Saturday, October 31, 2020

A gag order, not a partnership

The Green Party are currently voting on whether to accept the "cooperation agreement" Labour has offered them. So what's in it? Fortunately it leaked, and the core part is that the Greens promise not to oppose on confidence and supply (which is meaningless), and get two Ministers outside Cabinet, including the climate change portfolio. But there's no specific policy concessions, and instead there's just a vague agreement to work towards "common goals" such as:

Achieving the purpose and goals of the Zero Carbon Act through decarbonising public transport, decarbonising the public sector, increasing the uptake of zero-emission vehicles, introducing clean car standards, and supporting the use of renewable energy for industrial heat.
Meanwhile, the Greens are bound by no surprises and good faith on their public statements and parliamentary activities (and of course their Ministers are bound by Cabinet collective responsibility). Looking at this, its not a partnership - its a gag order, designed purely to silence the Greens on their most important subject (and Labour's greatest area of vulnerability).

In theory, being climate change minister isn't entirely valueless: they're the interface with the Climate Change Commission with responsibility for approving budgets and plans. Except that in reality, all of those approvals are subject to Cabinet confirmation, so there's no actual power there. The Act is meant to work by shame: the Commission is independent, and its recommendations public, so a government which doesn't do as instructed immediately needs to justify itself to the public. The question is, would that process work better with a Green Minister bound and gagged inside the tent to ask Labour nicely to do the right thing, or an angry and vocal Green Party willing to roast them alive if they don't. And the very way I've phrased that makes it clear what I think the answer is. The Greens should reject this deal, and instead commit to holding Labour to account on climate change. If labour wants an actual partnership, then they can always offer one further down the line.