Belfast Telegraph

Steven Agnew: It's time for a green revolution

By Steven Agnew

He told the BBC that there would be "no giveaways, no gimmicks". Then, on Wednesday, March 18, the Chancellor announced a raft of giveaways, and a real "rollercoaster" of a gimmick.

George Osborne repeatedly described the deficit as the country's biggest problem. Then, just before the election, he dips into the public purse to hand out a tax-break (by raising the income tax threshold) that disproportionately benefits the better-off.

The gimmick? The promise of another "giveaway" - in the form of increased public spending - but not now: in the run-up to the next election. First, he will plunge us into year after year of even deeper cuts.

It's this Big Dipper of a plan that the Office of Budget Responsibility aptly describes as a "rollercoaster profile of public services spending".

But "rollercoaster" is too friendly a word: this is no joyride; there will be real pain. Cuts mean services closing, people losing jobs.

Mr Osborne says it "works for the country" that GDP is rising; but you can't just throw a blanket of averages over it to make the pain go away.

The averages conceal both the pain at the lower end of the wealth scale and the rocketing rewards handed out to those at the top.

Having pocketed billions in public funds after they crashed the economy, the bankers wasted no time in returning to their huge salaries and bigger bonuses.

Thankfully, there is an election and the opportunity for a new government and a new agenda. Of course, Northern Ireland didn't elect a single Conservative, or Lib Dem.

However, in this election we can elect progressive voices who, even in small numbers, may be able to influence the course taken by the next government.

We have a choice: we can put the market-driven corporate sector first, or we can put a sustainable, equitable democracy first. It's one or the other.

But remember: the market-first mentality crashed the economy, tore up the social contract and is busy trashing the planet.

Instead, the Green Party is calling for a non-violent, green, grassroots revolution, for democracy, for sustainability, for equality - and for the common good.

  • Steven Agnew MLA is leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph


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