It’s time for Sunak and Starmer to say three very important words

It’s time for Sunak and Starmer to say three very important words

There are three big elephants in the room that neither the Conservatives or Labour even want to talk about, says Caroline (Picture: Leon Neal/Carl Court/Getty Images)

With the General Election now just two weeks away, I’ve been spending a lot of time out on the streets of Brighton with Green candidate Sian Berry – handing out posters, knocking on doors and listening to people talk about what they really care about in this election. 

Despite what Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer want you to believe, it’s not stopping boats, GDP growth, or the devastating race to cut tax and slash public spending even further.

We are in the midst of both an inequality crisis and environmental catastrophe.

Everyone can see the state this country is in after 14 years of brutal Tory austerity.

Millions are struggling to cope with skyrocketing bills and extortionate rents. Our NHS is on its knees, with patients being treated in corridors or stuck on waiting lists for years. Our air is polluted, our water is full of sewage, our farms and streets are flooded from month after month of record rain.

Voters are crying out for politicians to be honest about the scale of the challenges ahead and to be bold in their plans to tackle them. 

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Yet all they are getting in return from the main parties is a conspiracy of silence about the major factors causing the UK’s problems. And there are three big elephants in the room that neither the Conservatives or Labour even want to talk about on the campaign trail. 

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First, Brexit.

This weekend will mark eight years since the referendum that saw us sever ties with the EU in an act of disastrous self-sabotage. The much promised so-called ‘Brexit Dividend’ plastered on buses obviously never materialised.

Instead, not only did we lose our rights to live and work in Europe, we have crippled our ability to trade with the vast Single Market on our doorstep. Analysis suggests that our hardline Brexit has so far cost the economy £140billion and two million jobs, leaving the average Brit nearly £2,000 worse off.

And that damage is only going to get worse – with another £300billion hit forecast by 2035 if we don’t take action now. I believe that means to build bridges with our neighbours in Europe, with a view to rejoining as soon as the conditions are right.

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Second, there is deafening silence around the biggest global challenge of our era: the climate and nature emergency. Scientists are telling us that what we do now, in this decade, will prove decisive. 

This is the only window we are going to get to avert catastrophic global temperature rises and the next Parliament will be crucial in whether we meet our vital 2030 targets or not.

But in this Don’t Look Up election, the Tories are lurching after Reform, portraying the UK’s commitment to net zero – a commitment made by the whole world together – as mere environmental dogma and net zero hysteria, as they threaten to peddle back even further. 

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Labour – for all their talk of change – don’t even seem to want to mention climate change explicitly, let alone make it a core national mission, having axed their pledge to invest £28billion every year in the green transition, which experts have made clear is the floor of what is necessary.

Which brings me to the final issue neither party will acknowledge, which is how chronically low investment in our country has been for decades.

According to a new report by IPPR, the UK has been bottom of the G7 for business investment for the last three years, and when you include public investment, we’ve been the lowest out of everyone for 24 of the last 30 years. 

In the space of three decades, it adds up to a whopping £1.9trillion less than if we had invested just the average amount in real terms. As a nation, we are simply way out of step with what other advanced nations are investing in their own futures. 

Austerity has already caused untold suffering and harm for millions of people. The last thing we need is more of the same failed economic strategy now.

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But that’s exactly what the Tories are offering. And on some measures, Labour are even worse.

Overall, the cuts baked into their manifesto will cut public investment more than even the Tories did, in all the damage of the past 14 years. 

They say that you campaign in poetry and govern in prose, but this is an election that will go down in history more for what was left unsaid entirely.

At such a critical juncture, it is an unforgivable dereliction of duty that our two biggest parties just aren’t being straight with people about the challenges we need to tackle and the changes we need to make.

Now, more than ever, we need Green MPs in Parliament demanding that the next Government takes responsibility, faces up to reality and does better.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk

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