have been on the sidelines of party debates and that green ideas have often failed to make it into the political mainstream. He told SERA that he agreed with David Miliband who has argued that the green movement has been seen, rightly or wrongly, as being anti-growth. Benn said that the idea that growth is bad is not only politically unpalatable but it is also immoral. Why? Because, argued Benn, it hurts the world's poor the most. During his stint at DfID Benn said he had seen first hand how economic growth is the surest way to lift people out of poverty, to provide them with jobs, with healthcare and with the chance to go to school.
He argued that environmental politics had to be fair politics and said that David Cameron's proposals on air taxed would do little to cut emissions but would do a lot to take money from the poor. Labour politics must be green politics said Benn and green politics must be Labour politics. He said that Labour should make being a member make more attractive, that historically we have recruited a lot of people, only for them to drift away from the party. Labour should host debates on local issues in venues away from constituency party meeting rooms and offices. It should be talking about the things that the people we hope to represent are talking about. We need to listen more. According to Benn if we make Labour the party that makes the difference on environmental issues, it will bring more people, and more active people, to the party than anything else.
For Benn green politics offers Labour a once in a generation opportunity for renewal.