action diary: labour conference

Last Saturday, I joined other young activists from Green New Deal Rising (GND Rising) in a rally along Brighton seafront. We were there with our allies, Labour for a Green New Deal (L4GND), calling on Conference to back the ‘Green Jobs Revolution’ motion, and urging Labour politicians to support the Green New Deal bill. From the roof of an FBU fire engine, fellow GND Rising activist Rosanna Wiseman addressed the crowd to announce our movement and the role we intend to play in the struggle ahead.

This was the first in a series of actions by GND Rising during the Labour Party Conference. We turned up to push the climate emergency to the very top of the political agenda and to make sure that politicians took a clear stance. We are a movement of young people who, frustrated with the inertia around climate breakdown, are taking things into our own hands. Having grown up in a time of social, environmental, and economic crisis, we’re determined to have answers from our political leaders and to put them on the spot about the Green New Deal.

After the demo, we joined hundreds of other activists at The World Transformed (TWT), a fringe event that connects up progressives through workshops and talks. Later, at the end of a whirlwind day, we gathered together for a beach bonfire with activists from Global Justice Now and War on Want. By the firelight and the sea, we reflected, swapped ideas, and connected with new and old friends.

Keir Starmer ignores Green New Deal Rising activists asking for his support on the Green New Deal

Early on Sunday, a team of us met at the beachfront hoping to talk to Keir Starmer about the Green New Deal bill as he made his way to his BBC interview with Andrew Marr. Emma de Saram, a Labour Party member, spotted him first. She walked alongside Mr Starmer for almost a full minute, politely asking for him to endorse the conference motion and commit to the public spending necessary to tackle the crisis. She was completely ignored. The video of Keir cold-shouldering a young Labour member soon went viral, and rightly sparked outrage online. (Emma has discussed what this moment means in her piece for OpenDemocracy this week). 

As disappointing as this was, we were undeterred. We waited for Starmer to finish his interview with Marr and when he reemerged, we tried again. This time, Tristan Allen attempted to speak to the leader of the Labour Party. He was similarly ignored, and after a few minutes of being frozen out completely, Tristan spoke to me about why he felt the need to step forward and demand action from the Labour leader: 

"I’ve been asked many times why I’m passionate about the environment. It’s a bit of a weird question though, because if you were in a car, zooming towards a brick wall, would you question the driver's passion for putting on the brakes? That’s exactly where the climate crisis is at, and something needs to be done to push high profile leaders into action. 

I joined Green New Deal Rising with the hope of making a bigger impact, and I was keen to question Keir Starmer on whether he’d be backing the Green New Deal Bill.  It wasn’t nearly as nerve-racking as I expected, and it left me feeling extremely motivated, having done something I’d never have imagined I had the confidence to do.

Keir’s blank reactions, whilst upsetting, made me realise that we need to do more. It made me wonder, what will it take for politicians to commit to the changes we need? The people killed by the wildfires in Australia or the floods in Germany; the increasingly uninhabitable temperatures being recorded across the Global South? In a world driven by profit over people, I’m beginning to wonder what they’re waiting for.

That’s where we come in. We can hold politicians to account, showing them that resistance to any injustice will always be there. And in the company of an amazing group of like-minded people, it can be pretty good fun too."

Tristan Allen, Green New Deal Rising

Green New Deal Rising activists holding banner in front of Brighton Beach

I joined Green New Deal Rising for the same reasons as Tristan: because I realised the severity of the crisis facing us; because I realised that it’s our futures that it will come to dominate; and because I realised that politicians and leaders won’t do what’s necessary without our action. This is just the beginning. Green New Deal Rising was launched in 2021, and we’ve already challenged Keir Starmer, Rishi Sunak, Nicola Sturgeon, Nancy Pelosi, and dozens of other MPs and cabinet ministers. 

With COP26 on the horizon, we’re just getting started. Join us today, and join the fight for your future.

James Mowatt, Green New Deal Rising